On April 3rd I went into my clinic for a routine Mammogram. I say routine , however, I had not had one done in 3 years. Now granted I did not have any high risk factors for breast cancer, such as family inheritance or alcoholism or smoking, however I did have a big risk factor of being female, over 50 and overweight. Seemed a good excuse to put off the annual mammogram at the time anyway!
I got a call in 2 days from my clinic to call them back as soon as I got the message. I was told that they had spotted something on the mammo, that needed further testing, and I was to go as quickly as possible to get a biopsy done. Now that was startling news to say the least. I made the appointment. on 4/ 20 I had a biopsy of my right breast, the needle used was crazy big, probably as large around as the refill in an inkpen. They numbed the area and took out 5 samples from the area in question, and although it was numbed it DID hurt. The radialogist explained they had possible distorted the area doing the biopsy so they left a clip in the area for the medical staff to locate it easily in the future. Wow was I bruised and sore for the next few days, I was perturbed that they had not suggested that I have a driver to take me home as I was a bit shaky after it was done.
Two days later I got a call from the clinic that did the biopsy (not my primary clinic, by the way) "This is the clinic calling, the biopsy was positive for cancer, and I am calling to set you up with a surgeon to consult on what needs to happen next." I was given a choice of 2 different places where these surgeons worked out of and I chose a surgeon from the new hospital that was just a short distance from my home. I hung up the phone, sat for a minute in disbelief, and then called my mom. It wasn't until several hours later that I realized I hadn't been told the kind of cancer, or had anything other information about this disease and I had not had the presence of mind to ask questions. I guess I had been in shock when that phone call came.
The next day I had an appointment at my primary clinic for my B12 shot, so I told the lady at the reception desk I needed to talk to the clinic manager. A kind faced mid thirties woman came to the desk to respond to my demand to speak to the clinic manager, she said she was in charge of the clinic at this time and inquired about my concerns. I said, "I was told yesterday that my biopsy was positive for cancer over the phone, and I don't know anything about the cancer and in truth I was not happy to be told that way." I want to know more, and I want to complain about the way I was told. The manager told me my Primary Physician was not in however she would find a doctor to explain the biopsy results to me. She found a nice female doctor who very kindly explained the results, it was given a name, invasive ductal carcinoma, she said it was grade 1, and approximately 0.9 cm by .7 cm. I was quite startled by the name, perhaps it is the sheer terror that the word carcinoma invokes that made me repond so.
My daughter and I went to meet with the surgeon 6 days later. In the past few days we had talked at length about what we might do, both of us wanted it gone however that would be accomplished. I was prepared to have the breast removed if that was what was the best option for survival. The surgeon was a woman with a cheery and positive personality. I was quite favorably impressed by her mannerism and ability to explain what she needed to do and the reasons why. Her suggestion was a lumpectomy plus removal of a few lymph glands called sentinel glands. She said with this kind of early cancer the mastectomy and lumpectomy had similiar outcomes but the lumpectomy had a much easier recovery by far. We opted for the lumpectomy which was scheduled for May 8th.
The Lumpectomy and Sentinel lymph node removal
We arrived at the hospital just before 8 am, we were told we were a bit early (we were supposed to be there at 8:30 am) I guess we were a bit anxious, so we were to sit in the waiting room until we were called. the nurse called my name about 8:15, my family was to stay in waiting room till they called them back into the outpatient surgery area. I was taken to a room, given a hospital gown to change into, had a name band put on my wrist and told to use the bathroom if I needed to empty my bladder. A lady came in and got all my health and personal information, and then I was wheeled off to the ultrasound department to locate the clip in my breast and a doctor came in to insert a wire into my breast that would act as a path for the surgeon to follow to the mass inside the breast tissue. A mammogram was then done to make sure the wire was placed correctly, it was. I was then wheeled to the radiology depatment where a Radialogist gave me an injection of a radioactive material under the skin just above the areola,. She explained, "This will light up your lymph nodes on a geiger counter and make it easier for the surgeon to locate you sentinel nodes during the surgery." Her assistant stood nearby holding the geiger counter that looked just like the ones I have seen in the movies and on TV.
I returned to my little room in the outpatient area and my family was called in to stay with me until I went into the operating room. They all looked worried but, all tried to say nothing but positive things to keep me from getting nervous I guess. I was nervous anyway, but like them I put on a brave face.
The time came for me to go into the operating room. The nurses had started an IV in the preop area and had started a small bag of fluid dripping, now the nurse had me scoot over onto the bed in the operating room, as soon as I had done this she injected a medication into my IV line, it burned and I mentioned that to her and the next thing I remember was a nurse telling me that the surgery was all over. It felt like a second, yet an hour and half had passed without my knowing it. I felt okay, I was not in pain, I did feel a bit stiff in my arm on my right side, but that is about all. After an hour and half in recovery I was allowed to go home.
I came home it was about 4:30 pm, I was hungry I hadn't eaten since supper the night before. My boyfriend doesn't cook so I made myself some eggs and toast, filled up my ice pack that the post op nurse told me to keep on the site for next 2-3 days to keep swelling down and crawled into bed and was asleep in minutes. I got up at 8 pm, my stomach was acidy, remembering that they had given me a NSAID called Toradol, right after surgery. I went into my med cupboard and took a Zantac to calm my stomach down, NSAIDS do cause me stomach discomfort. I ate a sandwich and returned to bed getting up twice during the night to refill my ice pack. I saw the surgeon on the 16th, she told me that the tumor was actually larger than expected, it was .7 cm by 1.3 cm and was actually grade 2, not grade 1 which is a tumor that is growing a bit faster than a grade 1. She also stated there was no lymph gland involvement, and she is confident they got it all. I was off work for 9 days. I returned still bruised and sore but glad to get back into a routine.
Now my next hurdle to deal with is radiation to kill any possible remaining cells, and they also are going to give me anti-estrogen therapy to prevent regrowth. I was puzzled about the anti-estrogen therapy since I am menopausal, it was explained that women even after menopause produce some estogen, and the tumor I had estrogen receptors which is good because it is more treatable. I will see the oncologist in the next few days to start that treatment.