Sunday, April 1, 2012

Breast Cancer 101 (AKA "What the ?!? Part 3)

Once we knew the scans were clear, I think we all began to breath a sigh of relief. It seemed that maybe things would be easier than we thought. Nope. Not so much. We had a big consultation this past Tuesday (when I received the stats that I posted on 3/27) and I feel like it was more like Breast Cancer 101. This is definitely a course I did NOT plan on taking and I felt very tense going into the appointment.

On top of that, the dr was almost 45 minutes late getting started. They didn't really update us or anything, so we were left waiting in a small conference room. When the dr finally arrived he began to explain all that he knew about the specifics of my tumor. Of course, there are still two important missing pieces of information 1.) the actual size which can't really be determined until the surgery is done to actually remove it and 2.) whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

The dr discussed surgery options (partial mastectomy/lumpectomy or modified radical mastectomy), recovery time, chemo and radiation. Needless to say, it was overwhelming to all of us. And I felt like I had now been to battle because I had hoped to avoid chemo and this was a definite slap in the face for me. I am still working to balance out the options in order to determine in which direction I will be heading. And I need to get a better understanding about whether chemo and radiation are avoidable if I choose the modified radical mastectomy. I'm under the impression that radiation might be avoided, but that chemo is still going to happen.

We have now also met with another dr to get a second opinion. We LOVED the facility and they would be able to offer the chemo and radiation on-site, as well as the reconstruction surgery at the time of the original surgery should I choose to go with the mastectomy (vs lumpectomy). This could mean fewer surgeries though the recovery time (because of the reconstruction) would definitely be longer and more complicated. They have also offered to schedule appointments with a Radiation Oncologist, Plastic Surgeon, Genetic Counselor and Medical Oncologist in order to try to answer any questions or concerns we might have had while speaking with the dr. He is a Surgical Oncologist, so he is highly qualified, but was definitely not willing to discuss the details of radiation and chemo as he preferred to leave it to the experts. While it means scheduling more appointments, I appreciate the fact that he doesn't try to know EVERYTHING and wants to be sure that we get our questions answered by the most qualified people available.

I am also scheduled to meet with doctors at Vanderbilt Breast Center this Wednesday. It IS another opinion since there were a few things that were not clear and also not quite the same between the two doctors so far. I need to find another opinion that might agree with a prior version. Additionally, Vanderbilt is recognized as a "center of excellence" by our health insurance company, so they offer some perks in order to consider treatment at that facility. It is about a 2.5-3 hour drive each way, so if we like what they have to say, we would probably ask that the treatments occur here and surgery there. I have a wonderful friend driving me to Nashville for the appointment on Wednesday and she will join me for the appointments also. I hope to have more questions answered at that time.

Right now, the Wednesday appt is the only one scheduled for this week. I am SO far behind at work and with the Easter holiday fast approaching, I am hoping to keep my appt schedule to just the one. :) Another reason that we liked the 2nd opinion dr was because he told me I could take my time to make the decision. We could get appts with all of the other specialists and I could take the time to be sure about my surgery decision. There is no major rush to get the surgery done before our trip to FL at the end of April. This is a HUGE relief to me as I am really struggling to decide how to proceed and everything else depends on this particular decision and then moving forward. The first dr indicated that we really should schedule the surgery BEFORE our trip and I was worried about the recovery, etc. Now I am just worried about the cancer, the surgery decision, the childcare decisions, the work issues, the laundry, the dance recital, the house cleaning, the banking and get the idea. There are just so many things that need to be decided right now.

And though all of this is quite enough, I even received a call on Thursday because the 2nd opinion facility had my MRI and the radiologist wanted to schedule another biopsy on a second mass that showed up. All indications are that this is just a fibroadenoma (per 1st facility and 2nd opinion dr), which is benign, but he would prefer to confirm it, so tomorrow morning at O-dark-30 (actually, 7:15am), I'll be having another of my favorite procedures. And the call to set this up sure set my mind racing because now I HAVE cancer and every time there is something odd or potentially benign, but possibly malignant, I am going to have to get it confirmed. And I'm going to go through the stress of worrying if it is cancer.

So, just in case you weren't sure, cancer SUCKS!


  1. Your head must be swimming with all of this info coming at you! Hang in there girl.

  2. Kim, I got the message you sent to me via my blog (andersonfamilyzoo). I am so sorry to hear of your diagnosis, and i know that you are one of the few that knows how it feels to walk in my shoes right now.
    Today is Day 14 after my first chemo treatment so I am on the hair countdown. I'll be writing about it, I'm sure, as soon as It Happens. I, too, have noticed so many more bald/scarved women over the past few weeks. I just wanted to say thanks for reaching out. You are beautiful, and your kids are going to be so proud of your strength as you make sacrifices (hair) so that you will be there for them. For me, I consider that a good trade. Blessings to you. You are in my prayers.