Saturday, September 29, 2012

Step by Step

No news this week. Still remain in the holding pattern. Next time my cells have to go to California, I think I should go with them. You know, for efficiency sake.  Energy level is much better this week. I am able to power walk! (Slowly working my way back up to running, I will get there). Still waiting for the next phase on Thursday.



Friday, September 21, 2012

Just Keep Swimming

Made it through an entire week of work!

This has become an accomplishment. I am much less sore. Under my arm looks like someone wearing a class ring punched me really hard. It is lots of pretty blues and greens. Feeling has returned to my triceps and most of my arm pit and according to the surgeon all of it will return.

Stage II 
Met with the surgeon today. My official pathology was back. The tumor is officially 2.4 cm in size (the same diameter of a quarter). Officially Stage II cancer. The margins of the tumor were deemed "close". Meaning the surgeon took out all of the cells he could, but because the tumor was so close to the chest wall (he even took out the pectoral fascia) it wasn't as big of a margin that they usually like or enough that they dub them totally clear or negative. However, there were enough negative cells to not be deemed positive. (Image Source). Don't worry about the margins being close, that's why they put me in the microwave for a couple of weeks to make sure they get all the malignant cells.

This combined with the negative genetic test means......NO MORE SURGERY!

The Lymph Nodes
One was completely clear the other had a few cancer cells and was ruled to be microscopic. So, chemo maybe. The cells have to be sent to a lab in California to see how aggressive they are. Which means we continue with waiting. I will follow up with the medical oncologist and radiation oncologist (October 4th) to get the ball rolling on either chemotherapy then radiation or just radiation.

This song has gotten me through many a week lately, but helped me keep plugging away at work (and reading Bossypants kept me from sleeping on the bus)

Sara 2 Genes 0

Second round of genetic tests are back and they are also negative. No Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. Which means no mastectomy. Yay!

Friday, September 14, 2012

If only steri strips weren't so itchy

Day 3 post surgery and feeling pretty darn good. Soreness is greatly, greatly decreased. Mom and I went out to lunch the past two days. She has helped me figure out a gauze pad-paper tape system to help with the lymph node incision lying directly in the path of the edge of the sports bra. Feeling much more comfortable.

Let's just say comfortable was not how I was feeling yesterday. Yesterday, I was nervous to take my shower. For those of you who are well aware of my type A personality, I was determined that this process would follow the take home instructions to the letter. However, when the bandages were removed the steri strips that covered the lymph node incision site came off.  Insert panic attack number 1. Me (and my half orange, from betadine,  self) wrapped in a towel run out to my mother in the kitchen to report that the world has ended and the steri strips fell off. She calmly told me to take my shower and we would deal with it after. Ok, feeling only slightly better scrubbed myself clean in the shower. This was made slightly difficult by the fact that I was afraid to use my right arm. But, shower accomplished (slightly impressed with the bruising and size of the lumpectomy incision) and it only took 1.5 hours.

Now clean, I was ready for panic attack number 2. I called the surgeons office and they said, yes I should get steri strips to cover the incision {note they did not say I needed to come in or anything else, which should have made me feel better}. My wonderful mother went to the store to get steri strip replacements, but you can't get steri strips at CVS, so she got the closet thing. Lets just say I was despondent that they were not the same. She talked me into trying what she had, placed some gauze and we were ready to leave the house for the first time since Tuesday (nearly 40 hours later). We walked around briefly and then had a delicious lunch (and I was able to talk her into bread pudding for dessert, working hard on my high calorie high protein diet). However, me and my neurotic self couldn't figure out how to put my right arm to make myself comfortable. Should I rest it on the table? Was it better to tuck it under my rib cage? Should I hold it straight down on my side? Despite the crazy arm movements, we still had a nice lunch.

You would think 2 panic attacks and weird arm movements might be enough for one day, however I wasn't done yet. I had become obsessed with my incision sites. I didn't have my bandages on so obviously I must be bleeding. Not the case, which is exactly how the post surgical path goes. However, because there was less than a spot of blood on the gauze on the lymph node incision site I got a little pissed off. How come I am not healing? What's going on? This is going to end up infected! Luckily, both parents were home at this point to talk me down (and maybe shake their heads a little at me) and assure me that everything was fine. They did have a fair point, that perhaps I was not as ready as I thought to go back to living in my apartment by myself. Perhaps it would be better to wait an additional day so they could continue to talk me off the ledge as needed? Well played Mom and Dad, well played.

Happy to report no panic attacks today. Just naps, more eating and walking around. Probably my finest moment today is after breakfast confidently saying to my mother "You know I really could have gone to work today" and then instantly falling so sound asleep I was snoring on the couch for nearly an hour.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bye Bye Tumor

Yesterday was game day. Dressed in my finest Columbia Athletics gear I was pumped to go and have my tumor out. Ate some orange jello around 7:30 am and then drank water until 9 am, but wasn't allowed anything after. Not the best pre-game meal, but it was my only option.  Checked into the hospital around 10:35 am. Was moved into the PACU (post anesthesia care unit, or as my father and I dubbed it the Warm Up/Cool Down area) to get an IV placed and heart monitor, oxygen monitor and blood pressure cuff attached. The surgeon game in and identified which side he was working on and where the lump is. Yup, yet another day with Yes written in sharpie on my boob.

Glowing in the Dark 
Then at 12:00 pm I was sent down to radiology to have the lymph channels injected with a radioactive material (very surprised I don't glow in the dark). The radiologist was the same who had done the original biopsy, so we chatted as she injected me with the burning substance. The ChemE in me insisted on knowing what the element was, and it is Technetium.  Then it was back to the PACU for the wait for surgery. I insisted that my hospital issued slippers given the amount of radiation I've had should be Spiderman, but my father thinks they should have been Incredible Hulk. My mother just shook her head at both of us.

Game Time
The anesthesiologist came in around 1:30 pm and injected some versed (the sleep inducing drug) and they wheeled me to the OR. The last thing I remember is looking at the lights in the OR amazed by how many individual light bulbs where in the lamps. Apparently the surgeon then did his thing. Thankfully, the technetium found the two Sentinel Lymph Node and I got to keep the rest of my lymph nodes.

Post Game
When I woke up in the cool down area I had some burning in my armpit (node biopsy) and the lovely Irish nurse gave me some good pain medicine. I then went back to sleep. The surgeon came in to talk to me, but I was a bit loopy so he went to the waiting room to give my parents the rundown. Two incisions; one for tumor removal and one for node biopsy (cosmetically better allegedly). He took out the tumor plus the area around the tumor called a margin. Everything removed gets tested (come on clean margins!) to make sure it is all out.  So we'll wait another week to find out if everything is out and if the cancer is in the lymph nodes.

I finally was awake enough at 4:30 pm to go home. Anesthesia made me a little nauseous and driving home felt like we were going 1000 mph. I had a couple of spoonfuls of soup and some pain medicine and since then I have just been icing and napping.

Peeing Blue
Thank goodness the surgeon gave me a heads up about this side effect. In order for him to get the correct lymph nodes he injects you with blue dye and you pee blue. (And it is much darker than the photo below. I felt the need to call my parents in to see it before I flushed. Below is the color I am currently dispensing. Image source). And please don't claim this is TMI, this whole blog is TMI.


Currently I feel a little like this (see around the 1:30 mark):

Appetite has returned this morning and just stuffed myself with blueberry pancakes. Will be making sure I am eating to heal! 


Friday, September 7, 2012

Action Plan!

Meeting with surgeon went well. Surgery scheduled for Tuesday!  As I discussed with my mother and a colleague today, it seems weird to be so excited for surgery. I am ready to have my tumor out! The procedure only lasts about an hour and is called a lumpectomy and they will remove (hopefully) just a couple of the lymph nodes to test them to see if the cancer has spread. It is only a day procedure so I won't even have to stay in the hospital. If the cancer is in the lymph nodes then Phase II of the action plan is chemotherapy, otherwise after healing its time for radiation.

This is my song to my tumor:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

By the Numbers

Since my brain didn't want to go to sleep last night, I ended up having a Sheldon Cooper moment and decided, I did indeed want to do the math (because you take the girl out of engineering, but you can't take the engineer out of the girl).

How much of my body (volume wise, density would involve way too many assumptions) is cancer?
0.012%  {estimating the volume of my body as a rectangle}
(see Mom, just a touch of cancer).

What was the probability of me developing breast cancer?
0.43% or 1 in 232
(I didn't do this math, the American Cancer Society did and you can find the source here)

Did you know for lifetime for women it is 1 in 8?  Well, I got most of you covered.

Friday's appointment with surgeon can't come soon enough (and by then maybe I won't take out the measuring tape and measure my depth and width).