Update for March 21

I had meant to blog in the evening of Monday, March 19 to post the latest, but even though it was not major surgery, my body still reacted to it like it was. I was incredibly fatigued and had to go to bed the rest of the day. It was a very long day on Monday and we didn’t get home until mid afternoon. My surgery was at Marian Medical Center in Santa Maria, so even the drive as a passenger was tiring. We had to be there at 6 am, so we were up at 4 am to get ready and take the long drive down. My husband drove us down and a dear friend of ours, Sally went down to be support for both of us. Pete was happy for that, because he is needing support just as much as me, if not more. This is hard on spouses as well.

I had two procedure during surgery which I had mentioned before, so now I have a Port-a-Cath in place for the infusion of my chemotherapy drugs, and the surgeon removed three of my lymph nodes for biopsy which needed to be done before chemo started.

Tuesday was just as long with an appointment near French Hospital at 7:45 am for an Echocardiogram which is a routine diagnostic procedure prior to the type of Chemo I will be receiving tomorrow. The drugs are hard on the valves of the heart, so they needed a baseline Echocardiogram. It is a pretty cool procedure and it is fascinating to see the heart beating and all the chambers of the heart doing its thing.

Then I needed to go meet with an Oncology Radiologist, and I ended up being assigned to a female. I was very pleased and she took a lot of time with us, she was even interested in what Pete does, and she seems like almost more like a friend than a rushed doctor. God knew I needed a doctor that was more personal to feelings than a rushed male doctor. Female physicians can be just as cold and rushed too, but this one was wonderful. Anyway depending on so many things in the process of my treatments, I may also be receiving radiation treatments in addition to my chemo. They don’t do them at the same time of course. It would probably be after I have my breast surgery down the line after chemotherapy is completed.

She did get the result of my lymph node biopsies after we had gotten home and the doctor called me at home to give me the results. I do have cancer in all three of the lymph nodes that they tested, with on of them considered a true metastasis according to the size of the tumor. The other two were less in size and not considered metastatic according to their measurements of the tumors. And as I was writing this, my surgeon just called and said the same thing, so I will probably get radiation after surgery. My surgeon said that my case will be discussed at the tumor board next week, and they will all determined different strategies. The tumor board includes all disciplines in the medical team, which is the surgeon, oncologist, pharmacologist, radiation physician,  and several others involved in the care of each case. Every case is so individualized. This medical and surgical team treat every person as an individual situation and that there are no cases that are the same or treated the same because we are all unique, so treatments are all individualized.

Today I have a reprieve, so I will try to do something fun or get some work done around here that is light. Tomorrow will be my very first chemotherapy treatment, and then I return on Friday for an injection to boost my white cell count.

I have a long road ahead of me, so I will be cleaving to God all the more. He is certainly the rock in my life and he gave me a wonderful husband who is a rock. He needs prayer too, because I can see that it is hard on him and wearing him down as well. This is a very exhausting journey. I am not the sort who is able to take naps, but I have been needing to do that everyday now. Even when I am sitting with my dog clients, I just make all of us lay down for a while.

It looks like it is beautiful outside, so I will go enjoy the day today while I am feeling good.

Sad

We are grieving from the bad sentinel lymph node biopsy report as well as the dreadful reality of chemotherapy starting tomorrow; surgery in a couple of months, and radiation after that. The doctors are optimistic, however. A crappy couple of days, I must say. Too much, too fast.  -Pete

Home again

Pete here.

Dianne is home again this afternoon after surgery this morning. She is resting now, off and on. Many thanks to all for your prayers, and special thanks to Sally, Alice and Jan for your personal assistance today!  Love to all.  -pw

Update of March 15

The next thing on my schedule for my journey is now I am scheduled to have surgery on Monday for an insertion of a port-a-cath which is to be used for my Chemotherapy treatments, and now also a sentinel lymph node dissection which must happen before chemo begins…  The doctors are making things happen fast, that I have to juggle so much around. The phone doesn’t stop ringing and I am exhausted.

I have a very busy weekend ahead for my Pet Service so I will have some fun things to look forward to, although there are other activities going on at the same time.  My head is almost spinning because of the focus of all these things going on.  This year certainly started off with a major big band and keeps on going!  No more surprises please.

 

Visit to Oncologist

Today I met the oncologist and we discussed her take on my treatment plan which was what my surgeon was recommending.  I will be starting chemotherapy next week which will be given once a week every two weeks for a set number of treatments.  Surgery will be postponed until after the treatments are completed.  The purpose of the chemotherapy prior to surgery is to reduce the size of the tumor to get a clean margin when surgery is done later.

I canceled or I should say, surgery is postponed until all this is done, so I am now onto a different direction at this time and it appears to be the best for my situation.  My doctors are all working as a team and they converse with one another in the best treatment choices in my case.  I will be meeting a radiation specialist too even though I may or may not have radiation.  Other tests such as laboratory draws and a couple of other diagnostic tests will be done as well prior to my treatments started, so I have quite a full and busy schedule ahead.

I am still maintaining my Pet Service and it is actually a great diversion for me and my mental therapy in this season. I am very glad to have a job that has animal clients that get me outdoors and walking and laughing. They all do funny and quirky things.

Pete and I went to an excellent panel discussion open the public at French Hospital which was sponsored by Hearst Cancer Resource Center. They let everyone ask questions of these top cancer specialists and they were all great questions and answers on the latest treatments and even complimentary or alternative treatments. It was very informative and educational. It made me all the more confident in the treatment choices that are presented to me because of the advanced methods and beliefs this team of doctors represented. They are all open to support complimentary treatments which go hand in hand with conventional treatments and support the whole person, mind, body, spirit, etc.

This resource center also has all kinds of free activities for cancer patients and cancer survivors such as support groups of course, but also fun classes like art, exercise classes and yoga and many other choices including some odd ones too. The ones I want to take are the art classes, and one which gives you help with cosmetics and such for when the hair disappears with chemotherapy.

I have to admit that I do have my up days and also some very down days. Some days I am captured by the anxiety, dread or depressed feelings and I have my melt downs. Most days I do really feel the peace that God gives me and I can feel the prayers that are lifting me up.  God does give me peace that surpasses all understanding.

Update of March 8

Yesterday I talked to the surgeon, she called me at home, and then this morning I talked some more with the nurse at the office who’s label is Breast Care Program Navigator.  The nurse is the one who keeps me on track with the next steps, and to answer questions I have and to just be a friend that I will need through this journey.

In the last post I had a good report of the PET scan that there is no other cancer in the rest of my body, so that is excellent news.  My next step is to talk to the Oncologist which I have an appointment with next Tuesday morning in San Luis Obispo.  My question to the doctor was why I would need chemo or radiation prior to surgery if they are going to remove the whole breast.  The answer was that I have more than one lesion and it covers more than one quadrant.  The size of one of the lesions is a big concern to the surgeon and she feels due to the size of it, even with a mastectomy, she may not be able to get a clear margin.  With treatments prior to surgery, it would shrink the tumors to allow for a good margin.

So, I will see what the medical oncologist has to say and what her take is on the results of my tests.  If treatment is indicated, surgery will be postponed until after the completion of the treatments, probably chemotherapy.  I wouldn’t have surgery for another 12 weeks possibly, but all depending on the number of treatments ordered by the oncologist.

My story keeps evolving, but my trust is in the Lord.  He is holding me together in this and I have an incredible force of prayer warriors covering me everywhere.  I actually have less episodes of anxiety now, and I am leaning on the peace within that God is giving me in this season.  It doesn’t mean I won’t feel anxious later, because I know that is just a normal response in these situations, but I know I don’t have to stay there.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

Report of PET Scan

I had my PET scan this afternoon, and my doctor called me at 4 pm with the results already.  I was really surprised and told her that was fast!  The doctor told me that she nags to get the results and she wants it now.  I would say that she has my best interest at hand. The results of the PET scan was clear of any suspicious areas anywhere else in my body.  Praise God!  I sort of knew that would be the case, but they are being very thorough.

She still wants me to see the Oncologist next week rather than rescheduling for after surgery, because she is concerned that the one lesion is so large.  She said that the Oncologist might want me to have treatments prior to surgery to shrink it.  I will have to see what the doctor decides is best, or what more options are ahead of me.  It could delay the surgery date, or she may say to keep the surgery date.  That appointment is next Tuesday.

In this journey there are so many doctors involved in one diagnosis.  I get a bit tired with all the information and all the procedures and all.  I haven’t even started any treatments yet!  So I will rest when I need to, but continue my exercises and routines as normal.

Surgery Scheduled

Surgery has been scheduled for April 2.  It is unfortunately on my husband’s birthday.  We will have to celebrate his birthday at an earlier date.  My surgeon is in Santa Maria, so it will be at Marian Hospital in Santa Maria.

I was booked up this whole month with pet clients, so I was committed and didn’t want to bail out on them.  Since the biopsy indicated that it wasn’t the most aggressive form of cancer, I didn’t feel as rushed to have the surgery sooner than this date.

So things are moving along.  My PET scan is tomorrow, and hopefully it will not indicate that there is anything else lurking in my liver or elsewhere.  If there is something, I am not sure if that will change the surgery schedule, but I have to just take one day at a time and see what the results will be.  I should know the results by the end of the week.

I am in the hands of the Lord, and he is going every step of the way with me.  I have a lot of prayer coverage, so that gives me much comfort during this time.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1

PET Scan

I am now scheduled for a PET Scan for next Tuesday to see what is up with the liver.  I am confident that it is nothing, but because I am on this journey, anything that looks unusual is suspect to the radiologists, so here we go.

For 24 hours prior to the test, I have to do no strenuous exercise, chew no gum, zero sugar, alcohol or caffeine.  The only safe liquid will be water up until 10 am on Tuesday.  Four hours prior to the exam, I can have a high protein breakfast.  No carbohydrates at all.  So a big omelet is in order.  They said I can have bacon, ham, or any protein item such as that, but I don’t eat that anymore because I am trying to keep my cholesterol down.  Ha.

I figure I can do anything in a short period of time.  A prayer for me on March 6 will be appreciated.

Today’s Update

I had my MRI yesterday morning, and my surgeon already received the results by the late afternoon yesterday.  She called me to give me the information.

The left breast was clear of any involvement which is great, but the right still shows much involvement.  The doctor also told me that the MRI showed a couple of spots on my liver and they were recommending another diagnostic procedure to check on that.  It could be nothing, but since I am being worked up as a cancer patient, they have to rule out that it isn’t anything.  Oh boy!  More tests!

The rest of the biopsy came back which was to test for an oncogene called HER-2/neu which if positive would indicate a much more aggressive breast cancer.  IT CAME BACK NEGATIVE!  YES!  So that means that the cancer I have isn’t the aggressive form.  Good news on that note.

I met with the plastic surgeon today, and he gave me a some options.  I feel like my head is spinning with these choices.  There is positive and negative outcomes for anything you choose, so I have to really pray for what would be best for me.  It isn’t like going out and trying on a new dress and being able to take it back because it doesn’t quite look right.

Just three weeks ago, I would not have even thought I would have to make decisions like these.  I feel like I am playing out a story that is someone else’s story and not really mine.  It is a surreal experience.