I've had more doctors' appointments in the past few weeks than in the past 10 years. I don't know why that surprises me, but it does. I guess I never really stopped and thought about the number of specialists and appointments necessary to actually oversee one's battle with breast cancer. I wouldn't blame other cancer patients or their loved ones if their response to the above involved eye-rolling, or smacking me upside the head were I within reach. And now that I think about it, it does seem rather...naive (perhaps too kind a word) on my part. Anyway, I don't mean to complain -- the doctors and their staffs have all been great. And my employer has been very understanding. I think it may just be the reality of it all sinking in.
It's not a bad reality, really. I had my follow-up appointment with the surgeon last week. She confirmed that all is healing well and that the pathology report from the surgery showed "clean margins," meaning no further surgery would be necessary. So it was time to set up appointments with the radiation oncologist and the medical oncologist. (Maybe that's part of it, too -- the multiple scheduling phone calls and reiteration of medical history.)
I met with the radiation oncologist on Friday. He outlined the various radiation methodologies and why the standard treatment is indicated in my case. For me, that will mean 33 sessions -- every day, Monday through Friday for the next six-plus weeks. They'll start out radiating the entire breast and then "boost" the radiation to the actual site of the cancer. But first, they have to map everything out and get the proper boob coordinates -- which involves another mammogram and then a CT scan, which I'll undergo tomorrow. Then they'll mark the target area(s) -- with permanent marker, not tattoos, as are sometimes used. I'm hoping they can get me scheduled for the early morning (7:30 a.m.) radiation sessions, but those are highly coveted spots, so we'll have to see. He confirmed I can expect to encounter some fatigue, and also some skin irritation. There also will likely be some scar tissue (internally), but, hey, when you alter things surgically and then nuke them, I guess that's to be expected.
Today I got to meet with the medical oncologist to review my options regarding medication. Tamoxifen is often recommended for breast cancer patients for five years post-surgery and radiation. At least for those whose cancer cells respond to estrogen. Mine do, and given my age, (45 as opposed to 65 or 70), it's a reasonable option. The survival rate is the same with or without it. The recurrence rate is somewhat lower with it than without it. But it also comes with some side effects, and, after reading up on it, I was kind of hoping they wouldn't strongly recommend it for me. They didn't. Again, it's a reasonable option, but so is foregoing it, so I've opted for the latter. (I realize that this may invite others to weigh in with their opinion on my decision, and that's fine. But it's my decision and I'm comfortable with it. The doctor was, as well.)
Anyway, I wanted to bring folks up to date, as many have asked how everything is going. I haven't meant to be evasive or uninformative. I just didn't have much more information to share until the past couple days. Oh -- one bright spot -- all three doctors who've seen me in the past week have remarked at how well the incision is healing and that they don't think the scar will even be visible. So that topless dancer thing could still work out for me! (I'm kidding, Mom.)
Thank you again to all who've reached out with encouraging words and prayer. Y'all have really helped make this easier.
One last note -- I saw this article today and shared it on Facebook: "ABC News' Amy Robach Reveals Breast Cancer Diagnosis" Another reminder of just how important mammograms are. Get yourselves checked, ladies!