Monday, August 26, 2013

What Comes Next

First things first.

1.  About the MRI results....
Well, after I had filled out all my paper work and waited about forty-five minutes, the MRI tech read my paper work and noticed where I checked the box for expanders and said, "Just Kidding.  You can't go near the MRI machine as long as you have those in." Duh.  I should have known that.  So they contacted my oncologist and got him to write an order for a head CT.  So another forty-five minutes later I was able to get my head checked.  My OB/GYN called me a day or two later with the results.  All clear.  Negative.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  Sigh of relief.  Thanks God.

2.  About the genetic testing results....
They tested for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes, for Lynch Syndrome and for some other things that have letter and number conversations that I didn't take time to remember.  But those test came back and they were all negative.  That leaves us back where we started, with absolutely no idea where this cancer came from.  But I don't really care.  I don't need to know.  God's still got this.  He is still good.  Praise the Lord.  My sisters and Ella will still need to be screened earlier/more often than they would if I didn't have breast cancer.  But I don't need to be hyper-vigilant about getting a colonoscopy and worry about needing a hysterectomy in three years. 

This morning I met my Radiation Oncologist, Dr McBride.  He went over the whole Radiation process and what to expect, what to do, what not to do and then filled us in on the potential risk factors.  There aren't that many, and the likelihood that I get them is low, but I was already trying to retain my composure after the nurse had told me about the side effects.  I had heard that it can feel like a sun burn that won't go away and that's about it for side effects.  That is a side effect, but she also said that compounding fatigue is also one.  NO!!  I thought I was done with fatigue!  As the week wears on from Monday to Friday the fatigue will increase.  It will also get worse the longer I am receiving radiation.  This makes sense as the body is working overtime to rebuild healthy cells.  But I really thought I was done with being tired! The other risk factors include decreased lung function in the left lobe, potential cardiac issues since the heart is on the left side of the body, increased chance of rib fracture and more. I was scheduled for a mapping simulator CT scan for later this week.  This will give Dr. McBride and the team of physicists the information they need to prepare the treatment plan for me.  This whole process is nothing like I imagined.  There's so much involved! I left there feeling a little depressed.

After that appointment at St. Johns we drove to Woodwinds for the first of my every three week Herceptin treatment.  I met with Mark and we talked about where things were and what would be coming in the future.  He answered a lot of questions I had and some questions that some of you have asked that I didn't have answers to.  A phrase kept popping up that I couldn't help but smile at: "curable breast cancer."  My stage 3b breast cancer, even though it was quite large, even though there were many lymph nodes involved is considered curable.  The tumor was removed.  The chemo has done it's thing and now the radiation will make sure that no cancer cells survive.  He gave me a prescription for Tamoxifen.  I'll be taking this hormone therapy for 5-10 years.  My cancer is estrogen responsive and the Tamoxifen will block cancer cell growth that is typically enhanced by estrogen.  This medication has it's own side effects and risk factors!  But Mark was able to dispel some of the anxiety I had about the side effects of Radiation, so it was turning into a better day.  It turned into a really good day when we saw that my hemoglobin had gone almost a gram.  That would be the equivalent of getting 1 unit of blood.  Still a ways to go until that is normal, but I'll take it!  I also go in for another MUGA scan this week to make sure my heart is still strong.  This is a huge answer to prayer.  I've had two MUGA scans.  One before chemo started and one when I finished Adriamycin.  My ejection fraction was at 65% for both of them.  That's really unusual.  From the beginning of treatment to the end of the Adriamycin, it is common for people to lose 10%.  Keep praying!  Herceptin is hard on the heart too.

I headed to the infusion center and got to see my nurse friends again.  Several of them commented again on how moved they were by my window friends the week before.  Those that weren't there definitely heard about it!  They said it was one of the coolest things they'd seen happen there.  It went really quick and I was done. 

We still have a lot of logistical things to work out with Radiation, but I'm hoping these next six weeks fly by!!

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