I apologize to those that have followed me over the course of the past 19 months- all 17 of you. I had a lot to say and a few things I was working through. I did manage to sift through and categorize the feelings I had after losing my Dad. I was doing well 5 months ago. I was exercising regularly, eating properly, counting my calories and recording my water intake and my ketone output, toning muscle, swimming faster and longer. Even thinking that an older girl like me actually COULD compete in an event, I was getting ready to start running again. I was doing well. And then BAM!! I hit a wall. I just stopped. I dropped out of everything. I withdrew. I didn’t feel like doing anything. So I didn’t.
I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Due to Covid regulations, we had to make appointments to swim and were expected to keep our workout times and I was sleeping through mine. I started to feel poorly. I had to force myself out of bed (which those who know me well is nothing new), but this was different. I lost interest in everything I normally loved. I didn’t play the piano I bought, I wasn’t reading. I wasn’t exercising. I wasn’t drawing. I wasn’t blogging. I wasn’t plotting this years garden. Last year in early spring I had a mapped out a garden, rototilled, planned, prepared, ordered and planted a garden that would have made Martha Stewart envious. (It. Was. Lovely.) This year, there are 4 foot tall weeds out there. I’m not even bothered by them. In previous years, I’d be outside chopping, hacking, pruning and planting, grooming the yard into a golf course- this year – nothing. Too boot, The Craftsman mower (aka the Crapsman) has been broken for the past 4 weeks (at least), so between that and our tremendous amount of rain, it’s rather jungle like here. I personally think that feeling poorly is a separate issue than my new diagnosis, at least I’m praying it is. That will addressed when I see my regular doctor on Tuesday. I think my thyroid is a little bananas. Don’t worry – I’ll be certain to get to the bottom of it.
So… “The Cancer Chronicles”. I have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer- seven words I never thought that I would say. That ranks right up there with the four words no one ever wants hear – “You need a biopsy”. Overall, we have very good breast tissue in our family and of all the cancers, it was ovarian I was worried about. My Nonnie, (my mother’s mother – my Italian Grandmother) had Ovarian cancer. She passed away when I was seven years old. She died young -at 53. Consequently, I’ve been a little obsessive about any abdominal problems I’ve had, Never even THINKING that there may be a BREAST problem. I have done self exams. There weren’t any OBVIOUS lumps. Breasts in general (at least mine) are kinda lumpy and bumpy anyway. There is a little breast cancer that my mother’s cousins have had, but no one else. I rolled the dice on that – that was very FOOLISH. I am ashamed to admit that I had not had a mammogram in nine years. I am very thankful that what they found was not worse. My tumor is 9 millimeters in size. How appropriate. I’ve named it “Bullet”. It is located (if you will) near the upper edge of my right breast near my armpit. If any of you remember, in one of my previous blog posts, I referred to my body and internal organs as “stopping between my neck and knees”. I typically do not reference or discuss them. They are present, they do their job and that’s that. I do realize that there are people in the world that embrace ALL of their bodily functions and do NOT hesitate to go on about them REGARDLESS of where they are. I guess it’s time to get over myself. Yes, I am a woman. Yes. I have breasts. One of them in particular is sick. I call her “Righty”. Not very original, but it’s descriptive.
I went for a routine, LONG OVERDO mammogram in early June. There was a spot they didn’t like. I am prone to cysts and things of the like – no big deal. I’ve had breast cysts, ovarian cysts, a right kidney cyst (what is it with the right side of my body anyway – jeepers), so what’s one more? I’m sure they’re just being cautious. They scheduled a breast ultrasound. Breast ultrasound is done and I wait for the results for a WEEK. I was not happy. I finally find it on the patient portal. (Again, not happy), They recommended a biopsy. Okay. We schedule a biopsy. All I can think of is Edith Bunker when she tells Gloria “I have a lump in my breast”. They are concerned it’s bad (understandably). Ultimately it turns out to be a cyst and Edith is SO HAPPY that it’s nothing, that she jumps off the hospital bed and breaks her ankle. Sounds plausible. Very Yettie like. But I digress… I went for the biopsy.
The staff at the Surgical center where the biopsy was performed were wonderful – they really were. They explained the procedure to me. I was under the impression that it was to be a fine needle aspirate. Okay. No big deal. I was actually in there for a vacuum assisted biopsy. They had me propped up on my left side, right leg bent, with my right arm up over my head. My first thought was “Jack. I want you to draw me like your French girls”. (Honestly – the things that go through my head). They clean it off, numb the area and turn on the vacuum pump. Good NIGHT!! What a racket!! The Doctor starts the actual biopsy. The whole time I’m laying there thinking, “Dang. This is awfully invasive and involved for a cyst. This better be negative. I have things to do. I need to start swimming again. Why do I ALWAYS start swimming in the dead of winter when its 11 below zero? Why do I do that? I need to start eating better again. All I’ve done is stress eat. I’ve put so much CRAP in my body in the name of worrying that it’s ridiculous. That was a stupid thing to do. I need to buy more coffee. What the HECK is he DOING to my Breast? For God’s sake…it’s not a FOOTBALL. Oh, We’re done? That’s good. I want to get SOMETHING planted in my garden…I want to bike and hike through some of our beautiful lakes here. I haven’t done that yet… I need to order lawn mower parts on Amazon. Stupid, broken Crapsman. I really want to get to the ocean this summer. Maybe I’ll take a weekend trip. I can’t wait to go to Maine next month and eat all the lobster I can want. I hope I see a moose. I really want to sit and draw Bar Harbor and that sketch that little town with all the boats on the campus ridge – Camden Maine, that’s the name. There’s that one little place that has the BEST clam chowder I’ve ever had. I hope there’s water in the waterfall in the town where my aunt and uncle live. I want to sketch that too…” Then a voice says “Doctor. She’s bleeding – a LOT”.
Everyone bleeds some – I bled a lot. I’ve taken aspirin nearly everyday for years. I had stopped it several days before the biopsy – just in case. Good thing. Now, I know a few things about general first aid. “To stop or reduce bleeding, apply firm, even pressure to the site, changing the cloths as soon as they become saturated and continue to apply pressure”. A very nice nurse named Mary appears over my head, GRABS ahold of my breast and applies INTENSE, firm even pressure. She’s pressing my breast INTO MY RIBS. She’s rapidly changing gauze pads like she’s Major Hoolihan on MASH. She informs me that I am bleeding a lot. I can’t feel a thing – except for her weight being pushed into my ribs. Then my brain resumes…itself. I have been alone for many years now. Nearly 10 years. While I’m laying there (still in my “French Girl” pose), it dawns on my that that breast hasn’t been grabbed or held in almost 10 years. And to boot, a WOMAN has a solid grip on my breast with no signs of letting go. (Now I am most grateful that she was doing her job and had no intentions of letting me exsanguinate right there on the table, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Well, It’s been 10 years. If there were ever any doubts, they’ve been put to rest. Nope. That doesn’t do a THING for me”. Then I started to giggle. I didn’t have the heart to tell this wonderful, competent nurse who was trying to SAVE MY LIFE and my breast that I indeed was not the least bit same-sexed and quite frankly it was inappropriate on my part for even thinking so. Who the heck wants to bleed to death from ANYWHERE, much less their breast??!! It took a bit, but the bleeding did stop. She said I’d have a big bruise and a hematoma. She was right, I did. The bruise was HUGE. The hematoma was big too. The bruising has subsided in the past 2 weeks. The hematoma has not. It should resolve with time. They told me the pathology report would be ready in 3-7 days.
My biopsy report was ready one week later. It did indeed show DCIS (no, that’s not a sub-division of DC Superheroes). It stands for Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, which means that cancer cells have taken up residence in the milk duct of the breast. (I’ll save my crummy-milk-plumbing-during-numerous-failed-breastfeeding-attempts remarks for another time. I was a lousy breast feeder), It also showed that it had moved beyond the duct itself and into the surrounding tissue meaning it’s Invasive (ie spreading inside the breast). How invasive? Well, that will determined when “Bullet” is removed via lumpectomy and sent for tumor grading and what not and what the lymph nodes reveal. If it’s spread into the surrounding lymph nodes, I may need chemo. For those that are familiar with breast cancer results, it is ER+/PR+, Her2 Neu negative. I was happy about that. That “should” be easy enough to treat.
My lumpectomy with lymph node removal is scheduled for August 23. Regardless of what the pathology report shows on the lumpectomy, I will receive radiation therapy. That should last 3, maybe four weeks at the most. If I need more surgery, I’ll get it. If I need the breast removed, I’ll have it removed. If I need chemo, I’ll get. Right now, this is a battle. If it becomes a war, I’m hauling out heavy artillery and I’ll hit with everything I’ve got. Also, to say that my long standing battle with insomnia has resumed is an understatement. Believe me, I am tired. I go to bed and lie down. I toss and turn, I doze off and wake up with a full body jerk. I go out into the chair, I doze off there – same thing. I’ve actually SLEPT two nights in the past 10 days. This will ALSO be addressed with my regular Doctor on Tuesday. I have resumed a better diet. I was reading about Tamoxifen and Arimidex. They are the two main anti-ER/PR meds they prescribe to ward off recurrence. Wouldn’t you know, one of their side effects id INCREASED BELLY FAT??!?!! I do NOT need increased belly fat!! I already have too much. GAHH!! So I laid off the stress eating and am just eating enough to keep my body functioning at a healthy level. You know, green leafy veggies, fruits and lean protein, lots of water. Putting some distance between me and the ice cream – I love ice cream. And why do CRAPPY snack foods taste so good? Ice cream is NOT in that category. They should have added 2 more separate food groups to the big five main ones- ice cream and Chinese food. Super yummy. Again, I digress…
So with that my friends, I will end tonight’s blog post. Audrey Dog has given up assisting me. It’s taken far too long for her to help me write and she wants to sleep now. Lol. She’s a good little assistant. As things develop, I will be certain to keep you informed. I have no idea where this journey will take me. I do believe that all things happen for a reason. I frequently have NO IDEA what those reasons are but I believe its part of a bigger plan. If this helps even ONE person, then I’m happy to have been an integral part. One thing all of you can count on, is that I will FIGHT. I’ve been feisty since I was little and am not one to back down from a fight. The running expression is that “I come out of my corner swinging”. With that, queue the Rocky theme song and I’ll start hitting that bag. As always, thank you all for taking the time to read and for your interest and support!
Until next time (which will be soon),