It’s in the lymph nodes??
I am in awe at the advances that have come about in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. I am certain it’s even better today than it was just 10 years ago.
The day I went in for the mastectomy they began “prepping” me by injecting dye into my breast tumor. This dye spread through the lymph nodes allowing surgeons to predict the trajectory of the cancer. Wherever the dye goes, is where the cancer is known to spread first. In my case, they removed my entire right breast plus 3 lymph nodes. The pathologist checked the 3 lymph nodes, while I was still on the operating table. He did not see any cancer spread. If he had, they would have removed the remaining 8-10 lymph nodes. So, instead they sewed me back up and sent me to recovery.
What I didn’t know is that those three lymph nodes would be further sliced into small sections and looked at microscopically, to make darn sure there was no cancer spread. They rarely find cancer during this phase (I was told less than 5% of the time) but in my case 2 out of the 3 lymph nodes removed where showing micrometastases (fancy word for cancer spread) . This meant that the cancer had a chance to reach the bloodstream giving me a higher risk of recurrence than if my lymph nodes had been completely free of cancer. I was beating all sorts of odds but NOT in a good way!!
Giving me that news meant more surgery, I had the rest of my lymph nodes removed just a few days after Christmas. Knowing that cancer had been in my lymph nodes freaked me out so bad! The doctors told me that breast cancer tends to spread to the bones, liver, and lungs. So, naturally (for me anyway) any ache and pain I felt out of the ordinary, made me think my cancer had spread to one of those 3 areas. I had a bone scan, chest x rays, and brain scans, all because I was having regular back aches, headaches and trouble breathing (probably from anxiety!). Once I’d receive the news that my tests were normal whatever pain I was having at the time would disappear. My mind was playing tricks on me again. I was scared all the time.
Preparing for Chemo
I was told I would start chemotherapy about a month after surgery. So, I decided I needed to prepare myself physically and mentally. Two weeks after my surgery I felt OK enough to purchase a breast prosthesis. I was tired of wearing baggy shirts and stuffing my bra. Not to mention missing a breast is just weird. Not only did it look awful, but I felt out of balance. I remember drinking cold water and feeling the cold rush on my mastectomy side. Super weird. At the very least I wanted to feel somewhat normal while wearing clothes. I also had my hair cut short getting ready for what was to come. My hair dresser (who still does my hair today), got teary as she chopped my hair short. After she finished, I thanked her, gave her a hug, and said I wouldn’t be back for a while 🙁
Doing these things made me feel more in control and better able handle what was to come, or so I thought.
In My Own Words- Journal entries
January 1st, 2005
I got out of the hospital yesterday. It was supposed to be an outpatient procedure and I ended up there for 3 days after catching an infection. I am feeling OK physically, but emotionally I am a roller coaster. I wish my down times were fewer. I am so glad that my mom is here helping me. This is so hard for her too.
January 5th, 2005
Today was a good day. We finally got some good news. The lymph nodes they took in the second surgery were free of cancer. I am finally thinking I may actually be able to beat this. My mom leaves in a couple of days and I am dreading spending time home alone. I still cry every day, but even then, I feel that things are looking up. I will start chemo in two weeks so I am cutting my hair short and shopping for a wig soon. I’m afraid of the chemo but I’m ready to start. Thank you Heavenly Father. I really think I’m going to be OK.
January 8th, 2005
Duane and I went on a date today. It’d been a long time since we’d done that. I miss my mom, especially when the house is cluttered and dinner needs cooked. We went to look at wigs today. It was funny because they only had blonde ones and they looked ugly. I picked one from a catalog and Duane is going to pick it up as soon as my hair starts falling out. I’m trying to be positive and not dwell on the physical stuff but it’s really hard. I’m really thankful to Heavenly Father for giving me the strength to overcome this. It’s not over yet but I am ready to give it the best fight. I cut my hair short and I really hate it. I also bought some hats. I just hope I am strong enough to endure the next few months.
January 21st 2005
I start chemo this week. I am scared but I can’t wait to get it going. I also had a bone scan. I hope everything is normal. I always get so nervous when I wait for results. We are doing a family fast today and asking our Heavenly Father for good results on the bone scan and strength for my body to handle the chemo treatments. I try not to complain too much about pain or anything because it really takes a toll on everyone. The hardest part about this is making other people sad and worried about me. I do think my faith in increasing. I am trying hard to pray sincerely and do a lot reading from the scriptures. I feel that no matter what the outcome, Heavenly Father is going to take care of me and my family. The scriptures say “ask and you shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you”. I also love the scripture from John that talks about “peace I give unto you, let your heart not be troubled nor let it be afraid”. Duane told me once that fear comes from the devil, and I believe that’s true. So, every time I get scared I turn to the Lord for peace and comfort. I hope I am able to learn the lessons I am supposed to learn from this experience. I have definitely developed a stronger testimony of prayer, fasting, and scripture reading. I’ve also learned to love and appreciate my family more. I love them all so much. I hope Heavenly Father allows me the chance to spend many more years with them.
Thanks for reading! I will leave you with a couple of pictures of that Christmas in 2004. No pictures of me because I was not going to let anyone take my picture with that awful haircut 🙂 I am also sharing a sweet poem my daughter Andrea wrote me as my Christmas present. She was 11 years old at the time.
Love for Mom
I know you are going through some hard times, all of us are too
Just have faith in everyone and we’ll have faith in you
While you are going through this I love you more and more
And when it’s all over, it will be better than before
When we all get through this, I know you will for sure
I want to thank you for everything, like your love so pure