breast cancer, Cancer Kitten, cancer treatment, Cathy, chemo, chemotherapy, Dana Farber, DCIS, fertile hope, fertility, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, LiveStrong, Lumpectomy, Radiation, scheduling cancer treatment, surgery, thirties, young woman with breast cancer
I finally received some good news yesterday-I don’t have the BRCA 1 or 2 gene mutation. If I had the mutation in either gene, then my chances of having breast cancer AGAIN were 25-42%, and I would be planning to remove all breast tissue. This new information makes me strongly opt for a lumpectomy instead of a bilateral mastectomy.
From my online research, it seems that women opt for a bilateral mastectomy with certain types of breast cancer (especially when there are multicentric tumors present. That means numerous, separate cancers formed in one breast); when they have a mastectomy of one breast, in order to have a more even appearance; or because they know that they will live in fear of developing breast cancer again. I think I can live my life post-cancer and not worry about a recurrence. If I start to feel overly concerned about a recurrence, or if future research indicates my likelihood of a repeat breast cancer is quite high, then I can trade my boobs in for a perkier pair with rainbow nipples. But the bottom line is, I just don’t want to get rid of my girls if I medically don’t have to. Not now, anyway.
My lump is underneath my boob (in case you haven’t seen the pics). Although Dr. Carter will have to excise a large “pie slice” and possibly the nipple in order to remove the cancer, DCIS, and appropriate margins, I think I will be able to pad up my bad boob and have the appearance of a normal cleavage until I finish radiation and can have reconstructive surgery. I may even invest on one of those bras that make your ta-tas look two sizes larger to draw attention away from my bald chemo head.
We received the results of Bing’s “date with a sterile cup,” and Dr. Ginsburg, the fertility doctor, thinks that we will find success with our IVF efforts. I also paid for the IVF, which cost $5180 after applying the discount from the Fertile Hope organization. I pulled the money out of my IRA and thanks to Meredith, the best financial advisor around and a really good friend, it only took a few days to have the money available. (FYI, IVF work is considered a medical expense for tax purposes, and therefore I am pretty certain that I won’t have to pay the 10% early withdrawal penalty to the IRS.) Dr. Ginsburg’s nurse gave me IVF homework-I have to watch a video about the process. I wonder if she plans to give me a quiz. Otherwise, we are all set to harvest some eggs!
Here’s my upcoming CAK (cancer ass-kicking) schedule:
July 18th: I have a pre-op appointment at the Faulkner Hospital, which is where I will have surgery. Then I meet with my plastic surgeon, Dr. Talbot, and discuss how we will proceed with reconstruction. Hopefully my reconstruction will be fairly minor in the grand scheme of breast cancer, since I am leaning towards having a lumpectomy. Dr. Talbot will be in my surgery and will close. I will also meet with the fertility doctor‘s nurse that afternoon.
July 24th: Surgery. Boo. I talked with my good friend Margaret today. She is studying for the Florida Bar Exam which, coincidentally, starts on July 24th. She asked me if I’d rather have surgery or sit for the Bar again, just to garner an idea of the level of misery she will experience taking the test. I can honestly say, although this may be ridiculous to most people, if I was just having surgery and it didn’t involve cancer, I would rather have surgery. (My advice: Don’t go to law school, folks. I actually told Margaret that before she started. It’s not my fault she didn’t listen, but I didn’t tell her that today. Love you, Margaret!)
I will have a follow-up with the breast surgeon about two weeks post-surgery. My plan right now is to recover, then catch a flight ASAP to get home. I have my awesome sister-in-law Jan and her friend flying into Steamboat August 1 for a Buck Brannaman (horse whisperer) clinic, and am really looking forward to that mini-vacay!
Aug 2nd: Meet with the Steamboat oncologist who will be supervising my chemo in Steamboat, Dr. Allen Cohn.
~Aug 13th: Start egg harvesting process in Boston. This takes about two weeks.
~Aug 26th: Go in for the BIG HAIR CUT in Boston. I plan to donate my hair to Locks of Love or a similar organization. If chemo is going to rid me of cancer but rob me of my hair, my hair should at least be put to good use. I put my sister-from-another-mother Kristin to the task of finding a hairdresser who will participate in this experience with me. In addition to my Locks of Love Donation form and a plastic ziploc bag, I plan to bring an army of women, champagne, and a box of tissues to this hair appointment. On the bright side, I will get the pixie cut I’ve always been too wimpy to try!
I admit, the thought of losing my hair has caused me to stop and catch my breath at times. Only over the past few days have I come to terms with this part of my cancer treatment, and realized that I need and want chemo because I don’t want cancer again. Losing my hair is temporary. There are wigs, should I want one. I will cut down on shower time and conserve water. I will save money on hair products. I’ve had numerous, serious offers from women in my life to shave their heads to support me, and if they can do it for no reason other than because they love me, then I can handle losing my hair because I need to kick cancer’s ass.
~Aug 27th: Start chemotherapy in Boston, under the guidance of Dr. Parker. (I totally love how he rocks the bowtie.) I have no clue how long I will have chemo. That will depend on the surgery findings.
~When chemo finishes, I will undergo radiation 5 days a week for 6 weeks.
Here’s a photographic homage to my girls. Although they recently betrayed me, they served me well for a good twenty years.