Sunday, June 12, 2016

So It's All Good Now, Right?

The Surgeon says tumor on the right is too large for lumpectomy, but he would try if I didn't have any aesthetic expectations. I asked what he would do if it was his daughter or wife on the hot seat. Complete mastectomy- no question. He would also perform a simple excisional biopsy on the left to remove the hyperplasia detected earlier. 
Then it'll be over- done- finito!
No radiation, no chemo, no worries. 
So I swallow hard and go for it.

Fr. Stephen comes over for a second anointing and prayer support. He tells me that if this is what God is asking of me, then I can confidently give it to Him, as I have with so many other things in the past. I know he is right. How many younger women have undergone mastectomy without having had the opportunity to nurse all of their babies first? How many haven't lived to see their children's first steps, much less watch 11 children j"grow in wisdom, love, strength and age?"  I'm beyond blessed. After a good confession and anointing, I am good to go. Feeling pretty invincible spiritually, so what have I to fear physically?

So I schedule surgery on a day that the surgeon can take me at 7 am.
Surgery day, I arrive at appointed time, and wait. And wait. And wait.
The surgeon  finally comes in to prep at 7 pm. Turns out, there were a couple of emergency surgeries that he needed to perform BEFORE getting to his scheduled patients. Seriously, a bus driver couldn't legally drive for that many hours without relief!
I ask if he has eaten or rested all day. I know I hadn't, and didn't want his blood sugar as out of whack as my own. So he took a few minutes to grab a bite. 

Surgery prep is a nightmare. They can't find the vein to start the IV. Wonder if dehydration could be the issue? It's only been 21 hours since my last sip of water. Duh!  Then they blew 2 veins. Next, the shoulder block doesn't take. Painful jab into a nerve- but apparently a little too low to get the desired numbing affect across my chest. My hands and fingers are numb instead.

Now for the radioactive injection into the most sensitive part of my body- What? No mention of that in the pre-op appointment!

Maybe it's time to change my mind and get the heck out of here.
That's when the sedative hit.

I wake up to my dear husband crying at my side.
The attending nurse tries to chase him out of the room.
I just want to go home and put this behind me.
Tubes, drains, and pain. So much pain.
But at least it's all good now. Right?
I mean, after a few weeks of recuperation this nightmare is over.

Lesson learned: It ain't over till it's over. And with cancer diagnosis, it is never over.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

What I Heard

The surgeon was kind, gentle, respectful, and willing to spend as much time as I needed.  I was totally unprepared, nervous, and definitely not on my game.  I *heard* that I only had a 3% chance of this cancer killing me if I followed all of his recommendations. He *said* that there was only a 3% chance of this cancer killing me. And there was a 30% chance of recurrence in the opposite breast. He recommended mastectomy at least on the right, with the opportunity to have the same on the left as a precaution if I wanted to be done with it. No need for chemo or radiation. Just be done with it. I asked if there was time to take off for a week to clear my head. He said "Of course." So I did.

Lesson Learned: Know what to ask; and have someone else help you listen. Get your free guide to the right questions for your oncologist (adapt it for your surgeon).

*Turns out, in my case there is no statistical difference in survival rates between women who had a lumpectomy, a complete mastectomy, or - get this- no surgery at all. ARE YOU KIDDING ME????? What a bit of information to find out AFTER surgery.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Leaning On The Body Of Christ

What a mess I was. And what a roller coaster of emotions!  A group of friends from daily mass sat me down and prayed, as so much love and grace filled my soul to overflowing. It overflowed as tears down my face. It overflowed into every area of my life. Fear and anxiety fled the scene and peace was restored (for a little while, anyway).

Lesson Learned: Perfect Love Casts Out Fear.

Shortly afterwards I called my mom. The boys would be at VBS for the morning, so we could drive into the city to visit the Blessed Seelos Shrine. I didn't know much about Francis Xavier Seelos, except that he had spent time in Baltimore at St. Alphonsus Church with St John Neumann. During the 10 years that my husband and I lived in Maryland, the kids and I would occasionally meet Dear Husband for Latin Mass at that particular shrine.  I heard that Blessed Seelos left Maryland for a warmer climate, and eventually ended up in New Orleans. I could totally identify! Instant connection.

Lesson Learned: Don't forget, we are not in this alone.

Monday, May 23, 2016

To Biopsy Or Not?

There was a quiet little voice inside my head warning me against having a biopsy.  When the day came to sign the consent, I asked the radiologist if it wouldn't be more prudent to have the surgeon excise the entire mass rather than breaching an otherwise encapsulated tumor. Wouldn't that potentially turn a non-invasive carcinoma into one that is invasive? She gave me a nasty look and a terse response, "That is bad medicine. You don't want a surgeon mucking around in there without knowing what he is dealing with. Besides, your tumor is already invasive."

Already invasive?  That isn't what I was previously told. Really?

Back into the fog. I couldn't think. I could barely breathe. Heart rate increased. Blood pressure shot through the roof. And the clock was ticking. She wasn't about to let me keep her waiting any longer. So she performed the first biopsy. Anesthetic didn't work, so she reprimanded me for not holding perfectly still. She never got the second biopsy. When the third and largest mass was biopsied, the tumor was essentially split in half by the procedure. Tension was released like the snap of a thick rubber band. Half of the tissue actually shifted toward my underarm. My fears were actualized. An intact tumor was ruptured by the core biopsy and cancer cells were likely released into the surrounding tissue.  I broke my own resolution and went home to see what Dr. Google had to say about it. Sure enough, the research I found confirmed my suspicions. The John Wayne Cancer Institute offered this bit of information for my consideration.

Now I felt that there was no turning back from surgery.

Lesson learned: Again, follow your gut instincts. Don't be bullied by condescending doctors.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

First Visit To Tansey Center

Finally, the day came to visit the team who would manage my case. I thought it would be a relief to formulate a battle plan and move forward with treatment. Instead, my blood pressure shot through the roof and I could barely fill out the intake forms because my hands were shaking. I was escorted into an interior "lobby" lined with lockers and changing rooms. Women in luxurious, white spa robes were seated on row after row of sofas. They chatted or read magazines, matter-of-factly, until the attending nurse called them in. It was surreal. My first instinct was to run the other direction. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end. Something was not right. 

I  remembered having just such an uneasy feeling before, when my husband and I prayed outside of an abortion clinic. I was distinctly aware of an intense spiritual battle going on behind the scenes. On another occasion, during the birth of my 4th son, that creepy sensation recurred. We had moved from Louisiana to Maryland during the last trimester of pregnancy, so I went to the doctor and hospital "assigned" by my insurance company. The childbirth experience was unlike any other. Nurses were bickering with each other, instruments were dropped on the ground- then returned to the tray in spite of the violated sterile field. Everything seemed to be going wrong; and I knew there was something seriously off.  It wasn't until we settled in to our new home that we found out the hospital also performed abortions on site. Again, a spiritual battle of epic proportions was surrounding labor and delivery. How could there not be, if they bring new life into one room, and end new life across the hall?

This Cancer Center felt like death. Not a holy, well prepared death. But a very unholy, evil manifestation of the culture of death.  I couldn't breathe.

Lesson Learned: Follow your gut instincts.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Science Without ConSCIENCE

Just because they can:
Scientist create glow in the dark pigs by injecting the DNA from jellyfish into pig embryos. 
Interesting? Amusing? How about this one:

"You have to speak to the world about His great mercy and prepare the world for the Second Coming of Him who will come, not as a merciful Savior, but as a just Judge. Oh how terrible is that day! Determined is the day of justice, the day of divine wrath. The angels tremble before it. Speak to souls about this great mercy while it is still the time for granting mercy." (Diary of Sr. Faustina 635).

"Conscience- from Latin conscientia "knowledge within oneself, sense of right, a moral sense""