Well things are moving along really quickly here. My doctor has told me that my focus in life right now needs to be beating this disease, and that's definitely taking over the day to day routine. Yesterday I had the follow-up ultrasound to try to see if there's anything going on in my right breast and to verify what they found on the left. I had a physical and will meet my surgeon on Tuesday. Then I will do god knows how many other tests before I can actually have surgery and start to get this over with for good.
When I got to my new home away from home at the Lurie Breast Cancer center, they asked me to participate in a research study. Now science must love me, because the same thing happened when I was delivering Augie. I don't even remember what it was I signed up for--some study of labor outcomes for people who have petocin and an epidural, or something like that. I was in labor and they're asking me these questions. Fine, give me the pen and stop talking to me.
This time, I was selected because I can't have an MRI. Since I'm nursing, I would have to wait 6 months for the test to be accurate. Apparently it's only accurate on non-lactating women for a few specific days of their cycle anyway. This strikes me as a bit of junk science. If the test is almost always inaccurate, surely there must be a better way? Anyway, in addition to my regular ultrasound, I could have some 3-D thing. Would I be interested in being a part of the 1,500 women from the U.S., Germany and Japan to do this? My response: Will I get billed for it? No, no that gets charged to our research department. Sure, why not.
The 3-D thing was interesting. They place an x-ray type of machine on your breast, compress it, and this transponder slides itself across automatically. Very scifi. More uncomfortable than a regular ultrasound, but cool to see the 3-D pictures of the whole boob. My questionairre asked me if I liked that ultrasound more than a regular one or a mammogram. I thought, man if I could be a small part of helping replace mammograms with this thing women the world over would thank me! That test was infinitely better, though I was there for 3 hours, at one point reading an Agatha Christie novel in the dark, lying on my side with gel all over my chest waiting.
My result was good news too. Nothing on the right, nothing additional on the left. I was very relieved, but I'm scared of all the tests I need to get to show if cancer has spread to my lungs, liver, stomach, etc. No one thinks it has, but until I know what I'm dealing with it's hard not to be a little terrified. If I just have breast cancer, I know I can deal with that.
That's not a sentence I ever thought I'd write. But right now I'm panicking with every headache or stomach twinge, wondering if that means more cancer. It's not surprising that my stomach is bugging me since I haven't been eating and I'm a nervous wreck, but still.
It has been very helpful to me the way that people have responded to the news and this blog with so much love and support. It means so much to me. And I know that no one knows what to say, or whether to talk to me about normal things, or at all. I'm sure it will be easier for some people not to see me or talk to me, but what amazes me is the number of people who've offered to come out and help us or see us, even when I haven't seen those people in years. And people at work have been very supportive--there's apparently a group of breast cancer survivors at the Fed, and while I don't know any of them, I will very soon! I've already met another survivor at Gabe's work (he works three blocks away from me and until yesterday I had never been in his office building) and I'll be talking to a few other women who have survived breast cancer this weekend. It makes me feel very loved, and hopeful.
But I'm just not very good at being emotional in front of people, as most of you know, so it's hard too. Because I'm feeling wistful and sad all the time. My gyne seems to think I need to get a better attitude. I think he's surprised that I'm not being super positive. But I don't feel negative--I'm just not a cheerleader type. Just because I'm not shouting "All right, let's take this on!" doesn't mean I haven't accepted what I need to do. Anyway, I know people feel terrible and want to help and maybe just need to hear my voice, and here I am screening calls because I can't deal with talking yet. But soon, I will, and then I will be taking you up on your babysitting offers and I will want to hang out and be social too. After all, at a certain point, I won't be up for that. But now I feel just fine, which makes this whole thing seem surreal, like I could wake up from it. I know I can't though.
I'm starting to get angry about the fact that I will be on drugs for so many years, that I will have long-term consequences of chemo if I need to do that. I'm past the sadness about the inevitable weight gain, hair loss, etc., since that will be temporary. It's the lingering stuff that bugs me--the reduced immunity once they take my lymph nodes, the fact that unless they pass this health care reform I will be on the health insurance blacklist. Also, my gyne was very honest with me yesterday and told me that chemo would probably destroy my ovarian function. Between that and the drugs, I wouldn't be able to have kids for five years, and even then, the hormonal changes of pregnancy and the stimulation to my breasts (which could be, tragically, what gave me this cancer in the first place) would put me at risk again. Now Gabe and I didn't want to have more kids, but we hadn't made that decision permanantly yet. And now cancer made the decision for us. I don't want to have a kid at 40, so I guess we're going to stick with the two. They are definitely enough, but it makes me feel kind of old to realize my fertility is over.
I need to remind myself that if I hadn't found that lump, I wouldn't know I had breast cancer, and I'd be going out on girls nights, working out, trying to find a babysitter, talking to Gabe about when he should get a vasectomy, etc. Gabe said that while he knew I was upset that we'd lost all our babysitters for various reasons recently, I didn't need to get cancer to get some. But you know we're going to need to go out and do some fun things, and it's also hard for us to talk around Lenny, who seems to be about 80 years old in her knowledge of things.
We haven't told her anything, except that I have an owie on my breast and that's why I couldn't pick up her or Augie for a few days. Nothing since then. Of course, my mom doesn't usually stay with us, and Gabe and I don't usually leave the house early in the morning to go to a "meeting" together. She broke down when she was at gymnastics and I couldn't figure out why, until I realized that my mom was there, and I had been talking about my mom taking her for a while and she was worried. Then last night out of the blue she asked, "So why do you have an owie on your breast?" Well, I just do. But I can lift things now, it's healed. She said "So what's the deal with Augie's eating?" Yes, she did say "what's the deal." I've been trying to figure out how to wean him without becoming engorged or feeling too sad about it, but I haven't said anything to her. Gabe said she'll figure it out on Sunday when we're all on the breast cancer walk in Beverly (we signed up before we knew about me...irony...). I'd like to think she's not quite that perceptive, not yet.
Speaking of weaning, that process has begun. The only thing I've read online about breast cancer has to do with nursing, because I just want to avoid the pitfalls of reading online. So many women are militant about continuing nursing, but everyone in the medical community is telling me to wean as soon as possible. And the reality for me is somewhere in between. I absolutely want to be done nursing by the time I have surgery. How the hell would I deal with that? I might only have one breast, and I'll be laid up for a while. That just isn't going to happen. But I don't want to have too much pain or hormonal fluctuation by stopping too fast, and I'm already sad about one of my breasts being a harbinger of suffering, so I want to continue for a little while longer. Augie actually prefers the left side, so there's one person who doesn't care about the cancer. I've put the pump away, and I'm going to nurse maybe three times a day this weekend, then move to two by Sunday or Monday, then move to one. I wanted to give him at least one year, but shit happens I guess. It's more about me than him anyway. He'd rather just stuff puffs and wagon wheels in his mouth anyway.
This blog is also more about me--I will confess to doing it because it's just too hard to tell people one at a time or update people who are concerned with my progress. So that's my motivation, but in the end I feel better for doing it too. I'm starting to realize that for a while this will be the focus of everything for me, but that someday it won't be, and I'll be one of those people that other women call when they get that bad news and need to feel a little better. Until then, I'll be one of those annoying bloggers. Feel free to tell me when I'm full of it, okay?