Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 51: Clear Margins!

Oh, I can't tell you the relief that I feel. I went out on a limb and called the nurse this afternoon, hoping my pathology was in after 48 hours and that they could tell me something before my post-op appointment next Tuesday so I wouldn’t lose my mind. I am still feeling the effects of the anesthesia in a big way--very shaky, heart racing still, don't feel like myself. So after I left that voicemail I watched Crazy Heart from the netflix queue and then went to bed, assuming I wouldn't hear a thing. I got a call from the nurse telling me that my biopsy is benign, so I should feel great. I was groggy, not understanding. Why would I have a biopsy? She said, oh come on, you should be so ecstatic! (Come on? Please—do you have a clue what you people have put me through here?) I started to comprehend what she was telling me so I asked, oh wait, my margins are clear? Yes, they are. Your cancer is gone. I said, oh thank you, now I can have a better weekend! Hung up the phone in disbelief and called Gabe upstairs to give him the news.

So I can finally say that the surgery part is done. I looked at my breast today when I showered, and either they somehow suctioned out all the fluid making it swollen, or my boob is just going to be a lot smaller than the other one, because there's no swelling or anything left. It hurts like hell, sure, but there's no residual bleeding or massive bruising like last time. Whatever, I don't really care what it looks like in the end. As long as I don't have to cut it off, I can always fill it in at some point if it really looks ridiculous. I can't tell you how happy I am to have come to this point with both breasts still attached to my body, and to be done with surgery.

So now I'm off to chemo. I have to do some crazy heart test called a MUGA on Tuesday. They will put an IV in me (they messed that up again for this last surgery and I ended up with two--one in the arm and one in the hand, and the one in the arm looks like hell right now), inject me with radioactive dye AGAIN, then take out my blood and put it back in me and make me lie still for two hours and look at my heart to make sure it's pumping. Really? I mean, I was in the ER after surgery on Wednesday due to this heart racing issue, and I had my blood pressure, pulse, oxygen level and temperature taken and everything was perfect. That was after we barely made it there before a torrential downpour, including rain falling in horizontal sheets. My mom and I called home to tell Gabe we made it and he was hanging out in the basement with the kids due to a tornado warning. There were tornado sightings at Midway airport and in the loop I guess, and the Metra wisely decided NOT to leave the station this time. We decided not to hang out in the ER after we heard that the wait was 2 hours since I really needed to be lying down, not sitting around a bunch of sick people. Anyway, can't you take their word for it that my vitals are ok? Is there a reason for this crazy test?

I know there is, and I know AC will put me through hell and will almost kill 3% of the people who use it due to heart trouble. I don't think I will be one of them, but I do worry about all these IVs I'm getting. I want to try chemo without a port, mostly because I want to avoid another 3 hour surgery. I’d also like to avoid alien objects in my body—having cancer was enough, I’m not feeling the need for anything else. But my veins are already looking beat up at this point so I’m not sure the regular IV chemo will work for me. Seriously, how could anyone be a junkie? I can't imagine sticking myself in the veins on purpose.

July 7 is the day—chemo day--assuming I pass my MUGA. I will then hopefully be cleared to give myself the white blood cell-protecting shot at home, so I won't have to go into Northwestern two days in a row for chemo. I would love to spend less time there. It really pissed me off that they put me in general anesthesia this time, for obvious reasons--I react badly to it, it takes longer to recover, but mostly, above all, because they told me they weren't going to do it. Then my husband finds out AFTER the surgery that I was under general, and no one tells me at all until I see him two hours later and he breaks the news. I was talking to the nurses for those hours and I felt confused that I couldn’t remember any of the surgery, but no one mentioned the fact that I was, you know, intubated or anything. I'm sorry, but I'm a grown woman, and I deserve to know what is happening to me, even if there's some lame ass excuse about a shortage of the twilight drugs. So you can understand my desire to avoid the hospital as much as I can.

I have another date on the calendar as well: July 15. My hair is due to fall out 15-16 days after chemo starts. I decided to jump start the process. I'm going to go back to my wig place on July 15, have the woman there cut my hair very short into a bunch of little ponytails so I can ship them off to this place in Florida where they can make a "hat" of my hair (bald on top, my hair on the bottom, so I can wear my own scarves and hats) and then have her shave it all off, so she can fit my wigs. I will have my head of hair until 5:30 pm on July 15, and I will walk out of there about 7 pm with some other, synthetic hair. Gabe is coming with me, so there should be ample amounts of crying, but I just can't let chemo do that to me. I would rather do it to myself. It's not much control to have, but it's better than nothing.

I’m going to end on something I was afraid I would never get to say: Here's to a cancer-free Katy, at least right now, this minute. For twelve days or so, no cancer and no chemo poison in my body, just a wounded chest. I'm just sitting here thanking whoever for the small miracles. I have known I’ve had cancer in my body since May 4, 2010, and the reality is that it was there for years before that, for all of the time that some of you have known me. And now, sitting here, I’m even more thankful for my decision to fight that initial July 9th surgery date and get this 16 days of my life back. That is something than cancer teaches you. Every day really does count, no matter how you feel at the time, no matter how sad or sick or exhausted you are. I guess I can’t fight cancer literally and make my life like it was but I can use my damn good arguing skills to try to convince everyone to do things my way. I’ve had to yell, and cry, and invoke sympathy for having small kids, and throw my little bit of research knowledge out there, and call nurses and doctors until they would have put me on the calling blacklist but for the fact that I have cancer. I’ve basically had to bug the shit out of people to get these days back, but here they are. It’s a little like being me again to know that I could do that—it’s just a glimmer, but it’s there.


  1. Katy- Enjoy the cancer-free poison-free time. You deserve some R & R. Thinking of you.

  2. Thanks, Amy. I hope you can enjoy your next week too, at least as much as possible, before the next round!

  3. And once again, for every step forward, a step back. This time around - the mystery rash.

    Despite the setbacks we're going to get through this, one day at a time. Some days will be a sigh of relief, like yesterday; others (hopefully fewer) may yet be a shocked gasp... what next?!

    I was going to say that in a year we'll look back on all this, but I don't think we will. We'll be glad it's over and never look back, other than to reminisce about how the kids have grown and changed. Katy, you've worried that you'll miss out on them over the next few months and I promise you that I will do my best to document in pictures and video anything you might miss. But you're not going off to war - the battle against breast cancer you're fighting will be engaging you every day right here in our home, and we'll be with you every step of the way - to enjoy life with you at times when you feel good; to distract you from your worries; and to carry you through those times when you aren't feeling well.

  4. Yay! Congratulations on being cancer-free and having a break before chemo. Keep fighting your fight, we're all behind you. Much love.

  5. Katy - so glad you are on the right road now. I also cried (as did Nik, my 9 year old son) during Toy Story 3 - here is my tribute: "To Recovery and Beyoooonnnnnnd"!!!