Monday, November 14, 2011

Caught in a Whirlwind

The past 3 weeks have been a whirlwind of doctor’s appointments, test results, and surgery scheduling. I’ll try to update on those 3 things in order of occurrence.

Once I decided that a double mastectomy and reconstruction was the route I wanted to take, an appointment was made for me with a plastic surgeon. I had some unrealistic expectations going into this appointment. In my mind I had convinced myself that I would go in for surgery and have the boobs that are trying to kill me removed, and walk out with my new fake set…not so much! As I quickly learned, the day of surgery I will have an expander placed under each pectoral muscle and will have to go through a process to stretch the muscles to support the implants. When I say a process, I’m talking approximately 3 months AND another surgery before I get the implants. The thought of being flat-chested has caused a lot of anxiety. I have not been flat-chested since I was 10! It’s so weird how you don’t really notice individual parts of your body until they are taken from you. And maybe it’s a woman thing…you are losing something that identifies you as a woman…I don’t know.

I had prayed about the decision for treatment and really felt like God was leading toward the double mastectomy. I don’t know why we do, but we always want more confirmation from God that we really are making the right decision…I definitely wanted extra confirmation on this decision (especially after hearing I was not walking out of the operating room ready to go)! As I mentioned in my last update, I had some genetic testing done. They were testing to see if I had BRCA1 or BRCA2 or more commonly known as “the breast cancer gene”. Well, it turns out I do have BRCA2. This little gene mutation increases my chances of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and a few other things. The two which present the greatest concern are breast and ovarian cancer. What does this mean for me? Well, in regards to the breast cancer, should I only have a lumpectomy or single mastectomy I would have increased chances of reoccurrence. SO, this confirmed my decision to have the double mastectomy….not quite the confirmation I wanted, but you know I asked for confirmation and God gave it! In regards to the ovarian cancer chances, I also now have to think about having my ovaries removed. Not a really easy thing to deal with when you are single and have no kids & having your ovaries removed takes those chances away. However, I also know that having BRCA2 means I could pass it on to my child (50/50 chance) and I wouldn’t want to knowingly pass this on to a kid. The ovary removal is obviously not at the forefront of my thoughts, but it is there and will be dealt after I’ve kicked the cancer!

So, with me ready to move forward with surgery it was time to get a date scheduled. So, November 30th I will be going in to have a double mastectomy and latissimus dorsi flap reconstruction. For the reconstruction they will be taking muscles from my back and moving them to my chest to give extra support. They will also insert an expander under my pectorals. Beginning two weeks after surgery, I will go once a week to have saline injected into the expander until I we have stretched it to the desired size (approximately 9 weeks). I like to view this as puberty ALL OVER AGAIN!!!!

I’m quickly learning that there is nothing quick about the cancer journey. I’m so thankful for the love and support I’ve been shown over the last several weeks. I have heard countless times from people around me how well I’m handling all of this. I KNOW it is God who is giving me strength when I have none on my own. None of this caught God by surprise, and I’m convinced He has a plan and a purpose for me going through this and I’m just going to trust. As one of my friends said to me the other day, “Some moments you have to just reach out and say, ‘Blessed Jesus, hold my hand!’”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Those 3 words...

I have always been paranoid about lumps in my breast, so I’m constantly doing self-exams. While I was paranoid about finding a lump, I never thought I would find a lump! So, how shocked was I when I did find a lump on September 17th?!?! I immediately went into freak out mode! I spent that entire night tossing and turning trying to convince myself the whole thing was a horrible dream and I would just wake up to find there wasn’t a lump there at all…WRONGO!!!!! The next morning I woke up ready to go to church where we were beginning a new series titled, “Fear Less.” I thought if there ever was a sermon series that I needed to hear at this exact moment, this was the one! I cried through an entire song. I’m not one who likes to lose my composure in public, AND I’m DEFINITELY not a fan of crying all my make-up off in a public place! I don’t leave my house without a little something on my face! All I can say is, “Thank God for waterproof mascara!” As I sat there crying my eyes out & my make-up off, I felt a peace come over me. I knew God was with me & would not leave my side through the next 4 weeks of waiting and doctor appointments.

Everyone tells you not to worry about something like finding a lump, but that is so much easier said than done! First of all, I’m not an extremely patient person…I hope God is not trying to teach me patience here cause this will be a long, bumpy ride! I didn’t like the fact that I had to wait until Monday morning to call to try to get in to see a doctor. They couldn’t see me until Friday. I waited almost a week for the first appointment. I didn’t sleep much that entire week. I hoped my appointment on that Friday would provide answers, but it didn’t. I was told that I would have to see a breast specialist. I attempted to call that afternoon only to find that office closes early on Friday and I would need to wait until Monday to try to schedule an appointment. The sleepless nights continued. I was able to get in to that office on Thursday of that week. The ultrasound revealed the lump was a solid mass and I was sent to have a mammogram and a biopsy was scheduled. I was freaked out! I knew a solid mass wasn’t good! As a side note, did you know women should have a baseline mammogram at the age of 35??? They hurt like a MOTHER, but are important!!!!

I had a needle biopsy on October 10th and 3 days later I went back for the results. My fears were confirmed when my doctor looked at me and told me the biopsy revealed cancer. I’m 35, have no family history of breast cancer, and I have breast cancer….WHAT?!?!? Remember, I don’t like to cry in public, but cry I DID! It’s the craziest thing to receive this news, and then the doctor starts laying out a plan. No one was with me for this appointment, so all I could think was, “I hope she’s planning to give me this stuff in writing because I’ve heard nothing past, ‘You have cancer.’” As much as you prepare yourself for getting this news (and I do believe God prepared my heart to receive this news), you are NOT prepared to have someone look at you and say, “You have cancer.” Those are 3 words NO ONE wants to hear! Because of my age, I’ve had to do some additional genetic testing to determine why someone as young as I am has cancer. At 35, I don’t consider myself to be young, but if the doctor says I’m young…I will take it & use it!

The genetic testing required DNA to be extracted, but for whatever reason they had no one working who could draw blood on the day of my appointment. I’ve watched enough CSI to know you can get DNA from a cotton swab to the cheek. All my CSI people know what I’m talking about, right?! Well, that is not how they plan to extract my DNA. I took 2 shots of Scope (yes, the mouthwash) and swished each in my mouth for 30 seconds and spit it in a tube. I have not one clue how they plan to get my DNA from that, but I had minty fresh breath when I left that doctor’s office!

So, I have cancer…what’s next? I have decided for me that the best option is a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction. While some think this is extreme for someone my age, I have weighed all options and feel this is the best choice for me. I mentioned I’m not patient, so I want to deal with it & never deal with it again! Based on other tests done during the biopsy, I will have to go through chemo. To what extent I have no idea…I’ll know more after surgery. I’ll be posting regular updates about my journey here. Please know that I plan to be as real and vulnerable as possible since this will be my outlet. My dad has always told us, “Attitude is everything.” I believe that, but I also believe laughter is the best medicine…and I LOVE to laugh…it’s my FAVORITE!!!! I plan to share those things that I find humorous because I’m sure there will be a lot of not so humorous moments I’ll be sharing, too.

Until next time…