Post surgery follow-up

Friday, May 24, 2019. Steve and I drove down for my post surgery appointments with both Dr. Rugo (10a) and surgeon Dr. Ewing (noon). It was an easy drive, most likely due to the Memorial Day weekend and folks taking Friday off to make a long weekend a bit longer.

Our appointment with Dr. Rugo was to go over the results of the surgical pathology report. I had been upset with Dr. Rugo all the days prior, because during surgery she had texted Dr. Ewing instructing her not to remove my port. She failed talk to me about that decision, so I was super disappointed when they informed me about it in recovery. The one thing I was really looking forward to was for the “alien” to be gone. Grrrrrr.

As it turned out, her decision was sound.

Dr. Rugo and Steve and I went over the preliminary pathology report. It confirmed that the surgery did get everything and there was no cancer in any of the skeletal tissue. Yes! So technically I’m cancer free.

rose_altJust prior to surgery I was injected with nuclear medicine near the site of my original surgery from 19 years ago to see what lymph nodes it would travel to. Those nodes were then identified during surgery and removed. In addition to the lymph node between my pectoral muscles and the node under my arm, Ewing took 3 additional nodes. Of the five lymph nodes that were biopsied, 3 had cancer cells, two of which were pretty significant. As a result, Rugo strongly recommended more chemo and gave me four options to consider, along with the possibility of focal radiation. Her top choice was AC (Adriamycin and Cytoxin) to be infused every other week over the course of two months; second choice was Adriamycin alone–less toxic, same regimen; third was Xeloda, a less toxic oral chemo taken daily for two weeks and then off for one week for 8 cycles (6 months); and fourth was Epirubicin, a weekly infusion, although we didn’t discuss how many cycles. All of these treatments are more toxic than the Taxol/Carboplatin cocktail I was getting. The purpose would be to kill any scout cells sent out into my body by cancer-infected nodes before they were surgically removed.

There is a fifth option, and that is to do nothing. But statistically my chances of being around 5 years from now drops considerably from the 90% survival rate of triple negative cancer patients who received chemo after surgery.

Let’s be honest. Triple negative cancer is a bitch to get rid of.

Sunday, May 26, 2019. This is not an easy decision to make. As I envision what I think my decision should be on an intellectual level, I struggle with the authentic truth of my situation. Like before, I have been fiercely adamant about NOT doing any additional chemotherapy, no matter what. I really hate chemo, and after being off of it for over five weeks, I am finally starting to feel good. My hair is coming back. Not so much for my eyelashes and eyebrows, but I know it will happen. I can taste food again. My nose isn’t so drippy. My sensitivity to light is back to normal. My stomach and bowels aren’t bothering me at all. I’ve been able to have caffeine, and it’s been such a treat. To spend the majority of my summer chemo sick and sacrifice all this post-chemo progress is impossible to imagine, little lone do.

I am conflicted and sad. I honestly don’t know what decision I will ultimately make. I want to be true to my intellectual truth, but I also want to be here five years from now to keep telling and living my story.

You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you. —Mary Tyler Moore

I’m home

The surgery went well yesterday. I’m home and resting.

I’ll have more details later.

Just wanted to let you know my gratitude runs deep for all your love and support throughout this wild ride.

Hope smiles on the threshold of the year to come, whispering that it will be happier. –Alfred Lord Tennyson

Almost there

thumbnail_RoseStorm2SmSaturday, May 11, 2019. I remember when I was young and school let out for summer vacation. It seemed to last forever. The summers were long and every day was an adventure. I think the reason the days, weeks and months seemed so endless is because, as a kid, you live in every moment of every day. Even now, that’s what I have tried to do when I was on vacation. Live in the moment to make the time seem to move as slowly as possible.

Cancer is like that. It forces you to live every minute of every day in the moment. You don’t spend your days thinking about or reliving what you have done. You don’t think much about what you have to do tomorrow or in the days ahead. You are just focused on surviving. So the days, weeks and months seem especially long. That’s what it has been like for me since September of last year.

My appointment with Dr. Ewing on Friday, May 3rd was super encouraging. She said the cancerous lymph node under my arm is a “piece of cake” to remove. She is confident that she can get all that remains of my main tumor, with a cautionary note that she won’t know for sure until she gets in there. But if all goes according to the best case scenario, I won’t even need radiation afterward. Right on.

My appointment with Dr. Rugo on Wednesday, May 8th was good, too. She said the results of Friday’s blood draw looked great, although I am a little anemic. Her examination of my tumors confirmed that they are much smaller. She recalled how they were easily visible through my skin when she first saw me, and now they are difficult to find. The one thing she would like to see is for me to gain some weight. I’m trying hard to break the 90-pound mark, but it remains out of reach. The chemo really messed with my metabolism.

The surgery; an axillary sentinel lymph node dissection: open, unilateral; will be orthoscopic. Dr. Ewing will place a pen-like device into an incision and observe it through glasses that have microscope-like lenses. The device, with its magnetic tip, will go straight to the magseeds which will be implanted in my cancerous lymph nodes prior to the surgery. Ewing will use the device to snip out what remains of the tumor. It also cauterizes the tissue when it snips. I check-in for the magseed implants at 945a on Wednesday, May 15. They have blocked out 2 hours for the procedure. Surgery is scheduled for 230p. It will take about 1½ hours. Then I will be observed in recovery for an hour or two. During that time they will have me drink some juice, eat a cracker, and take a pee before they send me home. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

I have post-op appointments with Dr. Rugo (1030a) and Dr. Ewing and the post-op nurse (245p) on Friday, May 24. Then all that remains are the routine follow-up appointments to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned. It truly is the light at the end of a very long tunnel.

Begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life. —Lucius Annaeus Seneca