Monday, March 2, 2020. After my appointment with Dr. Rugo last Thursday, Steve and I were talking about how much calmer we feel compared to last year. It seems remarkable given the fact that this recurrence happened only 6 months after my last treatment ended. I know why.
Last year it was all about shrinking the cancerous nodes (or having them completely dissolve) to a point where it was safe to remove the largest one sandwiched between my large and small pectoral muscles. While enduring weekly chemo treatments, I remained inhabited by the cancer as it stubbornly refused to disappear. I just wanted them out of my body. I felt like I had no control. The cancer did finally shrink enough that surgery was worth the risks it presented. Finally, nine months after my diagnosis, the offending nodes were removed. The surgery was followed by 6 weeks of even nastier chemo treatments to obliterate any lingering scouts.
Still the cancer came back. This time it was very small and situated on top of the pectoral muscle, making it easy to remove. There was a palpable sense of urgency by my entire medical team. The surgery took place only 3 weeks after I was diagnosed. Three nodes were removed and only one presented with cancer. This time it feels like we are ahead of the game. It feels like a win. It feels like I have some control.
The plan. Beginning in April I’ll start oral chemo. I am once again being asked and strongly encouraged to do radiation. Both treatments can be done at the same time. I should be done with it all by the end of September. So, I’ve agreed to meet with the radiation oncologist later this month. This time I’m seeing Dr. Park as Dr. Yang is on maternity leave. Dr. Park is the Radiation Department Chair. My images from 20 years ago indicate that lymph nodes under my arm were not radiated. My concern is the nodes in the pectoral region since that is where the largest tumor was, and that it is where the recurrence was located. I need reassurance from Dr. Park that this area was not in the radiation zone back then since radiating in the same place twice is a no-no.
I’m almost healed from the surgery. Right now I feel strong and as healthy as I can be under the circumstances. I’m not looking forward to chemo, but I don’t want the cancer to come back anytime soon. So we continue the fight and stay on the offensive.
Our strength is often composed of the weakness we’re damned if we’re going to show. —Mignon McLaughlin