Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Aggressive cancer calls for aggressive action.

For a week after first being diagnosed with breast cancer, I went from one diagnostic test to another. A breast MRI which revealed enlarged lymph nodes, a lymph node biopsy which revealed the cancer has spread to my axillary lymph nodes, a PET/CT scan that revealed it may also be in subpectoral lymph nodes adjacent to the axillary lymph nodes, a chest x-ray which at first glance looks "clear" but hasn't been officially read/reported just yet, and blood work with all results "within normal range". We met with a local surgeon for the first opinion and he helped get all the aforementioned tests ordered which was good, but there were things about him that we weren't comfortable with so we set up a consult with the best of the best in the west - UCLA's Dr.Helena Chang, Director of the Revlon Breast Center but it would be a week before we could meet with her. Meantime, we also met with a UCLA reconstructive surgeon that the first surgeon recommended, Dr. Christopher Crisera, and we really liked him and I was tentatively placed on the surgical calendar for the 16th (with him and the first surgeon) pending our meeting with Dr.Chang. Time was standing still. I swear that first week felt like an eternity. It took so much effort and energy to NOT think the worst and worry about where this shit may have spread and how it will forever change my life. Thankfully, I have the most amazing support network and two of my dearest girlfriends arranged a surprise girls weekend at my house this past weekend to get my mind off of it and to surround me with positive thoughts and love. Kristy & Diana - you are amazing and I love you! Within a week I not only learned I have breast cancer, but that it has spread to my lymph nodes and it is non-hormone receptive for two out of the three possible hormones (estrogen and progesterone), making this cancer aggressive. We're still waiting to find out if it is HER2 receptive (the third hormone) and we're hoping that it IS because that would create the ability to leverage a drug called Herceptin for treatment. If it turns out to be HER2 negative, that would make me "triple negative", making my cancer even more aggressive and less common than the other breast cancer types. Waiting and patience is not a strength of mine - I fully admit it. In a situation like this, waiting and patience is not much of a virtue - with cancer cells multiplying and possibly seeking new places to lurk, I'm on full-court press to get things moving to evict this sucker out of my body ASAP. So, every day since setting the appointment with the UCLA team, I've woken up eager to be another day closer to being in Dr.Chang's office to get the ball rolling. We did our homework and we want her on our team. Tuesday finally arrived and my mom joined me for the consult with Dr.Chang. Long story short, she's hired. There was going to be nearly 3 weeks wait time for surgery because of various doctors' planned summer vacations and then I remembered I had my cancer ass kicking boots on and pushed her, her staff, and the plastics team to get me in ASAP (because 3 weeks is NOT acceptable). They were skeptical that I'd get the two surgeons' schedules coordinated with an OR and get all the pre-op tests done in time. As of 4pm today, that's all done and now all I have to do is call Admissions tomorrow afternoon to get my arrival time/location for Friday morning. I am now super familiar with that medical building since I was up and down the elevators and halls (with mom in tow) so many times that I could work the info booth. haha. On Friday, June 12th, I will be having a bilateral mastectomy. That's right, I'm not messing around. The cancer playground is getting shut down and will be renovated with replacements too. If I get the BRCA gene test and find out I have that gene, then I plan to also have my ovaries removed at a later time. Aggressive cancer calls for aggressive action. I REFUSE to let this shit take over my body. Dear Cancer: FUCK YOU. GET OUT. STAY AWAY. Love, Julie


  1. Julie: Brilliant as always. I am working on a restraining order for you in case Cancer doesn't get your very clear message. Let's lay down the law!

    I look forward to your next update. Good luck with the surgery, and I hope your new boobs are perky as hell!

  2. Julie,

    I don't know what cancer was thinking when it picked you. Its probably already regretting choosing you as an opponent. The a&& kicking has begun. You are going to fight this and win!

    My prayers will be with you tomorrow! Hugs to you, Bob and Cooper the Pooper!

    Amy and Lauren!

  3. You show that cancer who's boss Julie!!! I hope your surgery goes smoothly & your recovery is quick! Keep us posted.

    Erin & Elliot

  4. Julie,

    You do not know me, but I have been praying for you for awhile...many months ago, my brother John (DiGi) asked me to pray for you during your pregnancy...I am thrilled you gave birth to your beautiful baby boy, Cooper. What a wonderful gift.

    The Power of Prayer is amazing and I will continue to pray for you and your family. Tonight I have a meeting at my church, with my "Women's Journey team"...women's journey is a retreat that is given by women for women...this happens once a year, but the team spends a year planning the end of our meeting tonight we will pray for our special intentions. I will mention your name... Know that there will be over 30 women praying for you, some are cancer surviors...we will be sending good positive energy your way...I will continue to lift you and your family up in are not walking this journey alone...God is right beside taking every step with you.

    I read this sentence a long time ago and it has helped me many, many times. It reminds me that I am never alone...

    "When God leads you to the edge of the cliff, trust Him fully and let go, only 1 of 2 things will happen, either He'll catch you when you fall, or He'll teach you how to fly!!!

    God Bless you Julie,

  5. Julie - all my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I know tomorrow will go great. You are a true fighter!

    Love, Lani

  6. When all slows down and you have given cancer the boot right the heck out officially, you should to write a book, Julie. You have a talent for writing and for health advocacy, giving you the potential to help so many people! So many people need a strong coordinator that doesn't take "no" or "later" as an answer. Just food for thought...

    My prayers continue for you and your family that the surgeon and radiologist(s) will use their God given skills to remove all cancer from your body, to "restack" you beautifully, that the third hormone test come back positive, that you find comfort in each other and that you look to God to find peace that surpasses all understanding. I'll be praying even more and harder on Friday for you, Julie. You can count on it.

  7. Love LOVE your writing! The short but sweet (haha) letter to cancer is perfect. Those ass kicking boots are doing their job and you are the perfect person to wear them.
    Stay strong and carry on my sweet Julie. I will be here for you every step of the way!! Prayers are in full force for you tomorrow as the current playground is demolished replaced with a beautiful perky new one!! LOVE YOU!!!

  8. I can't believe I have been out of the loop for the last week on this! I am so sorry! I am here for you. Whatever you need. Day or night- you can call me in NYC and I will either sit patiently and listen to whatever you want to talk about, we can curse cancer together, we find anything else to talk about but further more, no matter what girl, I am here. You know I know this damn drill! Love ya lots.

  9. Julie, you are an inspiration. Your attitude is amazing and I know you will beat this thing into the ground. I will be thinking of you all day tomorrow and I can't wait to hear that cancer's ass is out of your body!!! No two ways about it, you will be cancer free by this time tomorrow!!! Love you!!!!!


  10. Julie, I will be praying for you tomorrow and for a quick recovery. Keep the positive attitude. I know that you will beat this nasty disease, it definitely picked the wrong person to mess with.


  11. i am so very proud of you and having the blog is a great idea, thinking of you and knowing your gonna beat anything that may be thrown your way, hell that what all us wynings girls due, kick ass, love ya lots missy

  12. Wow! Go Julie Go!

    Dear Cancer,

    Clearly you didn't receive the memo that Julie is NOT the chick to be fucked with. I'd say that I pity you...only I don't. Pass it on to your other ignorant Cancer-buddies.