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