Thursday, October 29, 2015

Meeting with breast surgeon and last chemo!

Had a little fun with the last session. Plus, it's almost Halloween.
So much to report as I didn't feel like getting on the computer the last couple of days! I met with my breast surgeon on Tuesday and had my LAST CHEMO yesterday. Very exciting week!

I really like my breast surgeon. Her manner inspires confidence and puts my mind at ease about this big step. I felt this when I first met with her a few months ago, and again this week. She took a lot of time to explain everything I should expect to happen and answered my questions. She was pleased with my reaction to the chemo, although it doesn't change the fact that the breast needs to come off. She will also remove 8-15 lymph nodes, depending on what pathology says when they get in there. I'm not excited about losing the lymph nodes and the potential for lymphedema, but it's better than being dead.

Since the MRI showed the tumor was starting to pull on the pectoral muscle, there is a chance she'll have to take some of it, but maybe not. If she does, it will be a thin sliver about the thickness of a piece of lunchmeat and shouldn't affect me terribly. She told me about a woman who whipped her at golf recently who had her entire pec removed...if she can play golf that well with the whole muscle gone, I think I can deal with a sliver. And I can always build it back up, right?

She will also remove the chemo port during surgery. It will be nice to have it gone, although it really doesn't bother me. Most of the time I don't feel it. I'll have two drains put in, which will have to be emptied a couple times a day and the liquid measured (gross). If I keep my right arm still and at my side, the drains will come out in 1-2 weeks. I'll be in the hospital overnight. I should be able to start doing exercises to regain range of motion in my arm after the drains come out. Most people say they start resuming light activity within 3 weeks and go back to work in 6, but by that time I'll be in radiation and I don't know how much work I'll be up to so I'll have to continue to plan to take it easy.

Sutter continues to impress me...she said they'll give me a care package at surgery with a bra and shirt for me to wear during recovery, as well as a thingy to hold the drains. I was considering buying a heal-in-comfort shirt for $115, so this is really nice!

I decided to go with a unilateral mastectomy instead of a bilateral for several reasons, and Dr. Eaker was fully in agreement with my decision. 1. Since I'm BRCA negative, the chance the other breast will develop cancer is not that high. If I do, since I'll be scanned relatively frequently from now on, it'll be caught early. Even if I have to go ahead and remove it in a few years, it's that much more time I have a breast. 2. Rates of survival in my type of case is the same whether you remove one breast or both. 3. There are more complications and a longer recovery time for a bilateral mastectomy vs. unilateral. Unilateral is an easier, shorter surgery.

When this journey started, everything I faced was very overwhelming. I had to force myself to focus on one thing at a time. The next test. The next appointment. The next infusion. Over the past couple of weeks as the end of chemo approached, it was time to start looking further out at the next two legs of my cure. I like to know what to expect from everything I I will feel, how it will affect my life, whether I can do anything in advance to prepare. Getting these appointments in with the radiation oncologist and the surgeon were really helpful in calming my anxiety and making me feel prepared. I've been going a ton of reading as well. I'm not excited about any of this, but at least I feel ready.

So yesterday was my last chemo infusion. Very exciting! It went well, and so far I still feel fine per my usual pattern. We brought in cookies for the staff and patients to celebrate, and they had me ring a cow bell and gave me a certificate signed by all the staff marking the end of my chemo.

The doctor was very positive about my progress, and I'll see him for a follow up in 3 months. He gave me something for the hot flashes, although last night it didn't seem to help. I'll take it for a few more days to see if it needs time to be effective, but if it doesn't work by then, I won't bother.

The final link! I've saved them all and will
do something decorative with them.
The nurse told me to wait 3 weeks before removing all my restrictions (food, exposure to crowds, etc.). However, the doctor said those were really developed for people who have a low white blood cell (WBC) count for a long period of time. I was only in chemo for four months, which is not as long as a lot of people, and my WBC count stayed in normal range the whole time. So, I'm really not in any danger although he did say to continue washing produce if I eat it raw. He said he doesn't even restrict sushi. He often quotes studies and the reasons behind things, which I really like and inspires me to trust him. So, I may start adding back in some of the things next week when I'm feeling better, but just to be safe I may wait until the 3 week mark for the more questionable things (like sushi).

Up until now, I've had a neulasta shot the day after each treatment to boost my WBC. He said it was up to me if I wanted it this time, as the primary reason for giving it was to keep my treatments on schedule. I decided to skip it to reduce side effects and recovery time. My count actually went up this time, as did my red blood cells, hemoglobin, and hematocrit. So, I'm hoping I'll have less bone pain and fatigue and will bounce back quicker. My energy the last few days was definitely improved over the last couple of cycles. I'll consider myself officially done with chemo when the majority of the fatigue passes and I start feeling well again.

We're going to take a little trip to Half Moon Bay in 3 weeks to celebrate, and we're talking about taking a big trip after radiation. I can't wait! We are also talking about getting more walks in and increasing that to get my body back into normal mode since I've been so sedentary the past few months. We'll also work on correcting our diet, but probably not until after radiation is over as I'm already suffering enough. It's nice to be able to talk about life getting back on track and being able to do things I've been away from for so long.

I'll probably start posting less frequently as there will be less to report, but I will continue to let you know how I'm doing. Thank you for continuing to follow my journey!

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