My adventures as a cancer patient all started after I noticed some changes to my breast and Ian told me I had to see my doctor. Being 36 I wanted to live in denial but I went to the doctor anyway. She was concerned and referred me to the Rapid Access Breast Clinic at Mount Saint Joseph Hospital. That same day I was sent for a mammogram and ultrasound. I was traveling the following week for my new job so they got me in the next day for core biopsies and a fine needle aspirate of a lymph node.
I spent the following week in Rochester learning lots and doing some shopping.
When I got home is it was back to the doctor to hear the diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma. It was real, I had breast cancer. I cried a little which scared the doc a bit, but that was okay, he had kleenex.
When I left the doctor I received a wonderful kit created by the BC Cancer Foundation for all newly diagnosed women that has lots of reading material and a very helpful book, “The Intelligent Cancer Patient”. It covers everything from preventing cancer (too late) to initial diagnosis to surgery, chemo, radiation, reconstruction, right through to what to do when you are finally cancer free and everything in between. The kit has already been invaluable.
Next up was a trip to the surgeon. She was great and went over my test results. We discussed surgery and reconstruction and I was told that the first step would be chemo to shrink the tumor before any surgery would be done. The visit was reassuring as it felt like things were really moving and people were doing stuff behind the scenes to get my treatment started.
Right after the surgeon visit it was off for a chest x-ray and some basic bloodwork. CBCD, INR, Renal and LFT, nothing too weird.
On the Friday I started the morning getting an abdominal ultrasound, that wasn’t bad except for the fat free dinner the night before. Apparently I have a few gall stones but everything else seemed okay.
Friday afternoon it was off to the oncologist. She is excellent! She did an exam and looked at some bumps I have on my sternum. They had been around for a few weeks and had been getting bigger, to me they looked suspicious. Dr. Sun also thought they were suspicious so a pathologist was called in for more fine needle aspirations. A resident tagged along so that was two more people looking at my breasts.
Next came the photographer. It is expected that the bumps will disappear with the chemo so when I get to the radiation stage there needs to be photo evidence to show where the bumps were to ensure the full area gets irradiated. Huh, the things I am learning.
Once all the random people exited the room the chemo talk began. At this point my cancer is not staged so there is not a specific plan but the current expectation is 24 weeks of chemo with doses every 3 weeks.
As a part of my treatment I have also had some hormone tests done. My tumor is estrogen receptor positive, progesterone receptor negative, and my HER2 status questionable. The HER2 came back as 2+-3+ patchy so it requires confirmation at the cancer agency.
I was given prescriptions for the A-team of anti nausea pills. How exactly Mr. T will stop me from puking I don’t know, but I really hope they paint me a cool car.
I also got a prescription for a wig. The expectation is that my hair will start to fall out 2 weeks after the chemo starts. On the plus side, I won’t have to shave my legs for a while.
I left the oncology appointment with a fistful of prescriptions to fill and lots of information about chemo and its side effects.
Then I had 2 days off since it was the weekend.
Monday morning the cancer clinic called, I had a CT scan in 2 hours, and could I get to VGH at 8 the next morning for a Muga scan? Fortunately both the cancer agency and VGH are close to my home so it was yes to both.
The CT scan was uneventful. I had to get an IV infusion but other than that it was no big deal.
Tuesday morning’s Muga scan to look at my heart function was also uneventful. The nuclear medicine techs are really nice and use 25 gauge needles for their injections. Injection one was a tin solution to react with my red cells. Injection two was a radioactive tracer that binds the tin. Then some pictures are taken and poof done.
Tuesday afternoon I got a call from Dr. Sun. There were a few things seen on the CT scan:
First, my heart was slightly enlarged, it could be due to my mitral valve prolapse or it could be something else. I may need a cardiac echo done. That’s okay, echos are easy, no needles!
Second, there were a few small spots on my liver. The official results from my abdominal ultrasound were not available to help clear that up but I had been told that everything looked okay so Dr. Sun liked that.
Third, there was some shadowing on my spine at T5 and maybe be something on my pelvis. I have no spine pain or problems and a bone scan is needed, that is okay, I have one scheduled for Friday.
The aspirates from the bumps were positive for cancer which was not a surprise. They had been getting bigger and growing together so I was pretty sure they would be positive. It isn’t official but that makes me at least stage III.
On the up side, my heart function was good.
So, that in a nutshell, is where I am today.
And I know that chemo starts on Monday. Only 4 more days of normalcy for at least 24 weeks.