Finally I am done with chemo! Yipppeeeee! I cannot even describe the feeling! It may possibly be one of the best days of my life… And then I wait. After meeting with my fabulous oncologist Dr. Raymond, off to the next doctor… My surgical oncologist Dr. Cowher. (And yes for all you Pittsburgh fans, he is Bill Cowhers nephew!!!)
So, obviously after finding out from Dr. Raymond that I was indeed done with chemo, she told me to call Dr. Cowhers office to set up my next appointment and essentially transition me to the next level of care. I wasn’t even out of the parking garage and I was already on the phone with his office. Come on, im my defense… Who wants to wait! Im ready to get this shizzz done with!
I got a hold of the receptionist and explained I was to make an appointment to decide my surgical approach. She placed me on hold and said he had a 4:00 appointment that day! Literally, I was like… Its destiny! John had just gotten out of work for my appointment with Dr. Raymond and wanted to shower before my next appointment ao my mom, John and I drove 30 mins home for John to take a 5 minute shower, then drive 30 minutes back to the hospital.
John finished his shower and I eagerly rushed everyone out to the car! I literaly couldnt wait to get details… The whole “what is next” was within an arms reach. We got in the car and I was just about to put the car in drive when my phone rang… A “412” number, so I answered!
“Hello Meghan this is Dr. Cowher, we have a little bit of a mix up”. Basically he couldnt see me for the appointment I scheduled because he wanted to review my MRI before talking about options, so I was connected and scheduled my MRI for the following day. Oh darn, more waiting…
My moms plan was to stay until I met the surgery and knew the next step… So she was also then able to take me to my MRI because John is back to work and on a job that he cant really take days off. The morning of my MRI, my mom, Johns cousin Jen and I decided to go antique shopping to pass some time. We ate at an adorable little 50s themed diner, then off to the hospital we were.
We got to the hospital about an hour early, but they we so gracious to let me register as soon as I got there and took me back for my test without too much of a wait. After weaving our way through the construction filled hallways of Allegheny General Hospital, I removed all my jewlery, had an IV placed (for the contrast), and was told to basically strip and put the gown with the opening facing frontward.
Side thought: you know, when I first started this journey, I was always a little awkward and nervous about showing my boobs to doctors, and even more weirded out with family in the room. Heck, now a days its like im at Marti Gras! Where are my beads?! Oh, and just wait until after my surgery!!! Boob selfies all day long;)
Anyways… Back to the story. So breast MRIs, what do they do. Basically they put a foam boob hole thing on the table and you lay on your stomach. There is this “supposibly” comfy head pillow to rest your forehead on and its soooo embarrassing because after the about 20 min test, my head always seems to be dented and bright red! I look like I got bopped in the forehead by something! After 20 mins of booming and clanking (i swear theres no point of the damn ear plugs because really I still came out with a headache)… They make an announcement that the contrast was going to be administered and to hold super still.
Contrast: it is ran through the IV they place before the test. So NO you do not swallow large abouts of stuff for a breast MRI. Once the contrast is administered though you CANNOT press the “emergency I need out” button or else they have to reschedule the whole test! So naturally, thats the point I had severe hot flashes, felt nauseous, and was fearful of fainting… But thats besides the point.
A few days later I was scheduled to see Dr. Cowher. My mom and I arrived early just to sit around an hour waiting for the “man of the hour”– literally! Things running through my mind… 1. Has my tumor shrunk and did the chemo work 2. Has my cancer spread 3. When do I get my new tits!
My appointment was scheduled for 2:00 and John didnt get out for work till 3:00 so, we were planning on simply filling him in. However, with fate by our side, he got out a little early and was close enough to the hospital that after a 30 minute walk across the bridge, carrying his lunch box, and spped walking in steel toed boots… His sweaty, hot, steamy (not in a sexy way this time babe:) arrived just as Dr. Cowher entered the room.
My appointment in a nutshell. I am NOT a good candidate for lumpectomy because I was found with a rare genetic mutation PALB2 which gives me a 30% chance of getting cancer in my other breast (um no thank you get ready to chop them both off). My tumor has responded to chemo even though I couldnt make it through the suggested amount of treatments however on xray there is still signs of tumor or it could be scar tissue but they dont know until they perform surgery.
So, mastectomies are truly the best option for me. Those of you that know me are going to laugh because all through college Ive always joked how ONE DAY I would be getting free boobs! My dad even made a bet with me in college if I made deans list every semester in college he would pay for them… turns out I didn’t make the Deans List bet, so heck I just had to get cancer! (kidding kidding… its called humor people!)
The complicated part of my surgery is the fact that I initially tested positive on my first biopsy with cancer in one little lymph node. Heres the tough part about these little pains in the butts… there is no way to know truly how many have cancer cells in them without surgery. RISKS: The biggest and probably the most common is lymphedema. Now this is not going to be a statement from the OT in me… but it will be from the 26 year old girl that I am. I absolutely refuse to start mutating into an elephant armed individual! The issue is, any surgery close to the arm pit where these little guys reside is high risk for lymphedema. OH! For those of you that don’t know what lymphedema is… here is a picture:
My experiences working with patients with lymphedema include pain, swelling, and funky skin coloring and textures… it doesn’t help that right know the standard care is radiation to play clean up making sure those little devil cancer cells don’t spread. Briefly I’ll explain to you what im doing because it’s a little complicated.
Allegheny General Health Network is working with a research company called Alliance whom is running a research study on women with breast cancer and positive tested lymph nodes. Basically for those that chose to be in the study there are two treatment methods. 1: the standard method that has been used for years now which includes removal of all lymph nodes once one tests positive. 2.: is the “new” trial method involving testing the lymph nodes once im in surgery and ONLY take our the lymph nodes that test positive therefore leaving the remaining lymph nodes in hopes to decrease the risk of lymphedema. There is about 3,000 participants in the study and literally they will flip a coin once I am in surgery to chose my plan.
Those of you who know me personally know that I will do anything and everything to help someone else. Heck, I started this blog and have shared all the good and bad, the highs and the lows of my life since being diagnosed with breast cancer. I’ve done a lot of research in college and was THRILLED when Dr. Cowher said I could be a participant! All in all, what ever is meant to me will happen. If it all turns out how I want it to… they will cut me open and only find scar tissue as the lump and non cancerous lymph nodes, place my new (bigger) boobies and call it a day. However, if they do find some cancer still inside of me… I have full trust in my medical team to make the best possible decisions for me and the rest I leave in Gods hands.
So NEXT STEP:
1. April 11th: double mastectomy with lymph node resection and placement of expanders
2. Approximately six weeks of healing
3. Honeymoon this summer
4. Back to working at a job I love and spreading my story of how I KICKED CANCERS ASS!