As usually happens, some things are just too personal for facebook. Here goes another epistle of that nature...
Considering how 2013 started out, maybe it's best not to judge a year by its beginning. No major crises. Family's health had settled into a relatively good place. Spring & Fall semesters flowed along like the waves they usually are. Then, November hit. Veterans Day in the past has been my normal day to go in for the yearly screening. For 12 years they came out and told me, "See ya next year!" Not what happened this year. Within 3 hours I was diagnosed with breast cancer on the other side.
Granted, Mom and Grandma had cancer on the left, so when I was diagnosed on the right the first time, I suspected I wasn't done yet. Had even been thinking of contacting my surgeon and having prophylactic surgery done. Just thinking about it. Not in any big hurry. Not until the lab tech came out and said, "we need to try that again. make sure the x-ray didn't jiggle or you didn't move." Alert code orange. Lab tech came back. "we need to try one more time." Alert code red. Lab tech came back. "we need to do a sonogram." Red light & siren.
Within 2 weeks, I'd visited with my surgeon and had the second mastectomy. Suffice it to say that now I'm really flat chested. Looked into reconstruction the first time and decided against it.
One of the procedures they did was to inject a radioactive dye to see if the lymph nodes had been affected. Again, the lab tech was patient and personable. She said I could swear at her if I wanted to. In Spanish. We had a nice little conversation waiting for the resident. He was a cute kid. One of the benefits of being old is that I can now tease cute kids and think nothing of it. The procedure wasn't as painful as they warned me it could be. Like being stung by a wasp 4 times or plucking hairs. The dread of it was worse than the procedure itself. Sort of describes mastectomies in general. We dread them, but once they're done, it's a bit of a relief.
They told me at first that the nodes were clear, after surgery. Then they put them under a microscope. Found micro-matastasis in 2 of 5, which changed the stage from 1 to 2a. Still early, and very treatable, but not so easily as stage 0. Off to visit an oncologist, who sent me off to visit a radiologist. My surgeon said radiation wasn't called for, but the oncologist said it might be, so I agreed to an appointment. Doctors who have to give bad news to patients on a daily basis are a very unusual breed. They're used to all kids of reactions. The radiologist and his resident took the time to explain to me the pros and cons of radiation therapy and then we got down to the business of deciding if it was called for in my case. He agreed with my surgeon. At this point, it probably would be more harmful than beneficial. My tumor was small, with "light year" sized clear margins. Those 2 lymph nodes were a concern though. We decided to wait until the oncotype test results came back. We're still waiting on that.
This has been more difficult for family and friends then it has for me, in some ways. I'm just dealing with it, finding out things and deciding what to share and what to keep to myself. We'll see what 2014 brings. Maybe I'll get to teach an ESOL Introduction to Speech and Drama class. Last year I'd visited with the principal about what might be required and he said write up a proposal. I wrote up the proposal, and it was accepted. Very cool. Now to see if any of our newcomers are willing to try it.
Well, anyway, here's hoping 2014 is a bit less interesting than the last 2 months of 2013.