From lymph node excision to diagnosis to first chemo

So, the highlights of the last two weeks of 2013 were a lymph node excision on December 18, and a prescription for percocettes. Told kids the 19th and 20th. Had Luka’s 13th birthday party at his Dad’s house on the 21st, since we had no furniture in ours because of the floor refinishing and sealing and painting work. My in-laws were there (couldn’t tell them yet), and my ex was a wonderful host. It was just one more surreal scene in an unreal life. A couple of days of cleaning and a little shopping. The furniture and a million boxes came back on the 23rd.
     On Christmas Eve day I was back at St. Mike’s at 7 a.m. with Tessa for emergency upper and lower GI scopes. Which will explain what my activity was on the night of the 23rd. The gastroenterologist, Dr. Grover, was a dream of a doctor. He told me I was all pink and shiny inside, no cancer, no tumour. I cried in recovery. Where was my cancer? Why can’t anyone find it? Could I please have my chemotherapy?
     We opened our presents Christmas morning. The highlight for the kids was an Xbox 360, which I bought because as I get sicker, I imagine lying on the living room couch a lot, and if there’s one thing my guys can do it’s play video games. This way, they play, I sleep, we stay in the same room together. We didn’t make our customary trip to Sick Kids Hospital to distribute gifts to the hematology-oncology wing where Graydon was treated. The gifts were all purchased, we’ll just save them until next year. I emailed with my oncologist on Christmas Day—she is everything people told me she was—and she said she fully expected pathology to be to her on the 27th, so my appointment was 9 a.m. on the 30th, and yes, chemo would begin the same day.
     We went to Stratford for Christmas dinner at my sister Heidi’s. Heidi’s two kids, Paige and Jay, were there, as was my other sister, her husband Terry and their two kids Kevan and Nicolas. It was delicious, as usual. Juli brought dishes and Heidi did the rest; we were relieved of any cooking duty. Roasted turkey breast, roasted pork, gravy, homemade stuffing, roasted potatoes with bacon lardons, Brussell sprouts with more bacon lardons, carrots, then spice cake and homemade caramel sauce (butter, brown sugar, butter and brown sugar, and oh yes, butter and more brown sugar). It was so nice to relax in a warm home with no cardboard boxes piled high. We visited my Dad at his new retirement/nursing home three times, with our Maltese Clover in tow. We visited my Mum at their house and I told her my crummy news. We didn’t tell my Dad—he’s had enough of his own medical stuff lately. We came home on the 27th,unpacked boxes, and told my in-laws at late Christmas dinner at their home on the 29th. The next morning, my father-in-law picked up Tessa and me at 8 a.m. and delivered us to St. Mike’s.
     Tessa  accompanied me in to the meeting with Dr. Brezden.
      My cancer is called adenocarcinoma. No primary tumour, or site, has shown up yet. They can’t see any cancer in the bones, esophagus, stomach, duodenum, colon, breast, lungs. I have a CT of head and neck coming up, but that isn’t expected to change anything. My cancer is triple negative, which means it does not have any of the three receptors breast cancers usually have: estrogen, progesterone or HER2. This means there are not yet targeted therapies for them. With no primary site identified, and knowing that axilla lymph node involvement pretty well assures the cancer is in the breast, the Tumour Board (sidebar: predictive spelling on my phone changes this to Humour Board; my sister Juli texted back to me one day that it wasn’t right to laugh at people with cancer) has had two women present the same way I am, so I am getting what they did. The thinking is that my tiny, vicious little cancer-producing tumour is up in the tail of the breast, mucked in amongst those now-four swollen lymph nodes.

     I’ll have four rounds of two chemos, then four rounds of a different one, each of them two weeks apart instead of the usual three weeks (it’s an aggressive little C) then surgery to remove all the lymph nodes and likely the whole breast (you can’t do a lumpectomy if you haven’t got a primary site) (I may sound matter-of-fact about this, but trust me, I’m freaking on the inside), then radiation to wherever needs it. It’s a #&#^&@^^&@##^@*^%@!!!!! thing. I hate cancer.
     Searching for the primary site, and preparing for chemotherapy, I have had:
  • bloodwork 6+ times
  • chest x-ray
  • breast ultrasound
  • mammogram
  • fine-needle biopsy (Oct. 31)
  • core-needle biopsy (Nov. 14)
  • US-guided core-needle biopsy (Nov. 28)
  • CT pelvis, abdomen, chest
  • full-body bone scan (Dec. 6)
  • EKG (Dec. 10)
  • MUGA scan (Dec. 10)
  • MRI bilateral breast (Dec. 11)
  • excisional biopsy (Dec. 18)
  • upper GI endoscopy (Dec. 24)
  • colonoscopy (Dec. 24)
     Then, after a very upbeat meeting with Dr. Brezden, full of tips about how to fight the nausea, the bone pain from the immunobooster, and ideas about going bald, it was across the hall for chemo.
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