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Alla in Cancerland
4/16/2017 Latest post:
Hi everyone! Thanks so much for visiting this blog and your interest in stumbling with me through my saga; it will mean a lot to have company who can laugh/cry with me (since you often don't know which to do in such situations) as I proceed deeper into the unknown.
So where do I find myself? In the strange and notoriously famous amusement park called Cancerland! Yippee! But you can't pick up a simple map at the door -- it will get you absolutely nowhere. Instead, they give you a convoluted picture of a curvy labyrinth that may get you somewhere if you're lucky.
The commercial spots for this fascinating park go something like this, to describe all the fun (que Marlo Thomas karaoke):
In a Land where the cancer is free In a Land where the meds are nasty (With a sky-high and criminal fee) In a Land with a port for me Where you and me will fight to be cancer free
Here is how the road to Cancerland went: On an otherwise ordinary day in late February, I woke up, looked in the mirror, and went, "Hm, one thing doesn't look like the other. Now what in the world could it be? Wait, not THOSE -- oh crap!!!" And indeed, the left breast looked weird in the nipple/aureola area -- in addition to some other anomalies (which I won't go into here), it had some red spots around it that looked like a vague rash. There also seemed to be a soft slightly enlarged area at the bottom side of the breast that I would never have noticed otherwise. More about the spots and all later.
So after bouts of denial, a diagnostic mammo and ultrasound (punctuated by terrified look on radiologist's face), endless questions about whether I have BC in the family (no), and a biopsy, I was diagnosed, out of all days, on St. Patrick's day (March 17, 2017)! I figured my lack of wearing green was compensated nicely by the color of my face when I found out 😳.
Then more tests and one more biopsy, and then the final verdict: one 6 cm tumor (hormone-receptor positive, HER-2 negative for those of you who care about such things), and another, small tumor in the aureola area (in the skin, red spots were malignant -- hormone-receptor positive, but strangely, HER-2 positive as well, which is not great). However no spread outside the breast except for a little creep into the muscle wall. So that's a big relief...
I have to add that while waiting for the final results, haunted by those pesky dots, I had a huge paranoid spell that they might represent a really nasty and aggressive form of BC known as inflammatory breast cancer. (BTW, this was one of a torturously long line of paranoid spells, including mad fear of permanent hair loss from one of my drugs with a small chance of it; never being able to find a nice wig that costs less than $2,000; and lethal side effects from my mondo chemo cocktail considering my princess-and-the pea sensitivity to drugs.) But thankfully, the "Tumor Panel" (lovely name, eh?) of specialists who discussed my case, after some deliberation, decided it doesn't qualify for IBC because another hallmark symptom is like a third of your boob literally turning into an orange (okay, not literally, but skin starts to look just like one due to inflammation, really awful -- look it up if you're not the squeamish type). Whew. And of course, considering this is does-not-fit-in a box whacky me you're dealing with, all the doctors and other "ists" agreed they had never seen anything like it before. Figures. BC in the skin is always aggressive though, so am getting a really aggressive chemo regimen to get rid of it ASAP (two classic chemo drugs, and two monoclonal antibodies [targeted immune therapy against certain tumor types.])
And there it is so far. Am having dangerous chemicals infused in me as we speak... It's my first chemo session, then I have 5 more spaced three weeks apart (with idea of shrinking the tumors prior to surgery). This will be followed by surgery and then radiation, so basically the full monty. So I will try to post regular updates (including after this session ends), and may also put in some pre-diagnosis stories worth telling.