Feb 26, 2020 Latest post:
Jun 30, 2020
On January 13, Christine had the "C" word dropped on her. Her doctor told us the biopsy they took from her breast came back as invasive ductal carcinoma. Christine's tumor was thriving off of estrogen and progesterone so we quickly learned that once surgeries were complete, she would need to begin taking hormone blocking medication. That was a very tough week for the most part but its been followed by very positive news with a couple setbacks. As devastating as it was, we were blessed by 3-D mammogram technology, picking up the tumor while small and likely saving her life (hint, hint ladies, don't skip routine mammograms!).
One of the first appointments was genetic testing where they found that she does not have any of the genes highly linked to breast cancer although she did have several suspect genes. The suspect genes are of little concern because they will need more data to make or rule out any association with breast cancer. The application of genomics in identifying and treating illnesses is truly amazing and everyday new variants linked to illnesses are being uncovered. Our experience was great.
We later learned that the tumor was "HER2 negative", which ironically is "positive" news. It will be far quicker for me to send you to Google for some of the technicalities like this rather than try to explain something that's a bit "gray" to us.
Regarding surgery, the doctors recommended a lumpectomy with radiation. Christine considered and was very open to a mastectomy but the doctors told us in her situation, a lumpectomy with radiation has the same survivorship as mastectomy. Further, there are potentially some undesirable side effects associated with the mastectomy. So, on February 7th she went in for her first surgery to remove the 1.5 cm tumor and a couple lymph nodes. It went very well and the doctor used a Lumicell technique (another great but experimental technology you may want to Google) to double check for residual cancer tissue. We met with the surgeon a week later and received the great news that her lymph nodes were clear. But he also told us pathology had a positive hit (negative news) in the margin on one side of the "lump" they removed. So, although the doctor did not feel like there was anything left, she had to undergo another surgery to remove a bit more and confirm everything was out. The second surgery took place on Friday, February 21 and we are awaiting results, but its not very likely there is anything left. Any of you that know Christine well also know that she is very tough, so much so she and her sister were out at an axe throwing competition on Sunday. She tells me she didn't throw any axes but I am not sure about that.
On Tuesday, February 26th, we received a call from the oncologist to tell us that her oncotype score (a scoring technique using the tumor's genetics to measure the recurrence rate) indicates she will need to have chemotherapy in addition to radiation. The prognosis remains good but it was certainly a downer knowing she has to go through chemotherapy. On the brighter side, the oncotype score greatly enhances the chances the tumor is treated correctly and the chemotherapy can reduce the chance of recurrence by somewhere between 1 and 8%.
We decided to use CaringBridge as a portal for our "village" to read about Christine's progress and drop messages as she confronts and overcomes breast cancer. To be clear, this is not meant to replace texts. Support from our family, friends, and coworkers has been nothing short of overwhelming. Thank you for all of the thoughts, prayers, and kind notes you have sent Christine.
Finally, there have been so many kind offers to help and we appreciate it and may need to take you up on it at some point. Fortunately, Christine's sister, "Aunt Lisa", has been with us throughout and has been so much help in keeping our household "up and running" as we navigate this chapter.