Hallie Smith

First post: Sep 12, 2016 Latest post: Nov 29, 2016
Hi! Thanks for coming by!  I suppose this is the time and the place to write it all down, huh?

So.  According to my text log, it was Saturday, June 18th when I first felt the lump.  It was kinda sore, and I went to rub at it rather absentmindedly, and noticed that there was something actually there other than just a sore spot.  So that was weird.  And you have that moment in your mind where everything stops, and you just think "what if?" and it's a bad what if, and you don't want that thought.  So being the good computer-age person that I am, I went to Google.  And Google told me that it is exceedingly rare for a cancerous tumor to be painful, and mine was, so yay!  I'm obviously fine, right?  And the what if went away, and it was no big deal again.  I was already scheduled to see my OB on July 1st to get my tubes tied, so I figured I'd just mention it then.  Not a problem.

So I went on the 1st, and had the surgery, and I was so engrossed in all of the stuff that happened that day that I didn't mention anything.  But I had to go back for my post-op check two weeks later and I brought it up then.  She took a look, poked around, and told me it was almost certainly a cyst, and if it wasn't that, it was just dense breast tissue.  Totally not a tumor.  She even offered to go ahead and attempt to drain it on the spot, she was so certain it was just a cyst.  But I was reluctant to be stabbed with a needle blindly on a Friday morning with no warning, so instead we decided to go ahead and do a mammogram and an ultrasound.  I'm a little young for a baseline mammogram, but whatever.  We'll just do that.

Thus I was scheduled for a mammogram the morning of Thursday, July 21.  The mammogram part felt pretty routine, they did two images of my right breast (the non-offender) and three of my left, which made sense.  More imaging of the lump in question.  It was when I did the ultrasound that things started feeling "off."  The tech kept measuring things, and then moved over and scanned under my left arm, and found more things to scan, and I could see these dark images on the screen.  Then she called in a radiologist who did more scanning and measuring, and it all seemed very involved.  The radiologist stayed to talk to me once I'd gotten my shirt back on and told me that she was "very concerned" by what they'd found, and that it was definitely NOT a cyst.  She just kept saying that, "very concerned."  She wanted me to schedule a biopsy right away and told me their scheduler would call me.

I left, and talked to my sister, and had lunch with TC, and finally the scheduler called while we were walking the kids over to Yogurtland.  I called back within minutes and apparently got routed to the wrong line, because I was on hold for 40 minutes waiting for the scheduler to actually take my call.  All to find out that they couldn't get me in for the biopsy until the following Thursday.  I told her that the radiologist had said rather strongly that I needed to get in there as quickly as possible, but she was unmoved.  She told me the radiologist had overstepped by telling me that, and they didn't know anything yet, and this was the best she could do.  So I scheduled it and just resigned myself to having to wait.  Fortunately for me, my OB felt no such compunctions.  She came in Friday morning, found my ultrasound results on her desk, and called me immediately.  She then called a surgeon friend of hers and got me an appointment that afternoon at 1 pm.  I went in to see him, and he took a look, agreed that a biopsy was necessary, and suggested we just go ahead and do that right now.  Heck yeah, I want to do that right now!  He was wonderful, and we talked and joked through the whole procedure, and I really, really appreciated it.  I came to find out later that the reason he was available on such short notice is because he leaves his Friday afternoons open for just such occasions.  All of his staff stayed on what could have been their Friday afternoon off to make sure I could get this done as quickly as possible.  I am still so very grateful for the extra week they saved me.

When I left the surgeon's office he scheduled me to come back Monday afternoon to get my biopsy results, and told me to make sure to bring my husband.  Well, let's face it people, you don't say that when you think you're going to have good news.  So even without the results, I already knew that this was very likely cancer.  It still made it a painfully long weekend though, because I didn't have anything beyond that.  How much cancer?  How bad?  What is the treatment like?  Surgery? Chemo? Radiation?  Without knowing a stage or a type or anything, even Google couldn't help me.  The unknown was just awful.  And I didn't want to say anything to anyone, because what if we were all wrong and it wasn't anything anyway, and I got everyone all upset for nothing?  Not to mention, it was the weekend of San Diego Comic Con!  All my friends were there, doing that, and I couldn't possibly think of messing with it.  That's a lot of energy and stress all on its own.

So I waited.  And Monday came, and my sister took the kids to the park, and Charles and I went to the appointment.  And we got the answer we were expecting: cancer.  One decently sized tumor, spread to two local lymph nodes, with specific hormone markers that made it a fast growing tumor that we couldn't put off treating.  At the same time, those hormone markers meant it was going to be extremely responsive to chemo, which is a great thing.  It meant that the likelihood of keeping the procedure to a lumpectomy rather than a mastectomy was very high.  But that was about as much information as the surgeon could give me, now I needed to talk to an oncologist.  Again, he'd made a call, and gotten me an appointment with one over at the Cancer Center at El Camino for the next day, on her lunch break.  Tuesday July 26th I went and saw her, and received my treatment plan.  Chemo, lumpectomy, more chemo.  No radiation (yay).  We discussed the fact that I already had a two week vacation scheduled for August, and she felt that the best plan was to get the chemo started first rather than wait until I got back, given the fact that it did have the markers for being a fast-growth kind of beast.  I was fine with that, let's get this thing started, but it meant that I had a lot of pre-chemo tests to schedule in the next week.  She parked me at the scheduler's desk, and we got started.  It was amazing!  She was able to get me every single appointment I needed, MRI, PET scan, blood work, everything, all just in the right order and all done before Friday.  The nurse navigator came by to see if she could get me on the schedule for my chemo education session and we decided we'd just do it right then and there.  I was all educated before I even left the office.

I just keep telling myself this: If I HAD to do this, if breast cancer was just on the list for my life somewhere, this has to be the best possible version of what I could go through.  My doctors have been amazing and accommodating, and my care has been top-notch.  I have a rock-solid husband who is taking on the extra work at home without blinking, and he has a job that gives him a flexible schedule and fabulous medical insurance.  I have a support system of friends and family that are all rising to the occasion in ways I never thought possible, and I am just beyond blessed by all of it.  I will do this, and they will help me, and a year from now my biggest concern is going to be how fast my hair will grow back and how often to get it cut to keep it from looking shaggy while it's growing out. :)

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