Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting. My cancer story started a few weeks before my 50th birthday. I was putting a nightgown over my head and the side of my hand brushed a hard lump on the outside of my left breast. I wasn't overly concerned, since there was no immediate family history of breast cancer. Well, turns out there was cause for concern. A couple of weeks later, I was diagnosed with stage 2B invasive ductal carcinoma. That lump turned out to be a 4 cm tumor! The timing also proved to be fairly challenging, as I was trying to coordinate urgent care in the shadow of COVID-19. Fortunately, due to my job in medical education, and my boss' far-reaching connections, I was able to get in with one of the best breast oncology teams in the country - Dr. William Gradishar and his surgical oncologist Swati Kulkarni at Northwestern Memorial Hospital here in Chicago.
I also have a large amount of calcification that must be removed in that breast, so I was not a candidate for a lumpectomy. The treatment plan is a skin-sparing left breast mastectomy and right breast matching, with direct-to-implant reconstruction on Tuesday, May 26th. The silver lining is I get to trade in my 50 year old breasts, along with a bunch of extra skin from the past decade of significant weight loss, for new perky boobies! I'm reducing from a D to a large B/small C all in one main surgery with a four to six week out-patient tweak! Very exciting! The somewhat scary part is that I won't know until after surgery whether the cancer has spread to my lymph nodes from the sentinel node biopsy (SNB) results. According to my surgical oncologist, the chance is only 15 - 30% based on the size and grading of the tumor. So fingers crossed the SNB is negative!
The other complexities involve not being able to have anyone with me during surgery or acute post-surgical recovery due to COVID-19. Stu is not even allowed in the building! He's staying at a hotel across the street from Northwestern. Even for a surgical veteran like me, I must admit that's a bit scary. I'll be able to FaceTime my family just after surgery for the clinical update, which I guess will just have to suffice!
I've spent a good deal of time in the lead up to surgery connecting my surgical team with my local pain management team, due to considerations that my chronic pain status lends to acute surgical pain management. So all I can do is hope that I've done enough to ensure a comfortable recovery! Once I'm home, I'll be transitioning to pain management through my local pain team, which I think will work best. Supposedly, if all goes well, I only have to be in the hospital one night. We'll see.
Well, you're caught up now. Next update post-surgery, either Tuesday night, or Wednesday, May 27th. Thanks for all the love, care, and support everyone!