Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your prayers, support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting!
On Wednesday, November 7, 2018 Danielle went to her doctor with a painful lump in her breast that we thought would be a cyst. Her doctor, expressing concern, sent her for an urgent mammogram and ultrasound the same day, where she was told that she had breast cancer. The next week was packed with a biopsy, MRI, and CT scan. At the end of the week we received more bad news: the biopsy confirmed that the cancer was invasive, and imaging tests revealed that it had spread to her bones. We were suddenly dealing with stage 4 breast cancer at age 33.
Though we were shocked and frightened, we had a sense that God had a purpose for us in this situation, we are trusting that God will heal Danielle and preserve her life, allowing her to raise her little boy into adulthood.
Danielle is a warm and spirited woman who cherishes her family and friends, and she has even continued to make them laugh in the midst of this difficult diagnosis. She and her husband, Brad, the love of her life and her best friend, just celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary in July, and she is a wonderful stay-at-home mother to their enegetic and adorable three-year-old boy. Danielle is also active in ministry in her church and is just starting a business as a part-time interior decorator.
We are grateful to all of you who are offering your support during this difficult time. The most important thing you can do to help is to pray boldly and earnestly for Danielle's full healing and for peace of mind. The second is to send Danielle your notes of encouragement. It has done us a world of good to hear from family, friends, and strangers who are all praying for us and lovingly expressing their support. We know that we are not alone, and we look forward in hope with all of you.
Thank you so much for reading my metastatic breast cancer informational post last week! I know it was very different from my usual posts, and I so appreciate you taking the time to review that information and support the research that will save many lives like mine. A thousand thanks!
I also wanted to take some time to fill you in on my appointment with Dr. Nix-it last week, when we discussed mastectomy options.
Dr. Nix-it is the man who delivered my diagnosis nearly two years ago, and then immediately sent me over to Dr. Awesome to figure out treatment options. Last week's meeting was the first time I saw him since the day he told me I was stage IV. Naturally I was a bit anxious marching back into his office!
But Dr. Nix-it is one of the most compassionate, human, doctors I've ever met, and it was actually really good to see him. He has been following my progress closely since the beginning, and he receives all my imaging results. He was very happy to see me looking so healthy.
Dr. Awesome wanted me to meet with Dr. Nix-it to see if he thinks I am a candidate for a mastectomy, or better yet to see if he thinks I could just have a lumpectomy. Because I'm metastatic, they want to do as little damage as possible in order to maintain my quality of life, and since surgery might benefit me in the long term, Dr. Awesome thought that if I could get away with a lumpectomy that would be a good middle ground.
But in our meeting last week, Dr. Nix-it told us right away that a lumpectomy is simply not an option for me. And there is no real surprise there. When I was diagnosed, the cancer was so extensive in the breast that he feels that there must be errant cells still floating around in there, and a lumpectomy would not be worth doing- it would have to be a mastectomy.
The challenge for him was determining what type of mastectomy would be right for me, and they would need to balance any potential benefit with complications that could arise from the procedure. If I was stage 3 or earlier, the decision would land on a modified radical mastectomy (which would also remove the lymph nodes) plus radiation. But being stage IV, a simple mastectomy, likely without any radiation, is what he would recommend. The procedure itself is very low-risk and the recovery is not too bad.
However, he informed us that reconstruction is not an option for me. The risks associated with reconstruction could actually negate the benefits I'd potentially stand to receive from the surgery. Obviously this is not ideal for a woman in her mid-thirties.
Dr. Nix-it was extremely upfront about the lack of data available that could tell us definitively if there truly is any benefit to my having a mastectomy. However, the reason they consider it at all is that they believe there could be a benefit, and other than the obvious "losing a breast" thing, there is little in terms of risk or downside.
Here are the reasons why they think there could be a benefit to doing the surgery:
In one particular type of cancer (not breast cancer), a link was found between the source of the cancer and the tumors in other parts of the body. They found that the tumor at the source seemed to actually communicate with, and spread, additional lesions in the body. Totally sinister, right? Again, they have not found this to be the case with breast cancer, but the idea that the main tumor could, in theory, be capable of seeding additional lesions in the body is one of the factors that makes them think about my having a mastectomy.
There is also a concern that the tumor in the breast could begin to grow again, even if the lesions in the bones remain stable. However, from looking at all of my imaging and from examinations, Dr. Nix-it believes that if the tumor in the breast did start to grow again, he would have plenty of time to do the surgery at that point, when it looks like it would be more clearly necessary.
He is confident that the cancer has not reached the muscle on the chest wall, and this gives him plenty of leeway as far as timing, even if the tumor is already clearly progressing. He felt that there is no downside to holding off on surgery, and we all came out of the meeting agreeing that we should NOT do surgery at this time, or even any time in the near future (barring any unforeseen complications). To my mind, this was the best possible outcome of this meeting!!!
I went into this meeting fully expecting him to advise surgery. Instead, the "wait and see" approach made a lot of sense to us and suits me very well just now. I am prepared to do the surgery if the tumor starts growing again, but he said that it might not, and surgery may not ever be necessary.
I am immensely thankful to God for the mercy upon mercy that He has shown me all along the way of this dark, difficult road. He has spared me an incredible amount of suffering, and I know that He is using this enormously painful trial in my life even for my good. Thank you for praying me through!! I feel like I can catch a good, long breath and hopefully enjoy a bit of stability (cancer-wise) in the coming months now that the big question mark that was "MASTECTOMY" has been resolved, and resolved in such a satisfactory way, despite all of the murky data.
I am SO excited to see many of you on Saturday at our drive-by event! Covid has been tough, and I feel lighter just thinking about seeing your faces, even if only for a few minutes! Thank you for all you do to help my healing.