Breast Cancer

Wednesday, Nov.19, 2014
blind side verb NORTH AMERICAN past tense: blindsided; past participle: blindsided
hit or attack (someone) on the blind side.catch (someone) unprepared; attack from an unexpected position.
About six weeks ago I had my very first mammogram. Yeah!
A week later was called back for another mammogram + an ultra sound. Ok.
Went home. Googled Breast Cancer. Not a good idea.
A couple of days later my doctor called, something didn't look right. Oh.
Was booked for another ultra sound (this time at the hospital). Ok.
A week later had the second ultra sound and was booked for a biopsy. Hmm?
A week later had that biopsy and was told that the results would be in in 7-10 days. Went home. Didn't google anything. A good idea.
Six days later (yesterday) found out that it was Ductal Cancer (in my left breast). Really? No family history. Healthy lifestyle. Really? I don't have time for this, I have a mosaic to finish...
Even after all those call backs I didn't see this coming. Blindsided.
Cancer. Ok.
The good news (yes, my 'good news bar' has been lowered) is that it's 'In Situ' (contained in the duct), non-invasive and the most common Breast Cancer. This is all very good news. Yes, Cancer can come with good news which made it all so much easier to tell our girls.
Yesterday was a very strange day. It came with some very bad news along with some very good news all of which had me thinking...what a difference a day can make:)

Friday, Jan.16, 2015
I've been learning a lot about Breast Cancer over the last couple of months, some things relevant and some not so much. The most abstract and maybe irrelevant thing that I've learned is that there is a lot of time spent waiting. It's not like in the movies where there is no waiting time - everything moving along nicely within a 2 hour time frame. In real life it's all about waiting...waiting for the call for the next appointment, marking the date on your calender and waiting for it to come, waiting for your name to be called in the waiting room, waiting in the examining room for the doctor and/or nurse to come in and do whatever tests and/or procedures need to be done, waiting for results to come back, waiting for your turn in the day surgery line (was at the hospital by 6:30am, went into surgery around 11:30am), waiting after surgery to go home...lots of waiting.
If it sounds like I'm complaining, I'm not. Waiting has just become another part of this new thing in my life. If anything the waiting has been a good thing. With all this waiting comes a lot of time to think (after you've read all the outdated magazines there's really nothing else to do). It's all very cliche but it has forced me to slow down and think about how lucky I am - a treatable Cancer, a good life, with a good man and two healthy, happy kids. Hmm...maybe not so irrelevant after all?
Where I'm at today; I found out that I had Breast Cancer on Nov.18, 2014, had surgery on Dec.4, 2014 and got the biopsy results back on Jan.5, 2015. My biopsy report showed that there were still some bad cells mulling around so yesterday after seeing a Radiology Oncologist I've decided to have another surgery before the radiation treatments begin.
Today I'm waiting for my Doctor to call and give me a surgery date. Then I'll mark it on the calender and wait...
By the way, waiting is a lot easier when you know what's coming:)

Friday, Feb. 20, 2015
On February 6th I had my second surgery. Although they call it a lumpectomy it's not always a 'lump' that is removed. In my case, it was a general area that was dealt with. It wasn't a big deal, another day surgery which meant that I was in and out on the same day and good to go by the next.
Yesterday I had that surgery's follow up appointment to discuss what the pathologist had to say about the tissue that was removed. The answer: there seems to be some 'calcifications' still lingering? (stubborn little f@*kers) so it's hard to say if they got it all?
With that said I'm now waiting for an appointment with my Radiologist Oncologist (yes I now have one of those) to discuss whether I'll need a MRI (made a mental note to google all about those when I got home:), have another mammogram and/or maybe even have a third surgery before starting the radiation treatments?
If I sound rather calm about the prospect of having a third surgery it's because I am. For now, for me, 3 or 4 surgeries vs. a mastectomy makes the most sense and is an easy choice to make.
In the mean time I'm just going to keep on walking...what else am I going to do?

Thursday, April 23, 2015
In early February I had my second surgery (lumpectomy) followed by a mammogram which cleared me to go onto radiation treatments. If you'd asked me last November what radiation treatments looked like I'd have answered, no idea? Only because I didn't need to know.
This morning, I had my last radiation treatment.
External Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to damage cancer cells. I had one session every weekday (weekend rest breaks allow the normal cells to recover) for 5 weeks = 20 sessions.
Although the ominous machine+bed was creepy looking the sessions were kind of relaxing with easy listening music playing in a dimly lit room (The Doobie Brother's Black Water comes to mind:). These sessions were fast, about 15 minutes long (a good thing) and painless (a better thing). Plus the radiation therapists were super nice (another good thing).
This is what 20 radiation treatments look like.
The radiation therapists position you in the exact spot, with every visit, so that the radiation beams hit the same target each time. When you're all 'lined up', the therapists (there is always 2) leave the room and the linear accelerator (the huge machine at the end of the bed) is turned on. While making a slow buzzing sound, it rotates from right to left, allowing the beams to do what they do.
For my last 4 sessions the length of the treatments remained the same while the radiation levels were increased.
A big thank you to the super friendly Radiation Therapists for taking the this is what radiation looks like photos each day:)
Radiation treatments come with side effects that are different from person to person. Side effects depend on: the part of your body being treated, the type and amount of radiation you get and your general health. Radiation to the breast area can cause dryness, itchiness or reddening of the skin.
After my treatment I was given a small booklet, Life after Cancer Treatment - 2 quotes in it stood out for me;

"I do consider myself a survivor. I think the word simply reminds me that
the outcome could have been entirely different" ~ Allan

"It's funny - I hate the word survivor. I didn't want to be Julie with breast cancer and I don't want to be Julie who had breast cancer. I am Julie who just happened to have this happen in my life" ~ Julie

I'm with Julie on this one.
And now it's back to the road.


Jim Maron said...

Hey Karen,

Just catching up on your blog. You seem to be handling it all with great grace and style.

I hope all is well.

Cousin Jim

Karen J said...

Thanks Jim,
Yes, all is well on the road:)

chewe kaminsa said...

hey,really inspired by your life.i can say you have a wonderful are blessed and your spirit shines through the work you do.wishing you Gods complete healing.