Maggie's 2022 Medical Challenges...
Breast cancer is dumb. I don’t recommend it.
Between Christmas Day and New Year’s, our family was sick. And what I thought was a man-cold turned out to be Covid. (Sorry, Babe.) The husband was admitted to the hospital for two weeks. It was scary but he made it through. He will likely never have the same lung capacity but he is doing well.
Stop being dumb
I decided to see my primary care about a lump I had been ignoring. She felt nothing but said lets get a mammogram anyway.
Welp they saw it on the mammogram. I had a second appointment to add a tiny titanium clip to the lump area to make the location easier to identify. Had another appointment where they took a biopsy. Came back as grade 2 invasive ductal carcinoma.
More imaging and more cancer
I had an MRI to get a better idea of the size. They said it was bigger than anticipated. A lumpectomy was not going to cut it… Well it would cut it but I wouldn’t be happy with what was left. I had a couple CT scans to get an idea of bone density and if I could handle treatments.
More April 2022
I opted to do a Mastectomy before chemo so I could get an Oncotype test done on the tumor. This type of test tells you the likelihood of chemo being a benefit. I was very scared of chemo because side effects included “may cause cancer.” Since mastectomies remove your nerves and leave you without any feeling or sensation, I decided to keep my left breast and only do a unilateral mastectomy. My doctor was able to visibly see cancer on my first lymph node so she removed 22. Two came back positive with cancer. Because of its size and since it was found in lymph nodes, it was classified as stage 2B cancer. Because of surgery, I have mild Lymphedema in my right arm. My right underarm and right chest area are permanently numb.
Fear of decisions
I told myself that if my tumor’s Oncotype test came back with a score below 12, I was not going to do chemo. The result came at 14. Ugh. If cancer ever comes back I have to be able to say to my 3 beautiful boys that I did everything I could. I started chemo a week after my oldest son turned 10.
June - July 2022
Chemo sucks, not a fan
Chemotherapy is more tolerable than it was 10 years ago. They load you with anti-nausea meds. My hair started to fall out 2 weeks after the first treatment and every hair follicle hurt so I shaved it off. By my final treatment, I was able to figure out what medicine was helping and what made it worse. I would be a useless lump for 3 days after each treatment then slowly start to feel human again.
Testing Before Radiation
Before you get radiation treatment, it’s standard that you have to take a pregnancy test. Mine came back positive. I just don’t think you can imagine the enormity of mixed feelings I had. I was directed to take a blood test and it was positive for HCG hormone but a much smaller level than a woman who was pregnant would have. The original positive was likely due to chemo.
September - October 2022
Radiation and Lord Huron
Radiation treatments were 5 days a week for 5 weeks. Radiation was a cakewalk compared to the other treatments. My technicians were lovely ladies and I got to pick my own music. Treatments were painless but by the end of it I had what looked like a severe sunburn (a lot of redness and peeling). I have radiation scarring and a permanent tan. Radiation scarring leaves me stiff. If it’s still there after 6 months, it’s permanent.
November - December 2022
5-10 Years of Meds
I have quarterly follow-ups with my chemo team. The plan is that I continue with hormone blockers (Endocrine Therapy). My cancer was estrogen and progesterone positive so we are trying to starve any additional cancer that might grow or still be hanging around.
I have days where I feel sorry for myself BUT I met so many more people who have it much worse. My doctor said, “If you have to get cancer, you have the best kind to get.” I try to have an attitude of gratitude. Sometime in the Spring I will have reconstruction surgery. Wish me luck.
The hormone blockers/endocrine therapy was awful. It caused arthritis and a bone density scan said I had Osteopenia (pre-Osteoporosis). Osteopenia could have been caused by radiation or chemotherapy but endocrine therapy has a high chance of causing it, if not making it worse. In addition to the physical pain, I was experiencing severe depression and after a few months decided to stop endocrine therapy meds.
I had a DIEP flap reconstruction scheduled. I panicked and cancelled the morning of. I don’t know what the next step is but I decided the DEIP flap was too invasive and I heard from others who have shared their permanent symptoms/changes and I had a bad feeling.
I am a “difficult patient” for not sticking with prescribed treatments. Meh. I’ve been called worse. 😉 My oncology team recommended a Signaterra test. It is a new blood test where they look for Circulating Tumor DNA (CTDNA) from the original tumor. Mine came back negative. I was sick with joy.
Are you sure?!
Not planned but very welcome… I had a positive pregnancy test. Because of my false positive last year I requested a blood test to confirm. And oh boy is it! It’s amazing where I was this time last year with my health and now I’m expanding my family! Crazy town.
I’m so thankful for my family, friends, and my wonderful clients that were so supportive. It made all the difference. ♥︎