So we meet again…
This is a post I have been putting off for a while now and with good reason! I had hoped to never have to revisit this topic, but alas, here I am. So please forgive me, I am going to be blunt…
The cancer is back with a vengeance.
I’m going to back up a bit and give updates on how I got to where I am now. Here goes…
If you have read my past posts you know that January 4th of 2014 was my final chemo treatment. I had my port removed and I was happy to be moving on with my life. I knew that it would take time to start feeling like my old self again but I felt a little better everyday. I continued to improve until about April of 2014. I started to notice little things that were bothersome. I was getting tired more easily, I started having weird new aches and pains, and I was starting to run low grade fevers again. Not to mention that I was having some concerning “female issues” (aka the never-ending period). I had a sinking feeling I was in trouble. I tried to convince myself that I was just being paranoid as it was just one year ago in April of the previous year that I had found the lump that started this whole cancer journey. So I tried to put it out of my mind and figured that I would wait until my set appointment in July to talk to my oncologist.
Jump to July and it’s time to visit my oncologist. I tell her about the pain I’ve been having in my left hip, groin, back and ribs. I also started experiencing some mild upper right abdominal pain. And the “never-ending period” is still never ending. She ordered up a bone scan and a chest x-ray. Results – Negative. Okay, so maybe I am just being paranoid.
Jump to October when I have my next appointment with my oncologist. Nothing has improved. I’m still tired, I’m still having unexplained pain, I’m still running low grade fevers. I’m STILL having a never-ending period! This time she orders up a bunch of blood work including a tumor marker test, as well as a PET/CT scan. Blood work comes back and it shows I’m slightly anemic. Me thinking “Anemic? REALLY?! You don’t say! I’ve been bleeding for a year! Of course I’m slightly anemic.” *grumble, grumble, grumble* So maybe that’s why I’ve been so tired all the time. Then I get the results of the tumor marker. It’s slightly elevated. But no need to freak out as it can be thrown off by stuff. Okay, okay, deep breath. Let’s get to that PET/CT scan.
November 11th I’m off to have the PET/CT scan done. They pump me full of radioactive tracer and take lots of pictures from the top of my head to the middle of my thighs. And a week later I’m sitting in the doctor’s office going over the results. My lungs, liver and the lymph nodes in my chest and neck lit up like a Christmas tree. All the spots are small. The biggest one in my lungs measured 13 millimeters. But there were LOTS of them. So now what? Well it COULD be something else like Sarcoidosis, it might not be the cancer. But it requires further investigation. So I was referred to Interventional Radiology for a lung biopsy. *Funny story…While the doctor is showing Chris and I the pictures from the PET/CT scan, my darling husband points out how the pictures look like a cross section of…..wait for it…………………….a turkey! Happy Thanksgiving, you look like a turkey! The doctor wasn’t sure how to react until I started giggling like a fool. She couldn’t disagree though, it did in fact look like a cross section of a turkey. (We are so weird!)*
December 11th the hubby drives me to Sacramento to have the lung biopsy. The doctor performing the procedure comes in to talk to me and states that “None of these spots is very big so I might have to dig around a little bit to hit one.” Me thinking “Well THAT’S just what I wanted to hear! NOT!” I was told before the biopsy that they were going to put me into a “twilight state” during the procedure. I wouldn’t be completely knocked out because they wanted me to be able to follow directions, but I would be totally relaxed and probably not remember any of the procedure. The nurse said she gave me something, but I didn’t feel any different. I was wide awake, I was aware of everything, I remember everything. Good thing I’m a tough old broad! HAHA They numbed the area they would be working on and then did a couple of scans to make sure of needle placement and then came the fun part. Punching through the chest wall and into my lung! I don’t know if the spots had grown in the month since the PET/CT scan. But the doctor didn’t seem to have any problems hitting the target. The test was over pretty quickly. Now it was just wait for the results.
December 17th Chris and I are sitting in the doctor’s office again. The door opens and my oncologist looks at me and says “Well, it’s not good news.” Me, “I know.” Doctor, “How did you know?” Me, “I don’t know. But I’ve known since April I was in trouble.” All the while I’m sitting there thinking to myself “Merry Christmas! You’re going to die!” She proceeded to explain that stage 4 metastatic breast cancer is considered terminal. I told her that I was okay with that because it gives me a free pass to make as many inappropriate death jokes as I want from now on. Anyone who REALLY knows me, knows that I meet really crappy news head on with humor. That’s how I roll. I don’t fall apart. I did need some time to think and consider my options and decide what I was ready to put myself through. At this point I was not given a “time frame” of how long I had left. I was told about options for chemo and came home to sleep on it and figure out what to do. In the mean time I was referred back to the surgeon that did my mastectomy for another port placement.
I know this is REALLY LONG! Bare with me. I have a lot of catching up to do. =)
So did I mention that back at the beginning of November I started to develop a cough? No? Okay, well now you know. I had this nagging little cough but didn’t think too much of it until I found out that the cancer was dancing around in my lungs. Coughing, wheezing, asthma like symptoms. And to top it off right after it was confirmed that the cancer was back I had this weird thing happen. I was sitting at my computer and realized that my vision had gone all wonky. It was like my peripheral vision was a kaleidoscope and there were little blind spots. It only lasted about 5 minutes and when my vision cleared up I noticed I had a mild but weird headache. After this happened a second time I called my oncologist and they immediately ordered up a brain MRI. I started calling the imaging department on December 30th to schedule the MRI. They couldn’t get me in until January 19th they told me. Now just so you know, I am going to do a WHOLE separate post on the MRI because that is a story of fail just begging to be told.
January 6th I go visit my surgeon. He walks in the door and says “It’s nice to see you again Wendy but not the way I hoped to see you again.” So we talked about what brought me to him. I explained that there were lots of bumps in my lungs and one on my liver and lots of lymph nodes. I told him about the MRI that was scheduled for the 19th and asked him if it was unreasonable of me to want to wait to get a port placed until after I got the test results for the MRI. My thought was that if this crap was in my brain I didn’t want to bother with having a port placed. Because the likelihood of living more than a few months, even with treatment was pretty slim. He understood completely. My next question for him was to please break it down for me. How long have I got? From a purely clinical and statistical standpoint what he said was that because the cancer came back within a year and a half of the original diagnosis, what they do is take that time (18 months) and cut it in half. So with treatment I was probably looking at around 9 months. Without treatment maybe 4 or 5 months. But he was quick to stress that everyone is different and I could live longer than that. It really just is going to depend on how the cancer responds to treatment.
Since I am going to chronicle the MRI in a different post I won’t go into detail right now, but I have had the MRI completed and got the results. GOOD NEWS! No cancer in the brain! So now it’s a race to treatment. I get my shiny new port placed next week and probably will be starting treatment really soon after that.
I will be updating everything that happens here. So if you have a strong stomach for unpleasantness and inappropriate humor, I invite you to come along as I dance with cancer one more time.