I did not post anything yesterday. Yesterday started very early for me. Oh, I usually rise at 7am to help my daughter prepare for school and do a little work, however, for the most part my day usually begins gently and quietly. Yesterday, my focus was on getting myself ready for the two appointments I had. So I showered, but could not apply deodorant, or lotions or perfumes. Those last two I rarely use anyway. But I had to be very vigilant about not using deodorant for that is something I do without giving much thought to it. I usually don’t wear much makeup either most days but today I wanted or rather I needed something to help me feel human or rather more feminine. Friday, was focused on that most feminine of features, my breasts and I wanted to feel pretty and feminine regardless of what I might find out.
I had to leave around 7:45am in order to be at my appointment in plenty of time. I was told to be there by 8:15am. I dislike being late for anything. This meant I would have to leave before I could take my daughter to school and she would have to be responsible for leaving on time and walking. School is not far, about a fifteen minute walk but she has never done this on her own and I know most times she does not pay attention to time. She usually relies on me to give her reminders to check the time. I have waited to do so now until it has become obvious that she is not paying attention. I have however noticed that she is getting better at adhering to her time schedule, especially for bed without me needing to remind her. But I digress from what I was really wanting to write about. My day yesterday.
I left a few minutes later than I had planned on but it could not be helped. My body was in full stress mode which means my digestive system was in full flush mode. I did however arrive without issue and on time, to only sit and wait the full fifteen minutes until my appointment at 8:30am. They had no idea if I was there. You take a number and wait for them to call your number this is when they find out who you are. I saw them pull out my paperwork and on the top in bold dark letters it stated “URGENT”. This apparently has been my life since seeing the first doctor, but especially since seeing the surgeon. A surgeon does not schedule a biopsy two days after first meeting and examining you and get results of the biopsy that was taken on a Friday and results received on the following Wednesday without “URGENT” becoming a part of your life.
Friday’s first appointment was a mammogram. This was my first. The one thing I am grateful for is, except for the very first doctor I saw, no one has chastised me for not having a mammogram before this. No one has chastised me for waiting so long. What would be the point? I know what I did. I am sure they saw it in my face every time they looked at me. But even if I had this to do all over again, I do not think I would have the mammograms. The only thing I might do differently would be to see a doctor the first time I felt the lump. But these are my choices and what I chose up until now are choices I made and no amount of chastisement, condescension or reprimands will change that, so I am grateful everyone acted professionally and just saw to what needs to be done. Their professionalism has helped me to be strong.
The first doctor’s attitude and condescension left me collapsed in tears and feeling like I deserved all of this. It took my Sir’s comfort and yes firm voice to drag me out of the hole I had allowed her to help me dig. And that just isn’t right. I was there to set things right and she did not help at all. If I have my choice I will not go back to her.
I find it amazing that out of all the gynecologists I have seen throughout my life. The only two female doctors I’ve seen have treated me like scum, or a brainless twit. All the male doctors I have had have been the sweetest and most supportive and willing to discuss and explain anything and everything to me.
I’ve had people ask me why I do not prefer female doctors for these types of examinations and this is exactly why. The next time I need to have another appointment, I will ask for a different doctor and preferably a male doctor. Unfortunately, the male doctor they originally set me up with could not get me in until July. So seeing her, got me in earlier and headed down the path to do what needed to be done, but for the rest I will try to switch her out for the other doctor. I now understand why his schedule would be so full.
On to my appointment, the mammogram went well. However, they had me wait while they took the scans directly to the doctor to review. Then came back and took another set of scans and I waited again in case the doctor wanted an ultrasound done right away. However, the decision was made to let me go and get to my appointment with the surgeon to get the results and wait to see if the surgeon wanted to request anything specific in regards to the ultrasound and they could also push up the ultrasound if needed from the 18th to earlier. So they released me to go to my second appointment.
This appointment was just down the street about a city block away. I arrived and waited, hearing odd sounds that almost sounded like a saw not quite a drill but a small saw. I didn’t even want to let my imagination conjure whatever might be going on. He doesn’t do surgery in his office but I could very well visualize a patient on an examination table having limbs being slowly cut through by a small mechanical saw. Yes, I know I can be morbid and yes, this was a morbid moment. I could feel my nervousness rising and a bit of panic taking over, so I turned in my chair, so I was facing forward, tucked my feet as, far back under the chair as possible to mimic kneeling, laid my hands palm upward on my thighs, closed my eyes, took slow, deep breaths, and repeated the mantra in my head over and over again. This calmed me, at least to a manageable point. Nothing would calm me until I heard what the doctor had to say.
I sat this way, sometimes with eyes open, sometimes with them closed. Breathing when I felt the panic start to rise again. I waited probably for about ten or fifteen minutes. Two men entered the office and as one of them was speaking to the receptionist, the doctor peered around the corner and crooked his finger at me in a come-hither movement for which I dutifully obeyed.
As he motioned me to enter his office in front of him and the intern he was training, he asked me how I was doing. I said nervous but otherwise okay. I sat down, then he sat behind his desk and looked directly at me and into my eyes and told me the biopsy confirmed cancer. He then told me to not worry about not remembering everything he was going to tell me because he knows right now my mind is reeling and upon my next visit he would repeat everything he said today again. He told me how he had just gotten off the phone with the doctor in regards to my mammogram. The mammogram also shows very clearly the lump is cancer. There is another spot that shows calcium deposits which he said could indicate cancer but they would have to do a special type of biopsy to find out for sure and this would need to be done in the next town over since they do not have the machine in our town.
I have two options. He told me there have been lots of study done on the two options and no matter which one is performed the results are the same.
The first option is, I can go for a lumpectomy in which case if I did he would need the special biopsy done first on the second location to find out if it was cancer or not. If it is cancer then he would have to do a mastectomy. If it wasn’t then he could just do the lumpectomy which would then be followed by three weeks of radiation, which means going for radiation five days a week with none on the weekends for a total of fifteen days.
The second option is to go ahead and do a mastectomy for which the second biopsy would not be needed and no radiation treatments.
Then he told me they would do scans of the lungs and check the liver because those are the two places breast cancer spreads to.
Then he told me when they do the lumpectomy or the mastectomy they would remove the sentinel lymph nodes to check them for cancer because breast cancer will also spread to the lymph nodes. They used to take out all the lymph nodes but that causes problems with pain and swelling in the arm. Now they inject a dye that will help them find the sentinel lymph nodes so they can remove a few of those. If the sentinel lymph nodes are clear of cancer they know the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes. If they detect cancer in the lymph nodes then they will go in for a second surgery and remove the rest of the lymph nodes and check them for cancer. If they are clear then they know the cancer did not spread further, but if they are not, well we just didn’t go there. I didn’t ask for more and he didn’t offer more. I don’t remember if he suggested it or if it just became a silent agreement between the two of us that we’ll cross that bridge if and only if we need to.
I was quite together and focused while we talked. I asked him if a mastectomy is done then what happens after that. So he told me I have two choices in regards to the mastectomy. I could to a mastectomy with immediate reconstructive surgery, or I could do a mastectomy with a delayed reconstructive surgery. He could do the mastectomy but not reconstruction and there is no one in our town to do the reconstruction. So I would have to go to a city an hour away to have the reconstruction work done.
I told him I am not crazy about the idea of radiation. I asked him if the radiation is localized and he said yes, that it would only be focused on the breast tissue and only about an inch into the chest wall. The other breast would not be involved or effected nor any of the surrounding areas. I told him I feel I need to discuss this with my Naturopath which he is supportive of and gave me a copy of the pathology report to give to her.
I don’t recall of much else being discussed. Other than he was out next week and his assistant would call about scheduling a surgery date. He would also request the special scan to be scheduled so if I chose the lumpectomy we would not have to wait long. Then he gave me a book to read pointing out which chapters to focus on for our next appointment discussion. The last thing he said to me before I left was to remember, this is my body and I am the one in control. I am the only one who can tell them what I want done, they are here to help me in those decisions and to do what I have decided upon. This eased my mind greatly because in the U.S. the medical insurance companies dictate to the insured what will be done or they will not cover the cost. He reassured me that they do not work that way here in Canada. I now know why I am here and not in the U.S.
I left and no sooner did I walk out of his office than it started to crash down on me. I cried the whole way home being very careful driving. The thought of my daughter wondering how she would handle this news was difficult for me and I became very angry for a few moments in the car as I drove. I decided I can’t tell her about the lymph nodes at this point. I can’t even think about them right now either. I need to focus on the next thing which was to let my Naturopath know and get an appointment scheduled with her.
I emailed her as soon as I got home while I sent a text to my Sir to see if I could call him. As I spoke with him, giving him the news, emails went back and forth between my Naturopath and me. An appointment scheduled for 10June (2 days before my birthday), she is bringing in their oncology expert to help consult on my case. She also had a book she wanted me to read before our appointment. My Sir helped me to become calm and centered. He helped ease my mind about my daughter. Even though he has never met her, he knows of her through me and he told me she is strong and can handle this. He also told me to lean on her that she can handle it. Before him saying that I could not imagine ever doing that. I felt I had to be strong for her.
I had a lot I needed to do before my daughter got home from school. After talking to my Sir for what I believe was a couple hours. I scanned the pathology report and sent it to my Naturopath. I found out the book she wanted me to read was not available in stores so I decided to go pick it up either after I talked with my daughter or Saturday morning.
I then contacted my boss and filled him in on what was going on. I know I said this before but I have to say it again. He is the best boss ever. He is very supportive. Not once did he mention my work, his full concern was over me and how I was doing. I told him my main concern was not having much support here with no family here and the only people I really know are the parents of friends of my daughter. He mentioned sending one of my co-workers who is my best friend who is not married and has no children, here to help. He said he could work from my home. We laughed about it but I also know he was very sincere in supporting this if I needed it. I told him, let’s just see where this takes me.
Then I contacted that very friend and I told him the news. I could tell he didn’t like what he heard. Then I told him what our boss said and he laughed. I asked him if he had a passport. He said yes but it is expired. I didn’t know if this would classify as an emergency so one could be rushed through or if our boss could somehow help justify it and though we spoke about it in somewhat serious tones we also joked about it. We know it has possibilities if I should need it but I doubt it will happen. My landlord will be moving back in upstairs and though her husband won’t be here and she’ll have three boys to manage like a single parent for a year, between the two of us I think we can manage this.
Then my daughter came home and her first question was, ‘well is it what you thought?’ I asked her what she thought I thought it was and she said cancer and I said yes. Then I qualified that with, it is treatable. Then I explained everything, except for the lymph nodes and she sat quietly listening, her eyes grew big when I explained what a mastectomy was. She was surprised that I could lose a whole breast. But she not once cried or got upset. I was calm as well. I have to admit I was surprised at how well she took it. I asked her later if she is really okay and if she was upset by any of it and she said since I said it was treatable she was fine, just surprised that I might lose a whole breast and she wondered how they could reconstruct a breast.
Oh yes, before she came home I also emailed my co-workers and told them. None of them knew other than my best friend and my boss and team leader that I was waiting for results from a biopsy. The rest I knew this would come as a blow to them but they needed to know. One of my other co-workers is dealing with prostate cancer and he didn’t want anyone to know but then questions started coming in as to why he was out of the office so much with doctor’s appointments and we could see some of his work slipping and we were picking it up without understanding why. Once we found out, we all pulled together to help and this is what they are doing for me as well.
My daughter and I left shortly after our discussion to run to my Naturopath’s office which is an hour away to pick up the book. My doctor was there and so we spoke about the situation. She talks to me like a friend, a good friend. She even encourages friendship between her daughter and mine even though her daughter is a couple years younger than mine. I joked that if I end up having to come over this way for an appointment I might drop off my daughter with her and she was very supportive of that. I told her it could end up being an overnight thing because they can’t do the reconstruction in my home town. She didn’t bat an eye and was very supportive understanding if my daughter was back in our home town that it would be difficult for someone to bring her to the hospital to see me so she could be reassured that I was okay because she would worry about me. My daughter spoke up and said yes she would be worried about me. So we have this option if I need a mastectomy and reconstruction. This eased my mind greatly. I could not see another doctor doing this for one of her patients but then from day one she always talked to me like a friend. We had both commented at one time in the different visits I’ve had throughout the past couple years how it was too bad we didn’t live closer together because our children could become playmates and I’m sure she and I would become closer friends. She is absolutely an amazing person because she fights hard in the political realm too to get natural health care support.
Ever since talking with my daughter I felt a bit of euphoria which grew and grew as the evening progressed. I felt exceedingly well and happy and even commented about this to my Sir later on in the evening as we chatted online. It was strange but in a good way to feel so good knowing what I am facing.
This morning though I woke up in pain. I did not sleep well. I am sure I woke up at least once every hour. I do not feel rested. The pain is in my neck and lower back which tells me I need to see my chiropractor for an adjustment. Since I will be in his area on Tuesday, I will see about making an appointment to see him. In the meantime, if it becomes too uncomfortable I have Tylenol which helps with alleviating the pain.
I had hoped yesterday I would have time to post about my day but as you can all see I had a rather full day compounded by extreme emotions, going from the most stress I have probably felt since my life in Montreal, to an extreme low and crying, to a high euphoria by evening. My daughter and I sang and danced in our car seats to Black Eyed Pea, the whole way, and upon reaching home repeating my favorite song “I’ve Got a Feeling” which somehow felt quite appropriate at that moment in time. So here it is: