The other day when I called my best friend to tell her the news, not far into the conversation she said, “oh my god, what news to find out for your birthday.” She is right. Today is the eve of my birthday. Only five days ago I received confirmation of the dreaded ‘C’. It seems things tend to happen around my birthday for some odd reason, but not all of them bad. Three years ago my mother died about three weeks before my birthday. But the really good news I received was that of conceiving my daughter on my birthday though I didn’t learn about that until a couple weeks into September. So birthdays can harbor good and bad news and sometimes it is all about the frame of mind we receive that news.
Yesterday, I spent an hour and half with my Naturopath and their Integrative Oncology expert. The discussion was intense to say the least. I started off by telling them what the surgeon said and his recommendations. And that I was reading and researching as much as I could. They asked me how I was feeling. I told them the more I read and dug into my research the more anxious, stressed and depressed I became.
Then I told them what my first instinct had been when the surgeon told me the news. My instinct was to just do a mastectomy and have done with it. Except somewhere along the line I had let the surgeon’s opinion override my instinct. When I took up my reading and research I started trying to find out what it would take to save my breast. The more I read the more complicated it became. The more complicated it became the more difficult it was to absorb and not be overwhelmed and then the anxiety started setting in. Then the fear took hold of what if I don’t do it right and the cancer comes back then I will have to go through this all over again. Then the depression set in because if I didn’t do this right then I could very well end up in far worse shape than I am now.
I have no doubt if I were married, had a spouse who loved me and who loved my child and I know she would be taken care of, that my perceptions would be different. But I do not have that. I have to look at this as having one shot to get this right and I need to make sure that is what I do.
Monday evening, I stepped out of the house for a few minutes of alone time to consider my options. To look at why reading the material was putting me into such a mental state of depression and anxiety. It suddenly dawned on me that as I was reading I was looking at what it took to save my breast, instead of looking at what it took to save my life.
Tomorrow, I will be 54 years old. I am past childbearing years. At which time, breasts have no further function other than pleasure and physical appearance. If I were younger and still wanted children then there might be a reason to try and save my breast but that just isn’t the case.
As I sat in my car, I realized I was approaching this all wrong. I was looking at the surgeon’s recommendation as now being my choice instead of looking at it as just a possible option I could choose and which one was best for me. Taking into consideration that I really have no need for my breast anymore and I do want to save my life the most efficient way possible, I realized my instinct had been the correct one all along.
My instincts usually are correct. It is when I ignore them that I end up in so much trouble or living a life that does not support who I really am.
I told my Naturopath yesterday, that I am leaning towards the mastectomy with immediate reconstructive surgery. First, to eliminate the number of surgeries I will need to undergo. Second, in order to remove as much as possible any re-occurrence of the cancer. Third, to reduce as much as possible any stress upon me and my daughter. As I explained my choice to them, they understood and support my choice.
You might wonder about the stress I mention. If I chose a lumpectomy, it would mean another biopsy this one in a town further away, and another wait for the results. Then surgery and radiation treatments, with yet another wait for results from the lymph node dissection. Then there are scans to be done of lungs, liver and bone, which I do not know if they are planned before or after the surgery, I am hoping before but since the surgeon did not mention scheduling them they might not be until after the surgery. Every step along the way is wait and see the results. If I can eliminate even one or two of these the amount of stress will be reduced. Choosing a mastectomy would eliminate the second biopsy and having to wait for the results. This may not seem like much if it would mean keeping my breast and not having a mastectomy, however, it would mean without a doubt, I would have to undergo radiation which puts a lot of stress on the body, and that I just don’t want to do unless I have no choice. Today, I have a choice. Maybe those other scans will remove that choice or maybe they won’t. This is why I am hoping the other scans will be done before any surgery is done.
I cannot get the answers to these questions this week because the surgeon is out of town this week. So the answers will have to wait until I see him on Monday the 16th. For now, my choice will be a mastectomy without radiation, with immediate reconstructive surgery, unless something is discovered along the way to change my decision. If that happens it will most likely mean I have no choice.
I have already spoken to my Sir about this, and he also agrees with my reasoning. He also feels I should tell my brothers. Though I knew this, I think I just needed him to tell me so. And I guess I should begin calling them. This is not going to be easy.
During my discussion with my Naturopath there were other factors brought up. I wasn’t sure if they supported surgery or even radiation treatment but in my reading of the book I bought from them, I discovered that they do indeed support surgery for breast cancer and will even work with the oncologist in regards to radiation and chemotherapy treatments. They feel the best treatment is a combination of medical and natural health. Their recommendation is for IV Vitamin C treatment once to twice weekly up until surgery and then continue after the surgery. A week before surgery there is an option to help improve the body nutritionally in preparation. This helps reduce possible side effects and infection from the surgery and support recovery afterwards. Since I am planning an option right now that does not include radiation or chemotherapy I do not need to add the additional support they recommend for those treatments.
We talked so much I know there is a lot I didn’t catch or remember. I do recall our discussion about the risk factors that raise a person’s chances of having cancer in particular breast cancer. Early onset of menstruation is one. I thought I developed earlier but maybe not as early as some, like my daughter she started two years earlier than I did. Other factors, are not having children until later in life. I was 42 when I had my daughter, although I breastfed her for two and half years which is good, I did not have multiple children, apparently each subsequent child and breastfeeding them for couple years or longer improve your chances of not getting cancer.
I haven’t slept well probably since my last trimester of pregnancy. My hips ached if I lay on my side, and I’m not comfortable lying on my back. Lying on my stomach is my favorite position but since the discovery of my neck injury that is a no-no. Though my hips don’t ache any more, I learned to sleep lightly when my daughter was born so I would wake to feed or change her or take care of her. I still sleep lightly but I wake several times a night. I was told not sleeping well has been tied directly to breast cancer. He also stated that working shift work also showed an increase in having cancer and I worked eight years of midnight shift.
There are other exposures I’ve had. I lived not far away from Three Mile Island, though the authorities like to claim there was no exposure, I have heard enough to know that is very questionable and milk and dairy products were suspect during that time. I love milk and dairy products.
I also have worked for years in the computer industry since 1978 where I started operating computers standing in front of cathode ray tube screens at breast level and in the middle of large mainframe computers with no walls separating me from the equipment up until 1997 though not that long for the cathode ray tubes but over four years of them is enough. Since then I’ve worked in front of desktop computers and now laptops. There has not been enough studies to know for sure if this causes cancer, however, I’ve had three colleagues diagnosed with brain cancer, two have died and the third was recently diagnosed and found the tumor was inoperable. Another colleague is fighting prostate cancer. And I’ve lost touch with many others I’ve worked with over the years to know if there are any more.
As the list went on and on, we joked in the end that I was lucky to have lived as long as I have. I know it was a morbid statement to make but it did relieve some of the tension and brevity in the room. We have to be able to laugh. Laughter does wonderful things for the body, even if it is morbid, laughter is good.
I am not sure what all these professional people think of me. I go into my appointments in full control emotionally and no matter what I hear I leave still in full control. I can laugh and joke with them, even smile, no matter how bad the news.
In the past, a boyfriend or two has described me as cold because I do not break down when I hear bad news. Oh, I have my moments but usually in private. I definitely don’t in public. I have cried in front of my daughter but in that I am usually careful for I know my emotions can tip her in the wrong direction if not careful. When she panicked in the thunderstorm on the train and was crying hysterically, if I had broken down it would have made things so much worse for her. So I held it together. These are the choices I make. I did cry in front of my Sir, and I did so for I know he can take it and he can help me regain my composure after letting go. As much as I am not cold, I can see how others would view me as such.
I read about radiation today, and breast reconstruction. The more I read about radiation treatments the more I do not want to go through that treatment unless I have no choice. Breast reconstruction is interesting, they can use part of the body to reconstruct a breast, and there are different options here to consider. The only question I could not find an answer to was whether there is sensation lost to the breast depending on which options are selected. Even so, it will not stop me and is something worth loosing if it means I will be around much longer for my daughter.
I continue obeying the rules my Sir has given me. They give me something to focus on though they are not large things it is enough to bring my thoughts back in focus and not continually on the cancer. I had hoped I could take a day or two to not think about it, to give myself a sort of break but I needed to read. When I desire information I’m like a pit pull, I grab hold until I’ve gotten the bite I need before letting go. It is better I get the information than put it off, so I read today.
Tomorrow is my birthday. We probably won’t celebrate it until this weekend since I have to work and my daughter has not been feeling well. I found a delicious looking cake online, http://www.bestyummyrecipes.com/strawberry-cake/ the only problem is it calls for a white cake mix and I have not found a cake mix I can use due to ingredients within the mix. So I need to find a white cake recipe. The sad thing though is this will probably contain so much sugar I will have to avoid sugar for the next year to make up for it. The other thing is cancer loves sugar. I have heard that you can substitute Stevia for sugar but I have not tried it yet. It looks like I will be learning a whole new way to cook and bake. Apparently a high soy (11 grams) diet has anti-cancer properties or something like that and is a good replacement for one of the drugs they prescribe after cancer surgery to try and prevent re-occurrence for the next five years. I’m going to miss meat. I come from a German heritage which is high in animal fat. Life just keeps getting better (sarcasm implied).
Now, I want to challenge my readers.
If you know of any good soy recipes that are tasty, please pass them my way. Email me using my contact page. Remember I’m a novice in regards to using soy in any way so please provide any hints or suggestions that would be helpful.
Also, if you have ever cooked or baked with a sugar substitute like Stevia, I would appreciate any suggestions of how to substitute or even something different but please realize I’m looking for natural substitutes and not something like aspartame or other questionable sugar substitutes. And if it greatly changes the taste or has an aftertaste, I would most likely forgo anything sweet than to try and acclimate to the change.
I know, I’m starting to sound like a difficult person to please. *grin* Thus the challenge.