How awesome is what?
Awesome is going from a late stage cancer diagnosis to a scheduled out-patient lumpectomy surgery. That, my friends, is totally cool!
Our God is amazing!
Here’s the deal. As you know, I’ve been undergoing neoadjuvant (before surgery) chemotherapy since February 14. (Yes, chemo was my Valentine’s gift!) The tumor originally covered an area of 27.84 cm. That’s a lot of area! We saw an immediate reduction in size after the first chemo treatment and have continued to see a steady reduction throughout the whole chemotherapy regime.
On Monday, August 13, I had a breast MRI. On Friday, August 17, I went for my pre-surgery assessments and met with almost everyone on my medical team and had a final “diagnostic” mammogram. (It’s amazing how clear those mammograms are!) I also had an ultrasound.
Folks, the tumor is very hard to find now! It covers an area of 1.275 cm! (For those who aren’t familiar with the metric system, that’s roughly a half inch.) It’s an odd shape . . . looks a bit like the number three! The tumor is only 4.57% of its original size. Just for comparison sake, here are a couple of drawings:
* * * % (Tumor marker #2)
* * *******
* * & (Tumor marker #1)
Yes, that’s how much difference there is! (My tumor was never the shape of a rectangle. This is merely to show you the difference in size. The first square is approximately 27 square centimeters while the second one is approximately 1.2 square centimeters.) (Sorry, the blog site wouldn't copy my cute little squares. I couldn't measure my created asterisks, so they are merely an approximation of the change in size.)
The surgeon thinks that the tumor will continue to shrink before my operation. Because of this, they placed a tumor marker (a titanium clip) into the tumor. The process wasn’t exactly painful per se, but a bit uncomfortable at times. I have one tumor clip already, but the tumor has dissipated around that marker (see “&” above). The second clip marks where the tumor is now remaining. If the tumor continues to shrink, the surgeon will remove the tissue around the second marker. (I need to ask if she will remove the first marker as well. Not sure about that one.)
I learned at my very first appointment in San Francisco that the place runs on its own time. It seems they are always late . . . by HOURS! I was told to be there at 8:00 a.m. yesterday and to be prepared to stay all day. They had me scheduled for all kinds of stuff, but with no set time for anything except the initial 8:00 a.m. appointment (and even then, I didn’t get called in until 8:15).
Step 1: Got vitals taken (including recording yet more weight gain) and saw the nurse practitioner. Reviewed what’s happened since last chemo. I’ve had an “eventful” week with my “quasi-emergency” visit to the doctor on Tuesday (See http://victoryshengli.weebly.com/1/post/2012/08/the-tail-end-of-things.html for details) and now, the inside of my nose is riddled with sores and my left eye is leaking/tearing quite a bit.
Step 2: Met with my surgeon. She is very optimistic about my upcoming surgery and fully expects to get all of the cancer that is remaining. She went over the procedure again and sent me on to get a mammogram and ultrasound.
Step 3: Went to the imaging department and waited. They were really running late (some women had been waiting for almost two hours). I was among the last to be called. The woman doing the mammogram was from the Ukraine and we had a delightful conversation, even though I was being mashed in every direction! However, it was much better than the one I got in January when the tumor was very painful.
Step 4: Waited for a radiologist to review the mammograms. When that was done, it was decided I needed another tumor marker. (See notes above.) After that, I needed another mammogram to indicate that the tumor marker was properly placed. However, by that time, it was lunchtime and the place was becoming quite vacant. One of the technicians, Juanita, from Cuba, stayed a bit longer to do my mammogram so I wouldn’t have to come back.
Step 5: Rushed out the door and head to another location to get my eye checked out. There was concern that the sores in my nose were herpes complex rather than just a chemo side effect and that if it was an infection, it had spread to my eye (which could be quite dangerous). It took two doctors to review my eye, during which time they scanned, dyed (some yellow dye stuff), prodded, lifted lids, lowered lids, etc., but with good results . . . no infection! Now, I need to wait two weeks to see if it clears up and take it up from there.
I was then released to go home. The day wasn’t as exhausting as I thought it would be and I *just missed* getting caught in the Friday night rush hour traffic. I made good time getting home.
We still have not heard back about the genetics test. I continue to call the genetics counselor, only to hear each time, that she hasn’t heard back. She has made calls, but there is a huge disconnect between Aetna Global and Aetna USA. Aetna USA can’t ever find me in their system and they end up referring everyone (including me) to the Hong Kong office. The 15-hour time difference makes it difficult to reach them during business hours.
The genetics counselor did say that when applying statistical analysis to my case, there was only a 9% chance (if even that) of testing positive. We are pressing ahead with current plans and will take things as they come. We will continue to be vigilant in monitoring my health for any recurrences in the future.
That brings me to my next point. It’s funny . . . now that I’m close to the end of this part of the journey to healing . . . I keep having the shadowy fear that everything we’ve done is just not enough. That the surgery will reveal that there are no clean margins to the tumor and that I’ll end up with a mastectomy anyway . . . or that the cancer will return or metastasize with a vengeance in a very short period of time. I do believe I will be healed, but I quake with unbelief at the same time. As the father of a demon-possessed son said in Mark 9:24, “I do believe, but help me with my doubts!” (The Message)
God has proven to be faithful every step of this journey and I (we) can clearly see his hand every which way we turn. I continue to ask for your prayers as we navigate the next steps.
First of all, the kids start school this week! Rachel is more nervous than Michael, so we ask for peace of mind for her. Michael is more excited than anything else.
I have my pre-op appointment on August 27 when I will meet with anesthesiology and the rest of the team involved in my surgery.
My surgery is now set for Wednesday, September 5.
Please remember all of us as we adjust to new schedules and as we make arrangements for the 5th.
I am still quite tired at times and I am often caught off guard by how physically weak I feel. I've been given the go-ahead to start exercising again and I'm trying to walk a mile a day. I don't try to walk quickly, but I'm surprised at how tired my legs (and arms) feel. Please ask for wisdom as I build my body back up. I'm hoping to attend a nutrition and exercise workshop on September 12. It's one designed specifically for breast cancer patients who have completed treatment. While I haven't completed treatment yet, it's still a good one for me to attend for good guidelines.
I've also been cleared to eat raw foods again! Woo hoo! (Or, as Rachel would say, "Woot, woot!") Yesterday, I went out and bought a bunch of stuff for a salad today . . . and I'm getting ready to go chop everything up for it. Michael looked at all I was putting in the basket and said, "Wow, I want some!" (Butter lettuce, spinach leaves, radishes, cucumbers, broccoli, green onions, mushrooms . . . hmmm, I need to get off the computer and go start chopping!)
Thank you again for sharing my journey. As I've said, I think this has ended up being a faith challenge for all of us as we process events. We all learn differently and different questions and challenges have come up for us all.
In other words, we're all in this together!