This week has been a combination of catching up with a friend or two, seeing the Breast Nurse (for post-op follow-up) and meeting the Medical Oncologist at Peter MacCallum.
The Medical Oncologist is extremely thorough and went through medical history, family history and a breast exam. She reviewed all my tests and has directed me to get two more done in readiness for chemo.
So here’s where I start with chemo:
4 cycles of AC – once every 3 weeks (3 months)
12 cycles of Taxol – once every week (3 months)
The side effects are as expected – hair loss, fatigue, nausea and dry mouth. No real surprises there.
As part of my preparation this week, I was advised that I wouldn’t be able to go to the dentist during chemo, so I thought I should book in for a clean. And lucky… as I’ve found out that chemo begins on Wednesday 24 February.
So now, I will rest and recover and enjoy my last few days before this adventure begins.
2016 has begun in a way that I could never have predicted – with the diagnosis of breast cancer.
If I map out the key dates, you will see just how quickly this has come about:
13 January – I have been keeping an eye on my left nipple which has been inverted for a short while (a few days, maybe a week or two?). I do a breast exam and find a noticeable lump just above my nipple. Once I’ve found it, I can’t ignore it, so book an appointment with my GP.
15 January – GP confirms lump in my left breast. She makes a booking for me to have a breast screening.
20 January – At Melbourne Breast Unit (East Melbourne), I have my first mammogram followed by my first ultrasound. This is followed by another breast examination and a biopsy of the left breast lump and a lymph node. Completed within a 3 hour period, I don’t have time to process any of these steps or to think that the ultrasound did find something and that’s why I had the biopsy.
22 January – My partner (JT) and I go in and meet with the surgeon at Melb Breast Unit. We have tried to prepare ourselves for all possibilities, but it does all feel a little surreal. We are told that the pathology report shows cancer cells in the left breast and the lymph nodes. The surgeon keeps the information at a minimal, to allow it to sink in. She hands me a copy of the pathology report and some information about “Early Breast Cancer”. JT and I look at each other in shock.
25 January – I have a CT scan and a bone study. This is to determine how far the cancer has spread. By now some of what we have read is starting to sink in and we realise this is quite serious. We begin to make plans for the year ahead… or undo the plans we had.
27 January – Good news! The cancer hasn’t spread beyond my left breast and lymph nodes. The relief is unbelievable. Finally, we have some understanding of what we are dealing with. The cancer has parameters. Now we have to decide whether to have it removed next week via private or in 6 weeks via public.
29 January – Decide to go private and meet with surgeon to go over details.
1 February – Surgery! Mastectomy of left breast and removal of lymph nodes from left armpit. 2 hours. Now to rest and recover.
5 February – Pathology results from surgery… more than one cancer was in my left breast. The one I could feel was the big mama, but she had a few children. Also from the 21 lymph nodes that were removed, 9 of them had cancer cells. Wow! These cancer cells have been working their magic for some time. I am so lucky that it hasn’t gone any further.
So what is the next step? 6 months of chemotherapy, followed by radiotherapy of the breast, armpit and collar bone (all on the left side). I should have an appointment with a Medical Oncologist in the next week or so, and that will set out the chemo treatment and it’s frequency.
In the meantime, I will rest up and prepare myself for this next stage.