Monday, December 6, 2010

Bad things happen in threes

Since my breast cancer has been the most eventful thing that has happened to me in years (I live a blissfully routine life), I wanted to give a blow by blow account of every step of the journey. And maybe I will later, but for now I will skip many of the painful details so I can let you know the outcome of my surgeries and what comes next.

I had a partial mastectomy and sentinel node biopsy a week ago, Monday, November 29. (Eight hours in the hospital, two in surgery, general anesthetic). I had moderate pain in the wound sites and a difficult intense burning sensation in the nerve that runs the length of the armpit on the body side (akin to a blow torch running up and down the skin). The doc weaseled when he talked about that pain. “Well, it may resolve itself in time.” Ouch. It hasn’t yet!

Anyway, I made good progress. I was up and about and off pain pills by Thursday when it was such a beautiful day here, almost 70 degrees (unheard of considering it had been 9 degrees just 5 days earlier!) I spent several hours out-of-doors soaking in some Vitamin D, but noticed something odd; I had lots of new cobwebby floaters in my left eye. I attributed it to being in bright sun light for the first time in days. But that night, as I was getting ready for bed, all kinds of bright, almost fluorescent flashes of light kept blinking on and off in the corner of my left eye.

Since I have glaucoma in that one eye, I knew something was amiss. Early the next morning I called my ophthalmologist in the Valley (he only visits up here once a week). His office got me into another eye doc’s office in Show Low that morning. As a result of that exam, I was diagnosed with a retinal tear. The upshot: Bob and I were scheduled to make the 3 ½ hour drive to Phoenix the next day, Saturday, where I would have emergency laser eye surgery (a procedure done to head off the far more serious and incredibly painful detached retina.) We would have to head directly back afterward because Bob had to deliver newspapers that morning.

Well, have you ever seen a copy of the Edvard Munch painting The Scream? I confess that when we got back in the car from the diagnostic exam I lost my composure. All I could do was sit there and open my mouth without any coherent sound coming out, just squeaks and blubbers. I was so overcome with all that was happening to us.

Bob calmed me down. He took me to lunch at my favorite Mexican place (La Casita) where I had the world’s best green chile and refried beans. Fortified, we headed off to Dr. Waldo’s office where I was to get the results of the partial mastectomy and node biopsy. This was what it was all about. Did they get the cancer it time?

On the way, I remembered the old cliché, “They say ‘bad things happen in threes.’ This eye situation is number three. That’s just got to mean I’ll get a good report from the surgeon.”

And I did.

The sentinel node biopsy showed no cancer. That rules out the spread of this cancer to other places in my body. And while Dr. Waldo, my breast surgeon, said there were cancer cells present at the site of the earlier lumpectomy (done way last month), he removed them and excised another 3 mm of tissue from one side of where it had been and 1.5 mm from the other side. Neither of those samples showed a presence of cancer. It’s what’s known as a clear or clean margin. Dr. Waldo summarized by saying, “In my mind, your breast is negative for cancer.”

I trust Dr. Waldo. He is not a guy that sugar coats anything. When I asked him if he cured my cancer he said, “Probably not. You’ll have to remain vigilant the rest of your life.”

In a month or so, when I am fully healed from these operations, I will start a five-week course of daily radiation treatments. There’s also the chance that the next doctors I consult after that (the oncology guys) will recommend some kind of drug treatments or chemotherapy. That will be a tough decision.

But for now I am confident I have bought a normal healthy life for another solid decade or maybe even two.

My eye looks scary, but the doctor said that procedure went perfectly. Life is good.

I so appreciate the love and concern you have showered me with.

Love to all,

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear things are going a little better.
    McPhreson is only 3 and half hours from Lincoln. If you go there this summer Bud and I can meet you there.