On March 27th I had a lumpectomy to remove the cancerous tumor, they automatically preform a lymph node direction at the same time to check for cancer cells that have spread to the lymphatic system. In my case it was great news, the cancer had not spread and the first hurdle was crossed and it was time to heal before continuing on with more tests. My surgeon was wonderful and I healed up both quickly and with minimum discomfort.
On April 20th I met with my Radiation Doctor for information on how that whole procedure works. There is no "if" for radiation, it is standard care for follow up with breast cancer unless a mastectomy is done. Then on April 22 came the Dr. I was most scared to meet with, the Oncologist. Not only did I fear that visit because of the possibility of needing other treatments, but even saying the word Oncologist was admitting deep down that something awful was going on and I had to face it head on, no putting it off until tomorrow or next week, like I do with some things that I don't like to deal with. The up part of this equation is that she is wonderful! She is a warm person that makes you feel less apprehensive the instant you meet her, it is an almost superhuman quality for someone that has such a difficult job. At that appointment she ordered 2 tests, the first a BRCA test which is easy, you rinse your mouth with mouthwash then spit it into a cup, the lab then checks to see if you have DNA that puts you at risk for future cancers that will come back in one or both breasts or worse yet show up as ovarian cancer. If the test came back as positive then she would recommend a double mastectomy and either a total hysterectomy or just removal of the ovarys. The second test that was ordered was a ONCO test and it was done on my tumor that was removed. They look at the DNA of the cancer itself and determine if chemo-therapy is needed. The wait for these tests was about 2 weeks and that whole time was spent with a headache from nightly teeth grinding. Finally the results were back; the BRAK test showed that I had a less than 8% chance of the cancer spreading so there was no need for further surgery and the ONCO test came back an 11 out of a possible 100, which means that adding chemo to the treatment had no benefit. Great news since I was suddenly liking my greying hair more and more each day.
These tests were something that my insurance did not want to pay for and were over $7,500.00. I am so thankful that I am in a position to be able to pay for them, and shuddered because this would have been out of the question for us to even consider 7 years ago. Often the hospital or lab will preform the tests for patients as a "favor", but that is hit or miss. This is the one time I got so mad at my insurance company I could spit tacks! They told me they don't cover genetic testing, but its not like I was checking to see if my kids would have blue eyes, it was to determine my care. The flip side of that coin is that I don't know how we would have paid for ANY of this 7 years ago when neither of us had insurance. The total cost so far has been well over $50,000.00, and I haven't even started with radiation yet, I have no idea what 7 weeks of that will cost.
Last step after radiation therapy will be medication therapy, they will be putting me on a pill for 5 years that will stop estrogen and progesterone production, since those two hormones are what my cancer cells were "feeding" on, that's pretty common and I am more than happy to take a pill once a day to keep it from coming back.
I have had so much good news through this whole ordeal, in large part because I found this early and went right to my Doctor. My biggest message to all the ladies is if something is "off" go to your Doctor TODAY! So many changes have been made making this so very treatable, even since my mother had it 15 years ago, they didn't to any lymph node or DNA checking with her so all that is new and so helpful in treatment!
I will get back to blogging, although it will be a little spotty for a bit since Radiation times may vary and it may put me behind for the day.
Thank you to all of you for your kind words, cards, well wishes and prayers, they have meant so very much!!