Sunday, July 29, 2012

three surgeons.....
I feel so special!!! NOT. I will have three appointments with three different kinds of surgeons over the next two weeks.

The first will be a well known thoracic surgeon at Emory to review my rib lesions case. He will hopefully let us know what is ahead with the management of the Hemangiomas of my two ribs. I'll be curious to hear what his concerns may be about any reconstruction of my right breast which is directly in front of one of my rib lesions. I'm hoping that it won't interfere with my mastectomy on that side. My oncologist referred me to this surgeon first out of several because he is the "conservative" one, the one not racing to practice his skills on this rare condition.

The next will be the plastic surgeon who will perform the reconstructions of my double mastectomy. The third will be the surgeon that performed my previous lumpectomy and will be the "dismantler" of my existing breasts. When I have the mastectomy surgery both the "dismantler" and the "builder" surgeons will practice their skills side by side. Along with choosing the plastic surgeon I've also been tirelessly researching the various methods of rebuilding the breasts or "foobs". 

Getting to the point where my surgeons have been chosen and appointments scheduled has been a painful and stressful process. Choosing the thoracic surgeon was not a problem––chosen/ recommended by my oncologist––and the general surgeon that did my lumpectomy was not a problem because I am already happy with him. It was the choice of a plastic surgeon that caused me the stress which in turn led to a 4 day obsession of studying the credentials, experience, schooling, patient feedback, and sample images of boob reconstructions galore!

I was online for hours at a time for days and I just couldn't stop myself. I compare it to shopping for a house to purchase.  It is hard to settle on one thinking that the next one will be better and your emotions lead you to continue the search even when you have found "the one".  I had asked my general surgeon to give me a referral and he gave me two names. I began the lengthy process of comparing the before and after pics of patients of the suggested docs with about twenty other surgeons online and just became more and more confused.

Finally God gave me the assurance that the first plastic surgeon's name given to me by my existing surgeon was the right one. Because the decision of choosing a plastic surgeon was the first decision in this cancer journey that was mine to own and not a life and death issue I think I just wanted to feel like I could take possession of this step - have some say about what my "foobs" will look like. Maybe just maybe I could have some control over some small step in this whole breast cancer thing––a life changing event that has taken me by such force and dragged me around by the hair for the last two months. I was just fighting back and taking control of some minute part of that. It is humorous that I was finally led right back to the straight path that God is leading me down as I trust in him and am acknowledging him in all things. It just took me a while to see that I could choose some things but still not have to lean on my own understanding. In the end he has given me peace again.

As stated in my profile to the right - this blog was to share some elements of life as an artist with breast cancer. Well I have shared about the cancer but have you noticed that there has not been one word about the artist part. I haven't painted since February of this year sad to say. Earlier this year my 84 year old Dad had open heart surgery and my Mom with Parkinson disease had issues that kept me from my part time job of painting. Because my husband and I have a full time cleaning service business my art time is relegated to nights and weekends. When extras in life happen my painting is the first thing to be sacrificed. Now the last two and a half months dealing my own health issues have continued to thwart my ability to paint. But I'll be back and hopefully as I recover from surgeries and not able to do the physical labor required in our cleaning business then maybe I'll be able to handle the more sedentary activity of creating new art.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

cancelled lumpectomy.....
Today’s appointment with my oncologist shed new light on the pathology report from the recent lumpectomy ( July 6 ). Because I have an EIC (Extensive Intraductal Component) positive status the risk of local recurrence is significantly higher. I still have the option of breast conservative lumpectomy but a complete removal of the breast with reconstruction is the choice that I am leaning heavily toward. So I cancelled the surgery on Friday until I have more time to consider options and do some more research on the matter.

If I opt for the mastectomy, then radiation will not be necessary nor would I have to have a mammogram every six months for the next 5 years. Either way I will have hormone therapy for 5 years. The higher risk of recurrence of the cancer in that breast is the main reason for considering the mastectomy over just taking more tissue out for better margins. My likely chances of more lumpectomies in the future in that breast would mean more carving at breast tissue and likely lead to a future mastectomy anyway. I have an appointment with the surgeon on Monday and will discuss my options then.

No more definite word on the rib/bone tumors. Because they are benign they can wait until after we deal with the breast cancer. Dr D has received conflicting opinions from the various thoracic surgeons consulted as to how to proceed. More doctors at Emory are being contacted––Dr D wants to find the best in Georgia to deal with this rare condition. He says that the surgery will be very complicated and severe––always something to look forward to!

No word yet on the insurance denials of claims. Humana is still investigating if the breast cancer and bone lesions are pre-existing and if they will pay for it all. They will pay but I'd love not to have to think about insurance right now. Thanks again for your many prayers as we make numerous decisions on my health management, business schedule, financial matters and more. Our spirits fluctuate between medium and high which is remarkable. God receives the glory for that!

Monday, July 16, 2012

lumpectomy #2......
I didn’t expect this post! The surgeon called today to give me the completed pathology report from surgery done on July 6th. He'd "tell me the good news first." My lymph nodes were clear ( he’d already told me that ) and that my tumor was a centimeter in size and is classified as a stage-1 breast cancer. The bad news was that he is not happy with the margins ( the distance between the removed cancer cells and the clear cells ) achieved from the surgery and determined from the pathology report. So... I am to undergo another surgery this Friday to remove more tissue from the areas. It will be the same surgery but no lymph node biopsy or directive wire needed this time. As before, I will be asleep and the procedure will be done out-patient.

There are so many surprises! I hear this is not uncommon but it was unexpected for me and Kenn. We have been trying to get back to regular work schedules with our clients but I know they must be frustrated with our constant changing of their "day" or missing their appointment altogether. But what understanding and supportive people we work for!!!! Several have paid us even when we couldn't work and others are offering to support us for a while as needed.

God has really blessed us and provided our needs in so many ways these last couple of months. Family and anonymous donors have helped make up for lost revenue and we are so very thankful to all who have offered prayers, friendly support and financial gifts. The multitude of prayers on my behalf have resulted in miraculous answers of peace, positive prognosis, faith, provision and clear direction. We have many more steps ahead in the treatment for the breast cancer as well as the management of the rib tumors but our faith having been so recently strengthened surely will carry us through it all––thank you to all who have so faithfully been loving us in so many ways.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

OK, girls, it isn’t that bad. Actually other than the first part before surgery, the procedure was just nothing to be anxious about. The mammogram and insertion of the guide wire ( to guide the surgeon to the tumor with exactness ) was a bit painful due to the deadening shots but we are adults and should be able to handle those by now. It was an outpatient procedure with the day beginning  at 7am and ending when we left the hospital at 3:30. I was a little sleepy but hungry ( nothing to eat since dinner the night before ) and Kenn took me to the Galaxy Diner for scrambled eggs. I went home to sleep off the pain pill and was up good as new Saturday morning.

No more pain pills were needed the next morning ( actually didn’t need the one I had after the surgery ) and I felt so normal that we went to a cookout with the church folks Saturday afternoon. Sunday I went to church, out to lunch and then to a neighborhood pool to sit on the side cooling my feet and visiting with friends. Monday we worked cleaning one house and took my Mom and Dad to lunch up in Marietta. So, you can see that the surgery was not something to stop life from happening as usual. This is an amazing time we live in!

I am happy to report that my lymph nodes were clear and some radiation treatment will complete my breast cancer management. I am so happy with the breast surgeon. He’s a great guy–cute too– and did excellent work. It was a surprise that there were no stitches, not even a bandage––glue was used! It waterproofed the incisions so that I could take a shower just 24 hours after surgery.

I’ll be seeing Dr. D next Wednesday to hear more about the radiation for the breast cancer and get some news on the management of the rib tumors. I have the name of the chief of thoracic surgery at Northside Hospital who Dr. D is referring me to. This will be interesting .......

The down side to it all has been dealing with the insurance company. I’ve learned that they are investigating my medical claims. They are holding payment on anything until they are convinced that my conditions are not preexisting. Their questions are understandable since my policy has only been in effect since March 1 this year––but none of my records will show anything existing pre-May 18th nor will any of my physicians indicate any condition existed before that time either. So when this investigation concludes, Humana will pay. Sorry guys––you are just out of luck.
What a hassle!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

summary of June ......
So much has been packed into a four-week span that I must reflect and see what I have learned. I believe that we are here on this earth to learn eternal lessons as well as earthly ones. I’ll take a moment to share a little of June’s curriculum:

  1-  don’t miss your mammogram––it can save a life! men, insist on your gal going!

  2-  have medical insurance and savings!

  3-  at least one of you must have a "real" job,  self-employment doesn't pay sick leave.

  4-  ladies, if you are going to have a lot of medical tests, have a large wardrobe of blouses that
       button up the front

  5-  if the nurse says a test will take an hour, plan on being at the hospital all day!

  6-  if you sit at the hospital all day, don’t be fooled into thinking you are going to get rest––you
       will be exhausted by the end of the day!

  7-  news is not truth

  8-  74 year old doctors communicate with their patients by iphone

  9-  when facing death, every morning in prayer is as necessary as oxygen ( now I see even 
       when not facing death it is still necessary )

10-  memorized promises from God will get you through needle biopsies

11-  being sick is a full-time job for two people! even when you, the sick one, has never felt better in
       your life

12-  prayer makes all the difference!

I’ve only traveled a little way on this journey but I’m hoping that the drama will lighten. By now, the fact that I have breast cancer has lost some of the sting. Compared to the prognosis that I was facing just a week ago at a 14% survival rate, now I think my prognosis is somewhere between a 82% to 92% five year survival. Great improvement but I'd bet on 100%!