Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Time to Dust off the Blog . . .

 The best thing I heard this week is: “the 2nd cancer won’t kill you but the first one might”.  I found great comfort in these words because most people (including me) feel shocked and devastated at a second cancer diagnosis. I am actually feeling the opposite now that I’ve had a chance to recover from the shock of hearing the news. I truly believe that the kind prayers, thoughts and messages from so many is what has helped me feel peace and be able to move forward with a clear mind and heart to seek solutions.

I am meeting with my surgeon at Huntsman on June 23rd and the plastic surgeon on July 5th. They said there is a good chance I can do surgery shortly after that. I’ve already decided I want to do a mastectomy again since this will be my best chance of getting rid of all breast cancer and avoid ongoing MRI’s. Since this cancer is noninvasive, there’s no sign that I would need to do chemo and radiation if I do the mastectomy, so another plus! So I’m actually excited to get this stuff out of me!

Since my left breast mastectomy in May 2011, I have had an MRI or a mammogram every 6 to 12 months to check for any issues in the right breast. Since my first cancer was considered hormone negative and I don’t have the BRCA gene, my doctor said that if it came back it would usually be within the first couple of years. 

This new cancer in the right breast appears to be unrelated and quite different (in a good way) than the first. So apparently I should go to Vegas since lightening has struck twice for me . . . In December there were some spots that showed up on the MRI that they thought was just dense breast tissue but wanted to check it again in 6 months. So I did the MRI and a mammogram on June 6th. 

My son Kimball was a little bit sick that day and was home with a babysitter. He is very inquisitive and wanted me to send pictures. So that’s why I have a random pic of me in the MRI machine - not realizing then that I was capturing a not so fun moment that would later turn out to be cancer. 

I used to get really nervous for the MRI’s - I mean, who loves sticking their entire chest into a massage-like bed that looks more like a torture chamber . . . It’s already hard to breath in that position but then they tell you to hold very still while the machine beeps so loudly that it feels like you’re going to lose hearing. About halfway through they start pumping blue dye through an IV to see what areas light up. It only takes about 25 minutes now, which is shorter than it used to be. I am thankful to report that as the years have gone by, it became more and more routine and I didn’t mind it so much. 

After the MRI I headed over to mammography and they did my scan. After a couple of snapshots, they asked me to sit in the waiting room and not change out of my robe yet. I thought that must just be a new thing but then they called me back in to do more pics. Then a third time to talk to the radiology doctor. She explained that the spots they thought were calcifications were not looking exactly the shape they should be and so they wanted to do a mamo-guided biopsy.

I have heard people explain mammograms in a horrible way, saying it is so painful and scary. I do not feel that way about them. I kind of look forward to it because it is one more step to knowing what is going on with my body. I feel that way about most medical treatments. About a month ago I had a colonoscopy done. Yes, the prep isn’t fun but I was excited for them to look at my insides and give me yet another confirmation of my body functioning correctly. It took a bit longer to recover from than usual because they biopsied my stomach to check for cancer and other things. While they did find potential Celiac disease - the surprising reason for my stomach pain the past few years, there was no stomach cancer.

I am truly grateful for the fact that I have no indication that I am going to die from this but that there is a treatment plan that will allow me to get to a better place than I am now. Most diagnosis for various diseases are not like this. As such I feel almost guilty that the “C” word gets so much more attention than other ailments that are, in many cases a lot more difficult to get through. 

If you’re reading this and you’re going through something, I’m talking to you. I know something of the pain you have felt in being alone and the uncertainty about your future and how things will turn out . While I have been surrounded by friends and loved ones during my cancer journey, I have been through many other difficulties where I have felt completely alone and was not able to share so openly as I am now. It is surprising to some when I say, this is not even close to the hardest thing I have been through in life. I know I’ll get through this and I’m blessed to have so many more reasons to fight and live than ever before. Thank you for reading and for your love and support. I love you back.