Friday, May 27, 2011

Thank Goodness for Children

At this morning's mass, during the Eucharistic prayer, Bella is barely enduring it all, when suddenly, she perks up, whips her head around to me and asks with wonder, "Mama, did the priest just say Smurfs?!"

It was heartbreaking to have to tell her no, but so delightful to have been asked. Can I live in her world for awhile?

At Least I Got 24 Hours

Of peace, that is. To enjoy the clean scan results, and the prospect of nine weeks without drama. However, I am getting the clear message that long-term peace is not to be mine, at least not yet.

I saw my oncologist yesterday, ready to rejoice with him in my stunning scan results. Instead, he expressed concern--to my complete surprise--about the developments in the right breast. Apparently, he did not like what was seen on PET combined with MRI, even though I thought it was fine (I guess I should have gone to medical school!). So, he is sending me off to the surgeon for a biopsy.

This is not something I would have chosen. In fact, when he asked me if I wanted a biopsy, I actually snorted and laughed as I shouted, "NO!". But apparently this was a rhetorical question. Though I would have preferred to ride it out the nine weeks and see, he was pretty insistent that I have this done, so I will do it.

But it's not all bad...he let me know that it was because he doesn't think I'm going to die of the original cancer any time soon that he is choosing to be aggressive with this, and that is nice. Too many Stage IV patients are essentially written off by their doctors and not treated because they see no point. In contrast, I was told yesterday I was "salvagable" (who knew I could ever be so happy to be described by that particular word?) and therefore deserved the full work up. Doesn't mean it's malignant.

But it does mean I'm going for another whirl on the roller coaster when I really, really wanted to get off. Hang on, here we gooooooooooo! (I hope I don't throw up.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Doing the Happy Dance

Scans came in today, and they are completely clear of progressing cancer!

The new spots in the right breast are seen but not metabolic, which indicates they are benign. The T9 vertebrae is healed as a result of the stereotactic radiation (which I am thrilled about but did not expect since it still hurts quite a bit). The rib lesion is still mildly active but much reduced in intensity from the last scan 5 weeks ago.

My liver is clear. Totally clear of anything abnormal at all. This is the most calming news of all, as the strange abdominal pressure and appetite changes I have been experiencing continue. But since two scans now have shown nothing unusual, I am ready to peacefully accept these symptoms are due to something else and are nothing to worry about. I really needed that peace of mind and am grateful to my doctor for ordering this extra scan for me so I could receive this great gift.

What a roller coaster of stress and emotion and worry this has all been these past few months. I am so, so happy for this reprieve and fully intend to enjoy these nine weeks until my next regularly scheduled scans (when I am sure to begin to worry all over again...because I am all too human).

Thanks for all your support and prayers during these past few months as I have dealt with my first real bump in the road since initial diagnosis. I am sure it will not be the last, but in the meantime I am going to appreciate every moment of this period of, as the radiologist so beautifully reported it, "decreasing disease".

Monday, May 23, 2011

Can Someone Explain How This Happened?

I woke up on Friday morning, May 20, to find a teenager in the bed my little boy used to sleep in.

This man-child is huge, with feet the size of scuba flippers, and--gulp--hairy legs! He is taller than me, and nearly as tall as his father. He has a smile the size of Texas with a heart even bigger than that. He is lean and muscular, hysterically funny and witty as all get out. He makes me laugh every day and continually delights me with his character, which I could not be prouder of.

I am so happy that this newly minted teenager still likes to hang out with me and his dad. He talks to us about all sorts of things and delights in telling us stories and dumb jokes. He wants us to see the things he thinks are funny and tell us about things that concern him. I hope and pray that he does not change in this regard.

He is a wonderful--though requisitely obnoxious and torturous--big brother to his six younger siblings, and sets a good example in honesty and integrity. He has chosen quality friends and is loyal and objective.

I can't believe that my little boy is officially a teenager. How did this happen? I blinked and he grew up. Now comes the fun part!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

And Now for Some Good News

Yesterday we had Joey's tri-annual IEP review. Every three years the school evaluates the resource children to see how they are doing. They talk to all their teachers, test them to see if they need more or less services, and then make a recommendation to the parents.

Joey's review could not have been more positive. His teachers unilaterally called him hard working, intelligent and kind. All have seen progress this year in his physical writing skills (except spelling which remains atrocious). He is making As and Bs with no resource help whatsoever, so he has been moved to a "monitor" status, which means he is out of resource advisory and will check in with the resource teacher now only periodically or if he needs something.

We are so proud. Just a few years ago we were consumed with worry about our child who was not progressing in school. We would have done anything, paid anything, ransomed anything to hear the news we got yesterday. As a complete bonus, he has turned out to be quite the track star, solidly winning three sprints at his last meet. All this has combined to give him the confidence he was lacking for so long. We are literally watching him blossom and realize the potential we always knew he had.

Happy, happy, happy.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Totally Backwards MRI

Well, the long-awaited MRI results came in today. They were...interesting.

As you may recall from my last post, I have a large mass that has recently developed in my left breast in same location as the original cancer. Even though it did not show up on my recent PET/CT, I was insistent that something was wrong, hence the MRI which is clearer imaging for the breast.

When the MRI was done, I showed the tech the mass and asked afterward that she check to be sure she saw it. She did see it and was able to show me on the screen the area that corresponded the the mass we could see and feel. I left happy in the knowledge that it had indeed been captured and would be properly analyzed.

So, the good news is that the mass is nothing to worry about (and I now believe this since two different imaging systems agree). The radiologist referred to it as likely post surgical changes (interesting, since I never had surgery) but classified it on the BI-RAD scale (1 being nothing seen at all and 5 being without a doubt malignant) as a Category 2, benign. I am now officially ready to put this to rest.


There are two new suspicious lumps in the right breast. I cannot feel them, and they are still quite small, about 6 mm each. These fall on the BI-RAD scale at category 4B, which means "suspicious abnormality, biopsy recommended". I immediately got out my MRI from my original diagnosis and was a bit dismayed to learn that my original cancer was classified as a Category 4C.

Why am I concerned, you may ask, since I already know I have cancer and it has already spread through my body? Because breast cancer, as far as I understand, does not spread to the other breast. It spreads out of the breast into bones, lungs, liver and brain, but does not infiltrate the healthy breast. Therefore, if these lumps are indeed malignant, they will indicate a new primary cancer.

It would be strange for me to have a second primary since I didn't have any risk factors for the first one, but I have been on a trial drug for quite some time and have received more radiation than the average person, so who knows? I suppose anything is possible. A new primary could have the same biology or completely different biology as the first one. Sometimes, even different lumps in the same breast have different pathologies. That means, if these new lumps are malignant and are not HER2 positive, they would not respond at all to the drug I am currently on. However, since these are still so small, I suspect they can likely be easily dealt with through a lumpectomy. But what do I know.

I am going to wait until I see the NP on Thursday before I get too excited about all of this, but it is definitely a setback for me mentally. There is a decent chance it may not be malignant at all. My doctor may not even recommend a biopsy at this point, preferring to wait for the next PET (in fact, I am guessing that will be his strategy). But at the end of the day, it is another thing to worry about, more tests on the horizon, more waiting and more anxiety. I would be lying if I said this was all easy to take.

Nonetheless, I am choosing to focus for now on the fact that the big mass seems to be nothing to worry about. Let's take our victories where we find them, shall we?

Now, I believe I have some children to tend to!