Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Western vs. Eastern Medicine

While perusing breast cancer communities and message boards there seems to be quite a distinctive split between the use of western vs. eastern medicine to treat the illness.  In one single post you will read about a woman who had a double mastectomy, radiation, chemo, and had to take tamoxifen, while another woman followed the Bill Henderson Protocol instead of doing any sort of surgery, chemo, or radiation.  The Bill Henderson Protocol is a strict diet that claims to kill cancer cells by changing the inner terrain of a person.  One woman claimed she was even cured of cancer because of this diet.

Now, I am certainly not knocking either treatment.  I believe a person should do what they think is best for her or him.  But to me, the best way to combat cancer would be a perfect balance between western and eastern medicine.  I think sometimes your body just can't fight off the bad, and therefore it needs a little help from doctors and surgeons.  I also believe that you shouldn't abuse your body.  You need to take care of it, inside and out, so it's important to treat it right.

In August 2011 I tried to become more aware of what I was eating and how it could effect my insides.  I also started to run and I think that has helped my overall health and happiness as well.  I never wanted to be THAT person... the person who obsesses over running... the person who runs on a treadmill, not going anywhere... the person who is running whilst not being chased... but I AM!  And I feel better because of it.  But, at the same time, I do not believe my body will just begin to fix itself on its own with just the help of flaxseed oil and cottage cheese.  It needs a little extra help!

So that's what I am doing.  I am giving my body a little extra help with the double mastectomy.  I'm not giving cancer a chance to grow back.  I will also continue to exercise and watch what I eat.  I know that if I treat my body well, it will do the same to me.

- J.

Monday, January 30, 2012

I've got a Date!

February 29th!  I couldn't think of a better date to have my surgery than February 29th.  A day that only happens once every four years.  I'll only be reminded of my surgery every 4 years, otherwise it'll be like it never happened.  I like that!

Today I met with a second plastic surgeon.  He was very nice and seemed just as competent as the first one I met on Thursday, but I decided to go with the first plastic surgeon.  It was a hard decision to make as I knew both of them could do the job equally well, but I guess that is a good problem to have... which super competent surgeon should I have work on me?!  Oh the trouble and turmoil of being me!

After my morning appointment with the plastic surgeon, I had another meeting with my breast surgeon.  She explained that I will have a skin sparing mastectomy.  Unfortunately, I won't have the nipple sparing part of it since my cancer is located right behind my left nipple.  And to be honest, I say just take everything and anything that can grow any bad, cancerous cells away.  I will still have a small amount of breast tissue that my doctor and I will have to monitor, but she explained that since the pectoral muscle will now be pushed up against the breast tissue it will be easier to feel any bad lumps that may form.  Another bright side... I only had to have my breasts squished to death once in my life for a mammogram.  I'll never have one ever again!

My recovery time will be anywhere from 4 - 6 weeks.  I can't drive for 2 - 3, so everyone needs to come visit me.  I demand it.  I don't know where I will be recovering just yet, but I plan on laying in a comfy bed for days, watching tv, perusing the Interwebz, and taking lots and lots of pain killers. 

Jealous?  You should be.

- J.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Plastic Surgeon Take 1

So I had my first plastic surgeon appointment the other day and it went exactly how I expected.  And the doctor was just how I expected a plastic surgeon would be - a little cocky, super confident, and very business-like.  But with all that being said, he was very nice and explained things really well to me.  So well in fact, that it made me feel better about everything that is about to happen.

He explained the 3 different types of reconstructive surgeries out there.  The first one would take fat from my abdomen and relocate it to my breasts.  The second one would take muscle from my back and relocate it to my breast.  And then there is the expanders + implant route.

Reconstruction Type 1 - Apparently I am not a candidate for the abdomen fat relocation, and I take that as a damn compliment!  In the examining room, the doctor grabbed my abdomen saying, "You could MAYBE get one breast out of that."  Thank you doc, I am flattered.

Reconstruction Type 2 - I am a candidate for this reconstructive surgery but the recovery time is much longer.  I'd wake up with breasts and be about 90% done with the reconstructive part, but I'd be out of commission much longer.  And I'd have scars at the donor sites on my back (not that I couldn't cover those scars up with more back tats...)  The doctor pinched the muscle on my back saying it would be perfect, but that just freaks me out a bit.  He pinched so hard that it almost felt like the Vulcan Death Grip via my back.

Reconstruction Type 3 - This is what I was expecting to do in the first place and this is what I am definitely going with.  The doctor displayed both the expander and implant to me.  The expander was super hard and that kind of surprised me... but it makes sense since it needs to work hard to expand the skin and what not.  The implant felt good to me.  I know my breasts will never feel the same again, but that implant wasn't too bad.  I approve.  I was surprised at first that every 17 years I'd have to get new implants, but that makes sense.  I just never had thought of it.

I am happy with how the consultation went.  I feel like the doctor spent a nice amount of time with me explaining all my options and making me feel comfortable with everything that is going to happen.  Tomorrow I have another consultation with a different plastic surgeon, so that will be good to compare the two and see which one I like the best and who makes me feel the most comfortable.  After that I am meeting with my breast surgeon and I should have a better idea of when my surgery will be and a better understanding of what will happen during the mastectomy part of the surgery.  

As per usual, I will keep you all updated.  Until then!

- J.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Let's get Everyone up to Speed

A condensed timeline of events, let's go!

12.30.2011 - Head to the hospital for my first diagnostic ultrasound ever.  After said ultrasound, I'm told to wait around for the doctor.  They then decide that maybe I should have a mammogram for both of my breasts, and I think, why not indeed?  Afterwards, I get to change and wait for the doctor.  Doctor comes in and I am told that I have intraductal papilloma with some calcifications.  What I hear, "it's not cancerous, so no big thing.  You'll get it removed and all will be well."  He can't do a biopsy on it because of the location.

01.05.2012 - I meet with a breast surgeon who explains the procedure for the papilloma surgery.  It doesn't sound too bad.  I won't have any noticeable scarring and I can be on my way.  But wait!  Doctor feels something on my neck.  I tell her I have a cervical rib.  She thinks it may be a lymph node and wants it checked out tomorrow.  Fine.  I know it's just my rib, but OK...

01.06.2012 - The ultrasound of my neck comes up clear.  I'm heading out the door to finally go back to work.  But wait!  A new doctor stops me to tell me that she can indeed do a fine needle biopsy.  She shows me my mammogram and even I can see that it just does not look right.  The little calcifications that I thought were all over my breast, are actually in a little row, like little ducklings right behind my nipple.  That can't be good can it?  Turns out it isn't good, and the fine needle biopsy comes back positive for cancer.  A genetic counselor is brought in and I offer up my spit in exchange for BRCA results.

01.09.2012 - Breast MRI.  It's all clear.  Whew.  Looks like the cancer is contained and hasn't spread.

01.11.2012 - Two more fine needle biopsies on a mass of dense tissue in my breast and one of my lymph nodes.  I am more concerned about my lymph nodes as I've already decided to get a double mastectomy no matter what.  The two fine needle biopsies come back clear.

01.16.2012 - I meet with a new breast surgeon.  I really like her.  She goes in to much more detail and explains that what I have may be DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ).  If this is true, that means I have Stage 0 Breast Cancer.  That works for me.  If I have to have breast cancer I'd like it to be Stage 0.  If it is DCIS that also means it is contained.  Contained is good too.  We'll just cut that baby off and be on our way.  Hopefully no radiation or chemo will be needed!  I have a core biopsy done to check the tissue around the area.  The doctor was hoping to get some of the calcifications too.  No luck.  And now my poor boob is bruised like whoa. 

01.18.2012 - The genetic counselor calls me and it turns out that I am negative for the BRCA-1 gene, BUT positive for the BRCA-2 gene.  This just solidifies in my mind all along what I was already thinking - double mastectomy.

I think that gets everyone up to date.  I'm sure I've left things out, but the timeline would be pages and pages if I went into detail.  Now I have meetings with plastic surgeons and one more with my breast surgeon.  I have a feeling this is the worst part of the diagnosis... once I have the surgery set up I'm just going to go with the flow.

- J.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Do you have a Family History of Cancer?

I've answered this a million times on doctor's questionnaires.  Yes.  Yes I do have a family history of cancer... specifically breast cancer.  My aunt was diagnosed in 1989 at the age of 36.  2 years later my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer as well.  My grandma always tells the story about how my aunt and mom did things in 2.  My mom and aunt were twins and when one would get a tooth, 2 days later the other one would get their tooth.  So when my aunt was diagnosed, it was only a matter of time that my mom would be diagnosed as well.

My mom and aunt put up quite a fight.  My aunt had a bone marrow transplant, while my mom was able to capitalize on "new" research and received a stem cell transplant.  That short 2 year gap, and the newly found research in breast cancer treatment gave my mom extra time.  My aunt passed away in 1996 when I was in eighth grade.  My mom was able to fight for 7 more years until she passed away in 2003 when I was a junior in college.

So, as one can imagine, my view of breast cancer is an extremely negative one.  I always knew that my chances of getting breast cancer were pretty high.  I never wanted to get the genetic test because I didn't want to live in fear (or add more fear to the fear I already had).  I knew one day the word "cancer" would be directed towards me, but I did not expect it to happen at the age of 29.  Sure, we are not invincible at any age, but come on!  Give me a damn break!

Now I am the next generation on my mom's side of the family with breast cancer.  Here I am, just carrying out the legacy.  But this time it's been caught early.  This time I have the knowledge and can take precautions to make sure it doesn't come back.  I've always wanted to kick cancer's ass for taking my mom and aunt away from me way too early... and now, I can do it.

- J.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My First Post

Yes, I know I have a blog on my personal website, but it's confusing and I just wanted an easy place to write down my thoughts and musings.  So here I am, on Blogger!

This blog will mainly be about my road to recovery, but it will also contain other random things in my life.  So don't get mad at me if a post steers away from the whole cancer thing.  I can't talk about that every day now can I?

I just wanted to get this blog up and running.  I have MUCH more to say and you'll get to hear all about it in the upcoming days / weeks / months.  For now, just sit back and relax... that's what I'm going to do.

- J.