Monday, September 26, 2011

Soul Mates

For those of you that don't know, I spent Saturday watching two people who are meant for each other get married. The wedding was the whole point of this trip back to Canada, and since it was my sister's it would have been crushing to miss it. When my infection was discovered Tuesday morning both Paul and I were quite worried it would mean the trip was off the table. Luckily, it was not.

One of the silver linings of cancer, and believe me I am always looking for them, is the opportunity it provides to really reflect on your life and the people who are in it. About a month before I was diagnosed someone asked me if Paul was my soul mate. At the time I said I thought that he was but that I also didn't believe that there was just one person out there for each person. I really believe you can have multiple soul mates and that you don't have to be married to all of them. Some of them will be friends and others will be family. I have had the great fortune to meet some people that I really believe I am meant to know. This experience has only reaffirmed that for me.

It has also proven to me that I made a great choice 6 years ago when I went to a party I wasn't all that interested in attending. I met the soul mate that has become the most important to me and has been a complete rock throughout this. I don't know how everyone would react to finding out their spouse has cancer - I only know that mine has been amazing. He has put himself in charge of tracking all of my medical records and all of the insane paperwork that comes with a cancer diagnosis. And he has never once complained about having to regularly drop everything he is doing so he can give me a hug. If nothing else positive can be said about cancer, I can say this: I have definitely found my soul mate and he is going to help me kick cancer in the ass.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Results are IN!!!

First, the good news. My cancer is Stage 1, grade II. This is news I was mostly expecting but it is still nice to have the pathology report to confirm it. And in other good news, the cancer is not the dreaded triple negative. I don't know why that is a worse kind of cancer but it is. I suspect it has something to do with having less treatment options. My tumor is positive for both estrogen and progesterone which means it is fuelled by both of those hormones. For those of you who like internet researching I have IDC, stage 1, grade II ER+/PR+ cancer with the Her2 status yet to be defined. For the Her2 status, I am right on the border between + and - so they are going to do one more test to determine if I would benefit from herceprin. I'm not sure, but it seems that positive Her2 status isn't such a great thing as it means the cancer is more agressive and more likely to reoccur. However, there is also a drug tailored to treat cancer of this kind and it seems to be quite successful at reducing reoccurrence. I have to do a lot more research (read: Paul has to do a lot more research and then tell me about it) but this herceptin sounds like unpleasant stuff. But then, so does mostly everything to do with cancer treatment.

The good/bad news is I will have to do a whole whack of treatments and therapies. The next 5 years of my life will be spent getting treatment for cancer. Chemo, then radiation, then hormone therapy. I'm glad to get it all - anything I can do to reduce my chance of a reoccurrence is something I am going to do. I'm scared about how much chemo will suck and about being bald or gaining weight - you know, all the great stuff that comes with chemo. On the upside, there is a chance chemo will make me lose weight. Yes, another silver lining! However, all this treatment means definitely no kids for the next five years. In more depressing news, it also means there is a chance that there will never be kids. Right now I can't worry about that too much. I have to make sure I'm around in five years first, but let's face it, if I can't pass on my genetic awesomeness the world loses.

The straight up bad news is my surgery site is infected. If I were not leaving for Canada today this would be less of an issue but since my surgeon can't see me for the next ten days he took an aggressive stance on treatment. Guess who had minor surgery this morning? Guess who wishes she could un-see the inside of her breast? (As an aside, it really does look like those boob models they show you in health class - fatty tissue in yellow bumpy waves. It was crazy!) Did you guess me? Smart readers! The doctor numbed me up and excised the infected tissue. That is a nice way of saying he cut it out. While I was awake. And could see. I tried not to look but curiosity got the better of me a handful of times. Oh Laura, when will you learn? You never want to know what you look like on the inside! He also drained the fluid that was building up in the hole left by Ethel with the hugest syringe I have ever seen. It looked like a lot of serum (yes, that is what they call it) came out but I asked and it was only 30 cc's. I guess that is still a fair amount but it is only two tablespoons.

Anyway, I have to wrap this up as my plane is boarding. Canada ho!

Monday, September 19, 2011

MUGA (It's the name of the test, not me losing my mind and ability to make words)

Today I went for the heart test. Still no pathology report but since they tried to bill Paul for all the tests they ran on Ethel after her removal we are pretty sure we will be getting the results tomorrow. The internet tells me that often women find this to be the most stressful time. But it also seems like I already know a lot more than most women do about their cancer. I already know (with 95% certainty, I guess the rapid lab tests they do during surgery so the doc knows when to stop cutting can be wrong some of the time) that Ethel is gone and she didn't go to my nodes. I also know she is roughly 1 cm. Once she was out they were going to measure her more precisely but it seems unlikely she will be much more than that. I saw her mapped on one ultrasound at 1.1 cms. They measure her at the widest point and this helps to determine staging.

Anyway, what that long rant was supposed to tell you is this: I'm worried-ish about the pathology report but not nearly as worried as I was before the biopsy results. Like, not even on the same scale of worry. This is like a "oh well" kind of worry and that was like a "THERE IS A TSUNAMI COMING AND IT IS RADIOACTIVE AND ALIENS ARE THE ONES MAKING IT AND THEY WANT TO MAKE US ALL INTO SLAVES a la PLANET OF THE APES!" level of worry. In truth, even if a newsperson said that for real on the real news I might be less freaked out then I was. Though the alien invasion scenario is a hard scenario to imagine so maybe that is why I can't get too worked up about it. Either way, you get the picture.

Today I got two more injections; one that was downright unpleasant and one that was fine. After, I sat around for a bit and then they hooked up some electrodes to me and put me under another large machine. Again, the internet tells me that what they did was shoot me up with radioactive isotopes that will bond to red blood cells. By tracking how those red blood cells move through the heart they can determine how much blood my heart is emptying from a ventricle with each pump. If the ventricle is emptying between 60% and 80% of the blood in there, I am in the normal range and deemed worthy of receiving chemo, which once inside me will then (maybe) attack my heart. It is one of the nastier side effects of one of the chemo drugs that is regularly used to fight breast cancer but it is also one of the rarer side effects. However, telling me something is unlikely these days doesn't mean much cause guess what - getting breast cancer at 30 is REALLY, REALLY, REALLY UNLIKELY! I should probably add another "really" or two but I think I have made my point.

The award for "stupidest thing you can do while near a person getting a MUGA" goes to my lovely translator volunteer. I would have thought this went without saying but during the test he took it upon himself to enlighten me as to what was going on. "How did he do this?" you ask. Well, he didn't describe it! No, he took a picture of the monitor with his phone and then he shoved his phone in my face. Did I mention I was in a machine at this point? Did he put his hand and phone into the field of the test? You betcha! I figured this would have been covered in "Volunteering 101: Places you Should Not Put Your Phone (or Hand)" but apparently, not so much. I didn't want to be rude (maybe I need to get over that?) but all I could think was DON'T PUT THAT IN HERE. On his second approach with the phone (WTF) I did tell him it probably wasn't a good idea to do that and that made him profusely sorry. I mean, the poor kid meant well but honestly, I was worried he would ruin the test results and I would have to do this all over again. He also kept talking to me and I wasn't sure I was allowed to talk. Finally I asked him to talk to the tech when he came back in the room and make sure I could actually talk. I'm pretty sure while asking whether speaking was okay he also mentioned the phone incident. I'm not positive as this discussion was all in Korean but he was gesturing with his phone and at me. The tech didn't seem worried about the phone and said I could talk so crisis averted? We'll see!

Either way, I'm pretty sure I'll eventually have to do that damn test again but not until I'm well into chemo and that is at least a month or two out so I'm not thinking about that now. I'm doing this a day or two at a time. I worry about the impending appointment or test and not much beyond that. So far, this policy has served me well. It has also made time slow down. Want to make sure your life doesn't flash before your eyes? Obsess about things in 1 or 2 day increments - it helps!

And with that sage advise, I will bid you adieu. I have to go pack since I am getting on a plane tomorrow and flying to Canada for my sister's wedding. Hurrah!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

No Longer the Bionic Woman

This will likely be a short post as I don't really have that much news. Today I saw the doctor and he took out half of my stitches and the boob tube. Man, was I glad to see that thing go. It is hard to look your best when you have a bottle of boob goo attached to your belt or pants at all times. Plus, I worried that I was grossing other people out.

Since I was released from the hospital after my surgery I have been measuring the output daily. So everyday, I dump this sludge into a container and then I suck it up with a syringe to measure the output. I know this sounds gross. It is gross. That doesn't mean I didn't sort of enjoy it. I had to record the amounts in a diary the hospital gave me. When I met with the suregon today and basically begged him to remove the drain he asked me to recite how much liquid I had been oozing. I told him, but he later double checked with Paul. Perhaps he could sense my desperation to have it removed and thought, maybe, I was being a liar pants. Once Paul showed him the diary he agreed. It seems they like you to be under 10 cc's before they will remove the drain. I was at less than half that so FREEDOM!

I'm going back tomorrow so they can pull the rest of the metal stitches out. This sounds worse than it is. I couldn't really feel the stitches being removed. I could however, smell myself. Oh sweet shower, you will be mine tomorrow. Paul assures me he can't smell me but then, he doesn't really smell that well. And he loves me, so he might be lying to me. Or maybe it's a bit of both.

Still no pathology report. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe Monday. We will be at the hospital both days. On Monday I get two more needles of some other non-disclosed liquid to help the doctors look at my innards. This test will be to see if my heart can handle chemo. There is no reason to assume it can't, I work out, I'm young, but I guess they like to check these things. Better safe than sorry, I say. Especially because it will be me who is sorry if it turns out my ticker can't hack it. I'm not worried about that.

I am a teensy bit worried about airport security. Our hope is to get on a plane the following day. I don't know what they screen for at airports these days but I do know that in the past 10 days I have been injected 4 times with "stuff" and I know at least 3 of those "stuffs" were radioactive. I also know I have two more injections coming up. Am I going to be setting off security alarms? I'm going to ask for a doctor's note, or at least see if this is a legit concern. I guess, worst case scenario, I can just pull out my boob. I mean, why not the security guards too? Right?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Gross Things I Forgot to Mention

As I've mentioned before, part of the intent of this blog is to help other young women who get breast cancer sort of know what to expect. I'm pretty sure that no one has just stumbled on to my blog but you never know. If I knew how to make my blog more searchable that would help. Anyone?

I know that so much of how cancer is treated depends on how old you are, where it is, what stage it is and probably a lot of other things I don't know about...yet (I bet I'm going to become an expert on breast cancer) but if I can pass along any wisdom, or even just a heads up, then I am happy to do it. In my rush to get my blog updated yesterday I forgot to talk about the two procedures I had in the morning prior to surgery. I suspect that these would be pretty typical for someone getting a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy. They were also kind of insane in a "you are going to do what?" sort of way, so my readers might enjoy hearing about them.

My first stop was the ultrasound room in the breast cancer clinic. Apparently my lump was not palpable (did I mention how frigin' lucky I am that they caught this when they did?) so the doctor planned to get a guide-wire put in. Yes, they use guide wires in boobs! Who knew. Unfortunately this procedure was done sans freezing. Barbarians!!!! Okay, I'm exaggerating but still it wasn't what I would call pleasant. I'm beginning to suspect Ethel had feelings because she certainly objected whenever anyone put needles in her. Friday was probably a rough day for her but since I have wished her a speedy death, I have trouble feeling too bad about her pain. As an aside, I should probably stop personifying her as I'm beginning to feel guilty.

Okay, back to the point - the tech, using ultrasound, put a piece of wire in to point out the lump. The wire looked bigger than your average needle but then, I wasn't super calm at that exact moment so it probably wasn't. Once she had poked Ethel she wrapped up my boob with the wire still sticking out. I'd say it was out about 5 cm. Certainly not something I was expecting at 7:30 in the morning.

Next stop was back to nuclear medicine. Now you may recall that I listed the bone scan as my favorite test. This was the same machine but this was not my favorite test. As I was laying there for this test I was debating whether I disliked this one more than the MRI. In the end I came to the conclusion that I did not but it was close. In this particular test radioactive isotopes were injected into Ethel. FYI, radioactive isotopes in the breast burn like a mother! Made all the worse by the subsequent massage. I guess the massage (which is weird but remember that whole post about saying goodbye to modesty) helps get the isotopes up into the lymph system so they can establish the sentinel node. After a few minutes she came back with a needle-like thing and a pen. She used the needle-like thing to track the isotopes and then drew on me. She was able to establish the node, she marked it and off I went back to my room to continue waiting.

I'm back home now, which is awesome since the TV in the room turned itself on every morning at 6:30, breakfast was served promptly at 7:30 and people came in and out of the room ALL NIGHT LONG. I plan to get a good sleep tonight, maybe even the first since my terrible biopsy on the 27th. The only gross thing, besides the fact that I haven't showered since Thursday, is the drain that is still in me. Tomorrow I have to measure the amount of "stuff" that comes out and write about it in this journal that the hospital gave me. Paul says if I can't stomach it, he will. What a good man.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Boob Tube

First, let me say that Ethel doesn't live here any more. And in even better news, while Ethel was a completely unwelcome visitor, she was also pretty good to me during her stay. She left without packing up my breast, instead leaving with a lump of tissue about 3 cm by 5 cm. The surgeons also took three lymph nodes to biopsy for cancer and they were all clear! YAY! This is the best possible news I could have gotten. Well short of someone saying "Hey, that lump isn't cancer!" which wasn't really a possibility. So celebration all around! (I celebrated by drinking water at 5:00 pm yesterday. It was delicious. Paul also let me have 10 spoonfuls of gelato before he apprehended it from me.)

Want to hear about my surgery? Of course you do, that's why you're here. At about 11:00 am yesterday a nurse came in to start an IV. They opted for my foot since there was a possibility that I would be getting flopped all over during surgery. The nurse starting this IV was so nervous because my veins were not easy to find. I guess it is because I have cold feet which means the veins are smaller to begin with and I hadn't had any water or food in about 12 hours so I was dehydrated. After much debate she settled on her vein of choice. But first, I had to don my lovely compression stockings. Yes, that's right. I went into surgery wearing nylons. I guess this helps with preventing clots. All I know is I plan on keeping these things to use for long flights since I also get cankles when I fly now. Like, seriously body, what are you doing to me?

After the IV was started we sat around for another hour until someone showed up to wheel me to the OR. I rode there on a bed which made me feel slightly ridiculous but by then I had already been given some shot of something meant to help relax me so I didn't feel totally ridiculous. I think it helped because in the pre-op room there was a Korean woman wailing and some part of me knew that should freak me out but mostly I was just enjoying staring at the ceiling. I'd like to think ordinarily I would have more empathy for others in pain.

Then into the OR where I met my anesthetist. We spoke for about 11 seconds, he wished me a sweet dream and someone put a mask on me. I was breathing in this scented oxygen thinking "I don't think this stuff is working" and then suddenly I though I could understand all the Korean being spoken in the room and everyone was talking about crazy foreigners and how anesthetic never worked on them. This clearly is not the case because the next thing I knew I was back in recovery. Chances are I didn't suddenly become fluent in Korean as I can't understand it now. I'll just assume my brief sojourn into fluency was actually the drugs. Anyway, first thing I did after waking up was feel myself up. Although I have a lot of dressings on the wound and a compression garment I was pretty sure that I still had my boob. Hurrah!

One of the things I was super impressed with here is the way they keep families up to speed on what is going on. Like in an airport where you can check in on flight status, you can do the same thing here. A board will tell you when your loved one is in pre-op, getting surgery and in recovery. Here is my board:

Once the pain was more under control I got wheeled out to meet Paul. He was actually the one to give me the good news about Ethel. I suppose it is possible that someone had already told me this in recovery but I was still pretty out if it and in quite a bit of pain. He was quite shocked that I had no idea as he had known what the deal was for about an hour by the time he saw me. Again, thanks to drugs, I wasn't too concerned that no one had told me anything. Once back in the room I got more drugs (hells yes) and had a tiny nap.

It was only after waking from this nap that I became aware of the drain. I won't post pictures of that because, frankly, it's gross but it did inspire the title of this post. I have my very own "boob tube". Basically it is a tube coming out of the incision so all the fluid that would normally be building up inside me has somewhere to go. All of this stuff is going into a bottle which looks kind of like a super turkey baster that has been deflated - I guess to act as a slight vacuum. I'm told it helps with healing. All I know is I have a bottle of blood in my front pocket. Yes, I know, it's gross and maybe I didn't have to share that last part but I just can't help myself. To make up for it, please enjoy this picture of me post-surgery, eating my Korean dinner and looking gorgeous.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Decisions, Decisions....

I'm lucky that this process has moved at such lightening speed. I know a woman in Canada who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 27. It took them three months to finally make the diagnosis. For me, it will have been 23 days from the day Ethel was discovered until the day she gets evicted. The only downside is that we have been asked to make decisions as break neck speed. So far, there haven't been that many but today I had to make decisions about if and how I want to rebuild my breast if Ethel ends up getting the best of it.

The day began with a meeting with our potential plastic surgeon. He spent the entire meeting massaging a silicone implant which I only really noticed in retrospect after Paul pointed it out. I think it was a nervous tick. He was, after all, depending on a young, male volunteer to translate everything he was saying. And our poor volunteer! This kid couldn't have been more that 25 and he had to talk about breasts with some woman he has never met before. Bless his heart, he did such a good job and was so professional but his forehead was literally beading with sweat when he first started the translation for us.

Let me just break away from the surgery at hand discussion for a second to talk about this other thing that is kind of weird: my breasts are now a normal topic of conversation. Paul discusses them with coworkers, I have a blog about them, they end up on display with startling regularity. I don't even feel that embarrassed about it but I do occasionally pause to think about the fact that many people are probably thinking about my rack way more than they were two weeks ago. And that is super weird, I'm just saying.

Anyway, we've made a decision and now hope that it is one we won't need. The doctors still seem pretty confident that a lumpectomy is an option. But just in case, they sent over another doctor this evening. He took picture, after picture, after picture. See, everyone has seen my girls by now. Oh, but it gets better. After all the pictures he started drawing on me. Lines on my back for where they might take tissue, lines on my collar bone, lines on my rib cage. I look ridiculous. No, there will not be pictures of that. But here is one of me taken after I stopped being a colouring book. Please note the hospital pajamas that I have to wear at all times.

Finally, I will leave you with my good news. The results from my tests have come back and Ethel seems to have been a well-behaved squatter. We won't know about the lymph nodes until after the surgery but in all other respects she seems not to have ventured beyond my breast. I'd like to say something positive about her for that but frankly, we aren't on speaking terms. She is getting the boot - tomorrow, actually. I guess until then we will just try to be civil roommates.

Here is a bonus photo. I'm too tired to figure out funny things to say about this photo but it sums up how I spent a good chunk of my day - laying on my bed in my silly outfit waiting for some medical professional or other to come in and tell me something or draw on me.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

MRI? Add more Dye

See how I made the title rhyme. I'm pointing this out because I am particularly proud of that one. It just came to me. Anyway, I digress....yesterday I had a bone scan and a contrast MRI. Both required needles filled with unknown substances and then laying very still while being shoved into machines. On my scale of how much I like these tests, so far the bone scan has been my favorite, followed by the PET scan, then I'm going to leave some spaces for future tests which I'm sure will be better than the MRI and then the MRI.

Now, I know many people have had MRIs and said they were fine. Maybe those people didn't need the contrast dye? Or - and this might be the more realistic option - maybe I am a giant baby? For mine, I had to lay on my stomach with the girls pushed through two holes. I think so they would hang just right, I'm not really sure. My arms were above my head and my chin was sort of jammed into this pillow. MRI tubes are not that wide so let me offer some advice to you, it's free, so listen up! If you ever have to get one try to make sure your appendages are not touching the tube wall. The vibrations from the giant magnets in combination with my weird positioning made my arms fall asleep in about 5 minutes. That was probably the worst past because by about 20 minutes it was pretty painful. Well, that and the contrast dye which is cold going in and then feels like fire. They have you on an IV the whole time and at about the half way point you can tell that suddenly new elements are being introduced. The cold introduction was fine but the hot body after-burn was less enjoyable. I was actually dripping sweat during this test and I soaked the pad I was laying on. Just picture that for a while. Go ahead, I'll wait.... I know, I don't look that good, do I?

They did give me a panic button but I was able to complete the test without sounding the alarm. I came close a few times because they don't really explain how weird is too weird when it comes to what you feel when the dye enters your system. I know that I am prone to hyperbole and panic when it comes to my health but I have been trying to suck it up. So far this philosophy, coupled with deep breathing, has been a success. I'm such a trooper.

The bone scan was a breeze. You get a needle, four hours later you lay on a bed and an xray machine zaps you for about 30 minutes. However, the actual needle was a bit weird. First, the guy giving it does so from behind a metal wall with this glass plate for him to see what he is doing. It makes you wonder just what the heck they are putting in you when the dude is behind metal.

Second, the guy giving the needle had this back and forth plunge method. I have a STRICT no look policy but Paul watched the injection. It seems he wanted to be very sure that the stuff he was pumping into me was going into a vein so he made sure to see blood before taking the final plunge. Luckily I could not feel this at all. I have a feeling my aversion to needles is going to be completely solved by the end of this whole ordeal. Look! Another silver lining!

Til next time,

Monday, September 5, 2011

Laura - Now in 3D Imaging

Today was PET scan day. What is a PET scan, you ask? Hell if I know, and I've had one done. Apparently it is a really good picture of what is going on in your body and somehow it involves something nuclear. There were radiation signs all over the rooms we were in today. One of the down sides to getting treatment in Korea: all the signs are in Korean. Everyone is very nice and does their best to explain what is going on, but their English only goes so far. My level of Korean is enough to order food and give taxis directions. It certainly cannot talk medicine so thank goodness these nice people have learned what they have.

We were taken to the cancer centre this morning. Let me tell you, walking into a cancer centre as a place where you yourself are going to get treatment is a trip. I don't think I've fully adjusted to this whole "I have cancer" business. First stop was a small changing booth where I got robed in Korean hospital garb. Hospitals make you wear pajamas that are branded. I don't know why, maybe it is so if a patient escapes on to the streets of Korea they can be easily returned to their rightful hospital. I have seen people at the 7-11 in these pajamas with their IV stands, so I know you are allowed to leave. I don't get it, but I like it. Of course, the pants and the sleeves on the top were a bit too short but it all fit, and I was happy. Every time I am given pants here I worry that they are not going to fit and then what am I going to do? Walk around pants less? In the end, I didn't correctly tie the robe top up but a lovely old Korean lady pointed out my error and I fixed that easily enough. It is amazing what sign language can accomplish.

After this they started a line in the back of my hand and to be sure I wasn't allergic to CT dye put a drop of it in my eye. I willingly submitted to this, if you can believe it, but in retrospect testing for allergies on my eyeball has not been my favorite idea. Whatever, the eye ball is intact so I guess they know what they are doing. I've decided to try making this a bit more visual so I made Paul take a picture of my IV. He took a full body shot too but it was blurry. In the future I will have to review his work more carefully.

Following my non-reaction I was led to a tiny room where I was put on a waiting bed. I asked if Paul could come with me, which I know always surprises these people but they let me. So he got to sit at the end of the bed while this young Korean man held up some of the biggest syringes I have EVER seen. I'm pretty sure I made a noise and immediately covered my eyes with my non-IV'ed hand. This was the radioactive dye! Yes, that's right, as I type this I am more radioactive than the average human. He shot me up, I squirmed more than it hurt because, people, it was scary, and after about 40 minutes of laying there, the real fun began.

Since I was trying to be zen, most of my time in the PET machine was spent with my eyes closed, deep breathing. Probably this thing would be SO MUCH FUN to just try but since I was in there having people look to see if Ethel is wreaking havoc on my body, it was less fun. I will tell you this - it looked like two white giant donuts that I got passed through. Several times. They didn't make that much noise, just a hum that sounded so much like an approaching subway I just imagined I was on a subway platform. Well, laying on one, with my eyes closed. So I guess I was pretending I was one of the homeless people in the subways here? I don't know. In all it took about 30 minutes.

For the final part of the test, they add some contrast dye to your system. The young Korean who had been overseeing this whole thing came back into the room to fiddle with my IV and add this stuff. As he was doing this he said, "If you have any unusual side effects, just yell really loud." Yes, that was quite comforting. I immediately asked for clarification as to what "unusual side effects" are but he didn't really respond. This is radioactive dye after all. And if Paul's comic books have taught us anything, this is how 65-70% of all superheros are created. Is superhuman strength an unusual side effect? What about the ability to shoot webs out of my wrists? Of course, I said nothing nearly as creative as this and just said "is it supposed to feel this warm?" and he smiled and nodded and shoved me back in the donut tube.

So far, I've been out of the tube for 5 hours, I've had one nap (does radioactive dye make you very tired?) and I have had no indication that I am going to be the next superhero crime fighter (or I have, and that last statement was just a herring to throw you off my trail. Ha HA!). In fact, I feel fine. Maybe that is the craziest part of cancer - I don't feel any physically different knowing I have cancer than I did when I didn't.

In parting, I will leave you with my current plan, as suggested by a good friend back in Ottawa. He is quite a humorous fellow, if I do say so myself. I plan to take his advice and:

Keep my chin up
And my chest pushed proudly out!


Friday, September 2, 2011

Knowing is Better

So far, the time between getting a biopsy and getting the results was the absolute worst. Of course, it didn't help that the lovely Korean doctor doing my biopsy told me there was a "high probability of malignancy". Imagine being left with that for almost a week?!? Maybe she was trying to prepare me for the results but all it did was freak me out.

The crazy thing is that when we got the results I got the exact answer I was fearing most during that week and after about 2 hours of living with this new reality I felt better. My heart was no longer pounding, I wasn't sobbing all over Paul and I wasn't pacing around the house. I don't really understand it. Maybe it is as simple as now I really know what I am up against - there is no more hope that maybe it is just a weird lump. I have to accept that I really have cancer and in accepting it I can begin to deal with it.

The reason I mention this is that I think people sometimes avoid going to the doctor because they don't want to know if something bad is going on. I can understand that and I know first hand the stress you feel while waiting to find out the awful truth. But I can also say, with complete and total sincerity, that while having cancer is the absolute pits knowing about it is about a million times better than worrying about it. Especially because now I'm doing something about it - not sitting at home worrying about what I might have to do. I'm formulating a plan that involves snooping on Ethel, finding out what she has been up to and getting in some reinforcements to get her the hell out of dodge.

"What are you trying to say, Laura?" you might be asking. Well, friends, let me tell you. I'm telling you this so you don't put off going to get something checked out that you should. And in your case, it probably won't be cancer so just go already!

The other thing I wanted to mention briefly, while I'm standing here on my pulpit is this: DO BREAST SELF EXAMS. I got so unbelievably lucky because guess what, I don't do them. I don't do them because I always figured I was way too young for breast cancer. I meant to start, down the road.

I just happen to have a cyst in my other breast that doctors have been keeping an eye on for years. That cyst is just a run-of-the-mill, benign thing; not even worthy of a name. In Canada they never even bothered to check out ol' Righty because my long time cyst-friend is only in ol' Lefty. God Bless Korean health care - I almost stopped the ultrasound tech when she started since I was so used to ultrasound people ignoring my right side. That is the great story of how my cancer was found - by accident! Maybe I wouldn't have noticed the lump right away even if I was doing BSE, it's still pretty small. But I can assure you that many women find their cancer this way. And I am living proof that (though statistically unlikely) young women get this disease.

So do me a favour - go feel yourself up right now. And once you have done that, keep doing it every month for the rest of your life. Do it as a personal favour to me. C'mon, I have cancer, you can't deny me this one!

Goodbye Modesty!

"Hey, I have breast cancer, want to look at my boobs?"

Seriously, I feel like everyone in Korea has seen them now. I don't think this is going to change any time soon. Today, I have gotten dressed 5 times and undressed 4.5 times. I say 4.5 times because for an EKG they just make you shove your shirt and bra up into your armpits. Yes, it is terribly comfortable. I don't know why everyone doesn't just sleep this way, it makes getting dressed in the morning a cinch.

Luckily I have never been too concerned about people in the medical profession seeing my bits. It's not like I have something they haven't seen before (although I guess in Korea I have MORE of the something they have seen before). I suspect by the end of this I will be a complete exhibitionist. And in Ontario, I am legally allowed to be from the waist up.

Other than these insights, I don't have any concrete news to offer. I got poked a bit more today, I peed in a cup, I finally got to eat and drink at 12:30 and now we are back home. Paul is mailing insurance people to try and get that side of things handled and I am writing this blog which upon rereading, I realize, is not terribly interesting.

Don't worry, I'm sure I will be able to regale you with crazy stories of my stay in the hospital. As in, you have to bring your own towels. And family members are expected to do most things that a nurse would do in Canada. AND Paul will get to sleep on a "plinth" whatever the hell that is. I suspect I will be sending him home for sleeping. Who wants to slumber on a plinth?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I'm Sorry to Meet you Here

So, you've heard. And, I'm sorry to tell you, you have heard correctly. I have breast cancer. I am 30. This sucks. Let's just get that out of the way right off the top.

I've decided to start this blog for a number of reasons but mostly it is because I live in Korea where almost no one I love or care about actually is and I want to keep everyone who wants to be informed, informed without having to tell that same story 60 times (okay, that is an exaggeration, there aren't likely to be 60 of you, but you get the idea).

I belong to a fairly exclusive club now. While waiting for diagnosis I did a lot of research on the probability that someone like me would get cancer. I found a lot of statistics and they all said pretty much the same thing: I had nothing to worry about. One online test (and of course you can trust everything on the internet) suggested my probability of getting cancer was 0.43%. Despite that, I have cancer. And I know that there are a lot of other young women out there that have cancer so maybe my story can help them feel less crappy - assuming of course they find this blog.

Anyway, let's get down to the business of discussing my tumor, which I have named Ethel. What Ethel doesn't know is I am making speedy plans to get rid of her. She is an unwanted roommate and I have called the cops. Want to know Ethel's details? Well, she is sneaky so I don't know much yet but here is what I do know.

She is Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. In breast cancer land, she is pretty common. 80-85% of all breast cancer is IDC. We also know that she seems to be small - probably right around 1 cm. If that is indeed the case, I likely have stage 1 cancer. This is a good thing. It means the odds that our break-up will end with me alive are pretty darn high. We will know more once they start putting radioactive die in me and taking pictures of my insides. After that they will actually start poking around in my boob and the definitive answers will come. Has Ethel invited friends to live in other parts of my breast? Does she have a nasty ex lurking in my lymph nodes? Who knows! This promises to be an exciting week. The doctors seem very calm and reasonably hopeful that the cancer is still just in my boob and not in my lymph nodes.

I met with the Dean on Oncology today. Obviously, I am a person of importance. He said the following, in a way that was not at all rude and very reassuring, "Breast cancer is not a big deal. To the patient, I know that it is a big deal, but honestly it is not a big deal." I wanted to kiss his little old man self for at the same time telling me to get over myself and acknowledging that most people in my shoes are worried.

In the upcoming week I have a lot of tests ahead of me. Some are just to see how I will respond to anesthesia. Korean's are heavy on the diagnostic tests so I have to have an EKG and blood work and a whole lot of ultrasounds. I also have to have an MRI and a PET scan which will help tell if that cancer has spread at all. Once this is all compiled I will meet with the surgeon to discuss options. At this point I favour a lumpectomy but I'm going to do whatever I need to to make sure Ethel has been kicked to the curb. If that means she gets the boob in our divorce, I guess that is the way it has to be.

I will continue to update this as much as I feel able to. It is an easier way for me to connect with people back home given the time difference and the fact that you are all mostly employed people or people dealing with young babies. The bottom line that you should take away from this at the close of my first Boobey Trapped post is that, in spite of cancer, I am doing well. I plan to continue to be my awesome, hilarious self and I invite you to treat me the way you treated me when I didn't have cancer. Let's not change what was already working well. Okay, maybe you can baby me the teeniest bit for the next few months or until I am done my treatment but mostly I'd prefer if we all just continued living our lives as though Ethel had never existed.


PS - I know that is a weird way to spell "Boobey" but "Booby" and "Boobie" were already taken. Live with it. I am.