Posts tagged Biopsy
Just the Facts: A year ago today I was diagnosed with Invasive Mammary Carcinoma — a “pea” was found. Ironically, I had one of the last visits I’ll need with my plastic surgeon this week. In the course of a year, I’ve discovered I had breast cancer, had a bilateral mastectomy and had two follow-up surgeries to reconstruct my breasts. This journey really has no end, but, thankfully, I am through the rough part. My health is now excellent and on top of that, I’m pretty much looking myself. This year hasn’t been easy but it’s over, and I’m ready to focus on other things!
Details: On February 12, 2010, I answered my cell phone to hear a radiologist’s voice. I knew that since the doctor was calling (not a nurse), this was bad news. He proceeded to tell me that the biopsy I had two days prior had revealed Invasive Mammary Carcinoma. Life changed instantly as I realized what might happen as well as what would have to happen.
Later I would learn that I had not one, but two tumors. They both turned out to be sort of small, each slightly larger than a pea. My choices for treatment were really not too difficult to make. In order to be most aggressive in this fight, I needed to have both breasts removed. Thankfully, I found a wonderful breast surgeon and an equally incredible plastic surgeon. I had a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction on April 6, 2010. That was the day I conquered the cancer!
Following the surgery, we learned that my lymph nodes were cancer-free and that the margins from surgery were clear. My cancer had apparently been confined to the breast tissue, which was now gone. Later a special diagnostic test was performed on the tumors and it revealed that the cancer would not respond particularly well to chemotherapy, but would be responsive to hormone therapy. We rejoiced at that news! No chemo, although five years on the drug, Tamoxifen, was essential.
Through the summer I went through the strange process of tissue expansion in anticipation of a second surgery to place silicone breast implants. I am thankful such procedures exist, but it was both exciting and highly annoying. On August 31, 2010, the tissue expanders that had been placed at the time of the mastectomy were replaced with silicone implants.
Life with implants is somewhat strange too, but so much better than expanders. At first, I was very pleased with the outcome of the exchange surgery. Then, something went wrong. The internal sutures on the left side did not hold as my plastic surgeon had planned, and the left implant shifted. It was not good. So on December 27, 2010, I had that fixed.
I am technically still recovering from that surgery. It has been about 6 and 1/2 weeks. My plastic surgeon says that 8 weeks is the absolute longest it should take for the implants and sutures to be “set”. I am taking every precaution to make sure that things don’t shift again. For this period, being “careful” has meant among other things: no kettlebell training nor any form of weight training, no heavy exercise, no lifting anything heavier than a milk jug, and sleeping in a recliner with pillows propped all around me for support to avoid any shifting. Yes, I have been sleeping a recliner for almost 7 weeks. (And will continue for another week.) This is that important!
I see my oncologist every three months. I will be doing that for another 2 years, then less often. I go back to my breast surgeon for one more follow-up with him in a few months. And I still have a few things for the plastic surgeon to finish up, though overall we are generally pleased with the outcome of this last surgery. As far as we know (and we certainly HOPE) there should be no more breast reconstruction surgery. Just a few finishing touches. Those will be completed later in 2011, probably.
Sometimes I still can’t believe all this has happened. Aside from some symptoms from the Tamoxifen, I feel great. It’s weird to think that I am a breast cancer survivor. But I am! And as predicted, I am certainly STRONGER now!
What’s coming up: Some more healing, physically and mentally. More doctor visits. More plastic surgery. But the worst is definitely over.
Prayer Requests: A year later, I am cancer-free and strong. Please thank God with me!! The blessings I have received through this trial far outweigh the difficulties I have had to endure. It’s okay to pray that the cancer stays away, too.
This blog: Given that this journey is winding down in a big way, the blog is too. I can’t tell you how much the support from friends here has meant to me. But it is time to move on. I’ll only update this blog a couple more times, probably. It will have to be something huge to do so, and I’m hoping that there really isn’t anything else huge that happens. However, I’m leaving the blog here, in case there is someone who might want to learn about my journey. Unfortunately, breast cancer is running rampant, and we will all know someone who will be diagnosed with it at some time. I don’t know if reading about my journey would help someone else facing a similar path, but it will be here, just in case.
Thank you for reading and commenting over the last year. I pray that everyone who has reached out to me in any way would receive tenfold blessings in return.
Wishing good health and happiness to all!
Phone’s ringing. The doc. I’ve been waiting.
Yes, now is an OK time to talk.
T-t-t-tell me what to do.
Sit down. Swallow that lump. What next? Go talk to Tracy. Get hugs. Get help.
Kids, don’t freak, please. I am NOT about to die! LOOK at me – I’M STRONG!! Believe me, PLEASE!
Surgeons. Tests. Biopsies.
Questions. Prayers. Decisions.
No decision to make. It’s clear.
Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
Business. No stopping. Training and training.
Must move out of studio. Coincidence? Another place found.
Ready but still waiting.
Finally, mastectomy. Times two. ATTACK!
Awake from surgery. Were my nodes clear? Nurses won’t answer.
Were my nodes clear? No one answers.
TRACY, were my nodes clear?
That news is my medicine.
Peeking. Two small mounds, so very welcome on the flat reality.
Home. Drain 1, Drain 2, Drain 3, Drain 4. Learn to love them. Necessary.
Feeling pain. Who beat me up?
Days. Healing. Drains can come out. Gross. Moving on.
Scars: large. red. Shocking. A life was saved here.
Plastic surgeon doing his job. Pumping up the volume. Week 1. Week 2. Week 3. And that’s enough.
He says: now we wait.
Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
Confirmation: no chemo! RELIEF!
Just take this pill. Everyday. 365×5.
The summer of expanders. Eagerly waiting to exchange.
Adjusting. Feeling good. Feeling strong.
Surgery pre-op. Almost time to exchange. Done waiting. So ready.
Hospital. Here goes again. This time it’s outpatient. OK, I like that better.
Beat up again. Sore. Same sore. Hallelujah – no drains! But foggy head. Foggy foggy head.
Improved? Yes. How much? A lot. As good as you hoped? No.
Grateful nonetheless. So grateful.
Stumbling. Feeling sad for no reason. Mad at myself. So much has gone right. Why feel sad?
Staring. Whose chest IS this? What happened to me?
Priorities change. Need to do all I can.
Re-evaluate. Think. Pray. Heal.
October will be Pink. A race. A team. Important.
Ask. Receive. Grateful.
Abounding kindness. Amazing generosity.
Got my shirt. It has the word. Survivor.
I am a breast cancer survivor.
Still healing. I’ll get there.
My breast cancer was detected early, at Stage I, and my prognosis is excellent. Efforts by Susan G. Komen have made my walk through this difficult time easier.
From the Susan G. Komen For the Cure website: For more than 25 years, Susan G. Komen for the Cure has played a critical role in every major advance in the fight against breast cancer, transforming how the world talks about and treats this disease, and helping to turn millions of breast cancer patients into breast cancer survivors. Over the next 25 years, an estimated 25 million women around the world will be diagnosed with breast cancer if we don’t find a cure. Susan G. Komen will not stop until we discover and deliver the cures. That’s our promise.
On October 2, 2010 I will walk with my family and my team in the Komen Charlotte Race for the Cure. When I cross the finish line, my name will be announced as a survivor.
Please consider supporting my team, StrongerSarah, in the Komen Charlotte Race for the Cure. Donating any amount is easy by going here. Although my individual goal has been met, our team goal of $2,000 has not yet been reached. Your donation will help raise awareness and fund research so that our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends may never have to get that phone call.
Just the Facts: I want to SHOUT for joy that the pathology report CONFIRMED all of the following: 1) the left breast was cancer free 2) the margins were CLEAR and 3 )the lymph nodes were CLEAN!! This fantastic news came late this (Friday) afternoon, several days earlier than expected!
Details: I received a call late this afternoon from my surgeon’s nurse. She said they had just received the pathology report from my surgery and my doctor asked her to call me to share the news. Basically, the pathology report confirmed all of the preliminary findings from the biopsies and the surgery. It seems that the cancer was confined to the right breast. It was confirmed that the lymph nodes were cancer free and the margins were clear. I did not ask the exact size of the tumors, but I will be able to find out that information next week, when I go back for a follow up appointment on Tuesday. We will still wait for the official word on a recommendation regarding chemotherapy and other treatments, but expect to hear that chemo will not be recommended. The surgeon had told us before that if this were the outcome, my cancer would probably be considered “cured” by the surgery alone. YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Me: That news definitely helped! I do feel better today, after a good night’s sleep last night. I am resting a lot more during the day, which is difficult, since I do feel good, but I know it is the key to feeling even better sooner. The surgical drains (sorry, eww!) are the biggest annoyance, moreso than the pain. The good news is that the drains will only be there for another week or two. That is really not much time at all and after that, I should feel MUCH better.
Prayer Requests: PRAISE God for bringing me through surgery so easily, for having it go well and for excellent news from pathology. Aside from a difficult first night home from the hospital, this whole thing could not have gone better. Thank you for your prayers and good wishes!
Just the Facts: The pathology report from the biopsy this week indicated the tissue sample was benign!! There is no cancer in the left breast!! Today I also called to set up an appointment for a second opinion with a surgeon and actually HAD that appointment late this afternoon.
Details: Woo hoo!!!!!! So excited to get the news that the suspicious area in the left breast is not cancer!! This is the best news we have had since the whole process began. This does not change our decision for bilateral mastectomy. It does mean that I will not have to have lymph nodes on the left side evaluated any further. Therefore, on that side there will be none of the side effects of the lymph node biopsy, which includes numbness in the arm, possible lymphedema and potential range of motion problems. The lymph nodes on the right still have to be evaluated but we get to skip that on the left. YAY!!
This afternoon I decided to try and set up an appointment with another surgeon. We liked the first surgeon a lot but wanted to see another one anyway. To my surprise, they were able to offer me an appointment this afternoon. After rushing around picking up mammogram/MRI records, we made it to a late afternoon appointment with the new surgeon.
Given all the data we now have, this doctor estimated that there is a 90% chance that the lymph nodes are cancer-free, which would put my cancer at Stage 1. He agreed with our decision for bilateral mastectomy. Each doctor we have spoken with about this has said Bi-Mast is what they would suggest to one of their family members if they were in the same situation. The doctor described the skin-sparing type of mastectomy surgery, which is the type he would perform on me. We liked him a lot and are now faced with a tough choice (which surgeon to choose). Coincidentally, he recommended the same plastic surgeon that our first surgeon recommended. We meet with that plastic surgeon on March 18. We have initiated a search for a second plastic surgery opinion but after all we have heard, expect to be impressed with this one.
Other: I can’t believe that we have gotten so much done this week. It now feels weird to think that there won’t be much happening on the issue for about 2 weeks. The waiting will be tough.
Me: It has been 3 weeks since I first learned I have cancer. Life has changed a lot. My perspective has changed a lot. All things considered, I am really happy right now. This could be so much worse. I am blessed. In the next few weeks I plan to focus on achieving the best physical condition possible so that I have the best chance of a fast, uncomplicated recovery from surgery. We’re going to do this thing right!! Thank you for the thoughts and prayers. Please continue sending them!!
Just the Facts: Today the tumor in the left breast was biopsied. It was difficult to find but my rockstar Radiology Technologist and new friend, Denise, was able to pinpoint it using ultrasound. Samples were taken and results are expected in 1-3 business days.
Details: There is a tumor in the left breast, located at the 10:30 position on the clock. The biopsy of that tumor was performed this morning. This should be the last biopsy for me! We needed to know whether this one was benign or malignant so that my surgeon will know how to proceed with lymph node assessment during the mastectomy surgery. The tumor was deep and difficult to find, but my excellent caregivers successfully found and biopsied the thing. As usual, a marking clip was inserted and post-biopsy mammograms were taken. I could start an album with all the pictures I have now!! I’m bandaged and iced up and will have to wait until it has been 24 hours before I can remove the bandage and shower. No strenuous activities are allowed until Friday (boo!). Steri-strips stay until Monday. I expect to hear results by the end of Friday, although it could be as late as Monday. Please pray that the results come back indicating this tumor is benign!!
Other: I received a call from the appointment/surgery scheduler to let me know I have an appointment with a plastic surgeon on March 18. Another appointment with a second plastic surgeon will be scheduled as well, per my request. Regarding a surgery date, the earliest possible time will probably be the second Friday in April. I really do NOT want to wait that long but suspect that I really don’t have much choice.
Me: Happy to have the last biopsy done! Not thinking too much about the results. Praying it is benign but will deal with whatever it is.
Just the Facts: Tracy and I met with a Genetics Counselor today. We decided to proceed with the genetic counseling. It won’t really help us make any decisions at this point (since the main one has already been made) but can offer insight into my potential to develop ovarian cancer, and may help my close family members get insight into their health risks as well.
Details: I filled out quite a stack of questionnaires last night to take to a genetics counseling meeting today. Basically all that could be learned from them was that there is no significant family history of cancer in my family. The counselor suggested we go ahead with the testing because it also will give us information about any genetic predisposition for me to develop ovarian cancer. At this point, I am eager for that type of insight. Finding out if I carry the gene(s) for breast cancer (called the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes) will also be helpful to close family members. The test involved simply having some blood drawn. Results are expected in about three weeks. Surgery will not be held up pending the results.
I also spoke with my surgeon’s nurse this morning and asked her what else I need to be doing now. She gave me the name of two plastic surgeons who my surgeon recommends. They will be setting up appointments for me with one or both of them. Other than that, we are just waiting to see what this week’s biopsy reveals, and then will schedule surgery.
Prayer Requests: Please pray for tomorrow’s biopsy: 1)that the snow we are having would in no way make getting to the appointment (10:00am) difficult or impossible 2)that the tumor will be easy to spot on the ultrasound and that the procedure goes well, like it did last time 3)most importantly — that the pathology report comes back indicating that this tumor is benign! If it is benign, I will not need sentinel node biopsy or any other node biopsy on the left side during the mastectomy. This will save me significant discomfort and speed healing, in addition to removing the risk of lymphedema in the left arm in the future. It would also be quite a morale boost to know that the cancer is confined to the right side. Please also pray for my family’s good health, as my son has been struggling with a cold virus this week.
What’s coming up: Tomorrow – biopsy of the tumor in the left breast, results of that biopsy by Friday (most likely) and setting up consults with plastic surgeons.
Me: Doing well, looking at this as a workout to be completed. Thinking a lot about one of our family’s favorite verses: Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. –Joshua 1:9.
Hearing the news that as far as we know there is no cancer in the lymph nodes, was the best thing that could happen on Friday. After two very long weeks of tests, waiting, and trying to wade through information and make decisions, it was great to have some good news to savor for the weekend. I thought very little about cancer and its ramifications for those few days. It was a great break!!
This week will be full of more tests, results and the like. I need to begin the search for a plastic surgeon and oncologist as well. I’m going to check in with the surgeon soon to let them know we are 100% sure of our decision to have bilateral mastectomy. I am hoping that means that we’ll be able to schedule a surgery date. Not even having a date is weird, like we’re stuck in limbo. I am ready to move on!
Just the Facts: The radiologist called this afternoon to let me know that the area that was biopsied was cancer, but that it was NOT a lymph node! That it was not a cancerous lymph node is EXCELLENT news!
Details: Yesterday’s biopsy confirmed another cancerous tumor exists in the right breast. However, a cancerous tumor is preferable to a cancerous lymph node!! I am very happy with this result!! Given that the MRI did not show any other unhealthy looking lymph nodes, I have a great deal of hope that the cancer has not spread beyond the breasts. The radiologist was careful to caution me not to count on that. Sometimes lymph nodes can appear healthy and still harbor cancer. However, to the best of our knowledge now, the nodes all are healthy. I couldn’t really hope for better news at this point and I’m so happy to have this news on a Friday afternoon!!!
The fact remains, the tumor is cancer, but it definitely could be worse! It is Invasive Mammary Carcinoma involving Tubules and it also is low grade, meaning not growing aggressively. I didn’t ask the size but he mentioned yesterday that all tumors were small, and that the original one found was the largest, at just under 1cm. Once again, our decision for mastectomy is confirmed, since another area of cancer in the same breast has been verified.
What’s coming up? Genetics counseling on Tuesday and the biopsy of the tumor/spot in the left breast on Wednesday.
Other: It seems crazy to be excited to receive this call indicating a cancerous tumor, but it is actually really great news and I feel very positive!! Didn’t sleep that well last night but had a delicious nap just prior to receiving that phone call, so I feel great now. Planning to hold on to that feeling!! Thank you for all the good wishes, support and prayers. It worked.
Just the facts: The radiologist, who evaluated my MRIs and mammograms, and who performed today’s biopsy, requested a meeting with Tracy and me to walk us through the sequence of fact-finding events up to now. It was a beneficial meeting and Tracy and I feel more secure in our decision now.
Details: We were shown a lot of images from prior mammograms. It is unreal how opaque my breast tissue is. The mammograms truly are useless in my case. We got to see the MRI images as well. Honestly, I had to fight getting sick. I thought it was gross to see several areas light up in all kinds of color on the screen, indicating the presence of (possible) cancer.
We did get some helpful information/clarification and good news in the meeting. Given my specific circumstances (especially the extremely difficult to monitor breast tissue) we feel confident in our decision for me to have bilateral mastectomy. We learned that the other spots/tumors all are smaller than the first one found, and none of them looks “worse” in any way. Some may be the more preferable “in situ” versus “invasive” type. The area that the doctor biopsied today may or may not have been a lymph node. Our prayer is that it WASN’T a lymph node. It looked unusual and could be cancerous or not. The best case scenario would be that it was neither cancer nor a lymph node.
The doctor also indicated that I would need at least one more biopsy. (!!!) Since the left breast has an unknown spot/tumor, we need to know if it is cancer prior to surgery. If we can confirm that it is NOT cancer, no lymph node surgery will have to be done on the left side. The lymph node surgery alone is very troublesome and can lead to future problems. It will definitely have to be done on the right, but if we can avoid it on the left, that would be great. That biopsy is scheduled for Wednesday at 10am. I really loved my radiology tech and radiologist who worked with me today and made sure that they would be helping me next week. It does make it more bearable to know and trust the people who are working on/with you.
Prayer Requests: Please continue to pray for a good result from today’s biopsy: NO cancer and that it was not a lymph node after all. Please pray for good sleep for me, as this has been kind of an issue lately, and it has a direct affect on my outlook.
Other: I am overwhelmed at the support here and elsewhere. Thank you for all the prayers and good wishes. Do not feel obligated to leave comments but please feel free to do so if you wish.
Just the Facts: They were able to easily find the area they wanted to biopsy, which was great. Three samples were taken (the standard). The path report is expected in 1-3 business days.
Details: Biopsies are no fun! It wasn’t as bad as the first one, though - much quicker this time. I am wearing an ice pack on the area (brrrr!) for the day, can shower in 24 hours, must restrict activity/lifting for 2 days but otherwise all good. The radiologist requested a consult with Tracy and me so we are returning later today for that. I believe he is just going to show us the MRI images and make sure we understand all the options. Will update after. Thank you to everyone for the good wishes, support and prayers.