When I was diagnosed 4 years ago with breast cancer, it was impossible to know what would lie ahead on my road after I finished treatment. I watched other survivors move forward in their lives, some in advocacy, some in volunteerism, some to a life that forgets it ever happened to them, and some to find that their cancer had returned or metastasized. I waited to discover where I fit into the survivorship picture, exactly. The picture is never really as clear cut as it may seem. I watch as women I met along my journey find that cancer is an ugly beast and can return at anytime along the road, 2 years, 5 years, 12 years, 19 years. And so surveillance is the best hope for catching it early, and imaging with mammogram and breast MRI every 6 months is the prescription my doctors have given to me.
Last fall I began having pain, yet my mammogram had been "normal" in August. This went on for about 3 months, so I went for a 3-D ultrasound downtown. Those images found something un -identifiable and requested additional views. That lead me back to my breast care center at Walter Reed National Medical Center where the radiologist thought it best to move up my February MRI by 2 months "just to be safe". The day after the MRI she called me to say there was an area of enhancement and we should biopsy it with MRI guided core biopsy.
Fast forward to mid-January and a very long day at the hospital for the procedure. Thankfully, she obliged my request for double anesthetic and it was relatively painless, but total recovery took several days. The result was benign tissue with a lot of changes going on in the breast. My surgeon explained to me that all that this means is that we stay the course, continue forward with a follow up MRI in July and repeat imaging every 6 months. A bump in the road. A sigh of relief. Another 6 months cancer free.
4 years ago I never realized that this might be something I'd have to deal with in an effort to preserve my other breast. I definitely understand why some women choose to undergo a double mastectomy and not stress the rest of their lives about cancer coming back. And for some women this brings them the sense of peace and reassurance they seek. But the truth is it can still come back elsewhere (bones, liver, brains, lungs) and so sometimes all the best laid plans still don't play out the way that you had hoped. It is often (not always) a decision made out of fear, not firm facts, and I just can't cave into that fear, though this recent experience certainly tested me. The trade off, however, is this close surveillance and, when necessary, biopsy. I had one biopsy last year and one this year. I just hope the 'biopsy part' of this equation is a thing of my past now!
|Our first snow of 2013|
So in a couple of weeks I will meet with an orthopedic surgeon and see what he can do about it. There is no cartilage damage under my femur head, as was in my sister's case, so my hope is that I can get by with a less invasive procedure and be on my merry way! I don't know that I'll tackle jogging or running in the near future, but I would like Tim and I to get some new bikes and take up some mild cycling this spring!
|The Dog Days of Summer @ Barrel oak Winery|
I also am still doing counseling of newly diagnosed breast cancer patients, now through ABCD, After Breast Cancer Diagnosis and am constantly undergoing training as treatments and advances in breast cancer are always changing. It's a rewarding and satisfying result that has come from my experience, and the longer I remain cancer free I find it is one that offers hope and comfort to the many women I speak to who are diagnosed with the same type of Her2+ cancer I had.
I apologize for this lengthy entry! I hope you'll continue to stay in touch! I'll do my best to do the same and hopefully won't wait so long until the next blog post ;)
~ With a grateful heart!