Hello! For anyone just joining, this is my re-booted cancer blog, sort of an “EMILY’S CANCER BLOG: 2018 (cue explosions and like me walking towards the camera with an IV pole in a super boss way. Heavy metal riffs. Someone make me a photoshop, please.)
On the practical front, I had what’s called an axillary lymph node dissection last Thursday. It went extremely well, and yielded extremely positive information: of the 33 lymph nodes they removed, ONE of them, yes ONE, had cancer on it. That cancer was ONE, yes ONE, centimeter in size. My surgeon found it and took it out.
Let me break this down for you: two months ago, I had a relatively routine follow-up PET/CT scan. On that scan, a lymph node lit up a little tiny bit. All the medical professionals said to do nothing and re-scan in three months. I said no, now would be better. My doctors indulged me, because they are great, and ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed badness, located in a bad place, that had to be biopsied by like alpha level biopsiers. They biopsied it, and it was cancerous.
The cancer was located about a millimeter from a major artery, and was also crazy close to my brachio-plexus, the nerve that CONTROLS THE FUNCTION OF MY ARM. Also, it was tiny, and indistinguishable from the fat and other lymph nodes around it.
So, my surgeons and radiologists were able to a) use an ultrasound to inject blue dye and a titanium clip into the tiny lymph node, and b) find it without cutting any arteries or nerves, and c) GET THAT MOTHERFUCKER OUT! (sorry for the cussing, but come on).
I am telling you a VERY UNUSUAL story. Triple-negative cancer does not get caught this early. These lymph nodes do not usually get removed. What usually happens is these cancers recur aggressively, and then you are on chemo until you stop that because you’re going to die. I spent the last six weeks thinking this would be my fate, that I would follow my grandmother, my aunt, and my great-aunt into death from cancer, with the added blood-red cherry on top of small children watching. Normally, women with recurrences do not live much past ten years from diagnosis. My children are 4 and 6 now. I’ve been doing evil math for two months now, trying to calculate when and how it would be least terrible for my children to lose their mother.
But, hold up, BECAUSE GIVEN THE MEDICAL FACTS BEFORE US, THAT DOES NOT LOOK LIKE IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN. I mean, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, but for now, I get to hope again that I am going to live a long life. I am spending a lot of time considering dead people who may be protecting me from beyond. The terrible thing about BRCA families like mine are that there are usually lots of dead people, but then again if spirits have power, it’s nice to have a solid, experienced bench. 🙂
I still have to undergo chemo and radiation, which WILL SUCK BAD, but guess what else? On the day I had surgery, while I was asleep and doctors were taking cancer out of me, the FDA got around to approving the very first PARP inhibitor, called Lynparza (olaparib) to treat breast cancers like mine. The clinical trial results of this treatment were so promising that FDA approval was fast-tracked. So, not only did they get the cancer, but the treatment I’m about to have is the first one that has any promise at all that this cancer will not come back. You can’t make this stuff up.
So, we start with hope. Again. We start again with hope. And also laughter. A few quick small tales….
- While under the influence of pain medicine, I tried to DIY my own JP drain stitch, which was too tight and blocking the suction of excess fluid from my body. This one is for my medical professionals out there who will get all that jargon. I spent today sheepishly getting it re-sutured. These are the hazards of studying the maker movement and taking narcotics.
- Every time I leave, my kids expect me to return bald. Also, Henry would like to know just exactly what kind of “medicine” would MAKE ME SICK IN ORDER TO MAKE ME BETTER. He thinks this is ridiculous. Smart kid.
- Vivian calls my incision “Mommy’s scrape”. She’s got me in for regular check ups. Today she painted me a picture, showed it to me, wrapped it in a box, and then made me unwrap it and act surprised. She’s also making plans for matching pink wigs, and painting head scarves for me to wear.
- The week after New Year’s, our families pooled money and sent us all to Disney World in Florida. It was mostly magical, however, there was a moment when I began to cry while in line for the Dumbo ride because the Magic Kingdom was so crowded that I witnessed families turning territorial and wild-eyed, nearly feral to provide A GODDAMN HAPPY TIME FOR THEIR GODDAMN CHILDREN, and all of this when I had cancer, goddamnit, and we’d been waiting to ride this fucking Dumbo for like an hour. But then we splurged on a dessert party and reserved fireworks seating. It was beautiful. And then, from 9:30-Midnight, Henry and I ran around and rode the rides that were too crowded during the day. And THAT was magic.