March 31, 2016 First appointment with my General Surgeon

Today’s appointment went great. I was glad Lenny was able to come with me today. I had no idea what to expect as this doctor was a general surgeon and it seemed to me I would need to get more answers before meeting with a surgeon but of course I go the route I was told.

Before I met with the doctor, the nurse who brought me back was comforting and explained she was a breast cancer survivor now cancer-free of 4 years. She stated the doctor I was about to see is highly recommended and extremely knowledgable about breast cancer. If she had known this doctor when she had cancer she would have used her “hands down”. The patient navigator through Lutheran also highly recommended her. I was looking forward to meeting her. I also have had a good friend recommend a general surgeon who I was going to see if I did not feel comfortable with this doctor.

She first asked me to tell the story of what I have experienced so far. After I spoke, she went into a full explanation going over all the results of my biopsy. She first explained the name of my cancer, where the cancer started and the different types of grades. (I spoke of these things in my entry from March 28th, these parts are the only things I knew before today). She then explained my estrogen and progesterone along with Ki-67, and Her2/neu results. These are two hormones along with two characteristics of the cells that can be present within cancer cells. These results help to identify at the clinical stage (where I am now) which therapy may achieve the best result. She informed me that my estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor are positive which indicates that hormonal therapy will probably be part of my therapy. Hormone therapy is a one-a-day oral pill that will more than likely cause my body to go into early menopause. All I know about menopause is hot flashes. That will be something that I will research as well.

However, she wants to get all the answers before we decide on a treatment plan since the gene testing and the results of further testing play a huge role. I will be set up with a medical oncologist and after meeting with her I feel confident the specialists she recommends I will go with. She also would like me to meet with a radiation oncologist, and its up to me to also meet with a plastic surgeon (again depends on what route is taken.) Next on my agenda, I will be scheduled for a mammogram, MRI, a chest x-ray, some more blood work and a liver function panel. I am to stop breast feeding as soon as possible ideally within one week. Charlie is not going to like this. What’s great news is she is going to get all these tests scheduled in one day. Sounds like a fun day spent. At least I don’t have to study for these tests right?

There are three types of surgeries she explained which are the single and double mastectomies and a lumpectomy. With any of these surgeries I will be having a sentinel node biopsy which they will remove lymph nodes to see if there is any sign of cancer in them. Through examination by a doctors hand my lymph nodes are not inflamed which is a good sign.

Depending on the type of surgery she sees a possibility of 7 weeks of radiation 5x a week. There is also a possibility of chemo followed by radiation. She does believe either treatment will include the addition of the hormone therapy as my hormone levels would respond well. Again, is still unclear until I have the further testing completed and even the pathology report from surgery. She did explain being diagnosed at a young age will be a factor in treatment. She said having a 60 year old diagnosed with my same circumstances would results in a different treatment due to age.

She was very informative and took her time. We were in the room with her for over an hour discussing everything and she took her time to answer all my questions. I didn’t feel like I was just another patient to her, I felt like she truly cared for my health. She recommended the book, “Breast Book” sixth edition by Susan Love. She said starting with this book, is like the bible of breast cancer. Being the most informed of what it all entails is important. Knowing me I love to research just about everything I take interest in or plays a role in our lives. I hope to pick up a copy tomorrow.

I did ask if it would be ok to take one week off before starting the tests and the next steps. She thought it was a good idea to enjoy spring break with the kids before life becomes crazy. I am looking forward to taking the kids and flying with Lenny back to AZ for the week. We are hoping things get arranged fairly quickly so he can work from CO.

While we were at the appointment Miss Charlie went to her first babysitting experience. A great friend from my bible study watched her and along with her two children. Anyone who knows Charlie knows she doesn’t go very easy to anyone. We have been trying for some time and she will stay strong and cry. I felt so thankful to hear Charlie didn’t cry at all and we were even gone longer than expected. I feel this was a huge milestone and hope this continues as she will need to start being watched more by others.

I again want to thank everyone who is reading this and tell you I so greatly appreciate your support. All the messages and even phone calls has showed me what an amazing support team I have. I am still working on getting back to each and everyone who has reached out to me, so please know if I haven’t contacted you yet I am working on it. Thank you all so very much!

March 30, 2016 One week later

Its been exactly one week since my diagnosis. Together as a family we are managing just fine. Nothing has changed for the most part. I still am expecting a call to tell me everything was a mix up, it still doesn’t seem real to me yet.

The children continue to ask some great questions. They’ve asked me if it hurts, how did I get cancer, will I loose my hair, and does it make me sad to have cancer. They have actually taken the news alright. Both Lenny and I are trying not to make it a big deal. Austin takes things very personal and when Lenny is gone for work, Austin tries to take things upon himself. That first day of knowing was hard for both of them at school. I told them if they needed to speak with their teacher or the school counselor then that would be fine. I want them to have someone they feel they can confide in.

Telling them of course wasn’t easy and both found out at different times. I ended up telling Bailey in the car as I got off the phone with my doctor, she was the only one with me (and Charlie too). We were on our way to pick up Austin from Lacrosse practice. I looked at Bailey and told her that was my doctor and she said I have cancer and please don’t worry I am going to be just fine. She broke into tears and I held her hand. I tried to explain this was going to be an experience but we all will get through it together. I told her it does sound scary even to me but we shouldn’t worry. Right away, she asked me if this was the same cancer Aunt Elaine had. She was concerned I might die and I had to explain to her I won’t. She knows cancer can kill people as we recently attended Lenny’s Aunt’s funeral in January who passed away from breast cancer. I let her know many people also live and get passed cancer. Our Nana is a breast cancer survivor.

Next, was calling Lenny. It just didn’t seem real, he answered and I calmly told him the results came back as cancer. His voice dropped and said, “I am so sorry Tara. I am going to be home in a few days and cant wait to hug you.” I wanted so badly to have a hug from him right then. My children however filled that need as I hugged them both with all my heart. Telling Austin after lacrosse was hard as Bailey told him right away that, “Mom has something to tell you!” After telling him he just kept saying, “No, no, no.” All I could do was hug him and tell him, “Everything will all be ok.”

That night I took the time to talk and pray with the kids as they both were visually upset. I read James 1:2 to them and let them know we should consider this a joy as it will all allow us to build a strong faith and stronger relationship with God. It was a great time to talk about how we need to live a life surrendered to God, where we are obedient and focused on him. Although we pray as a family every morning and night I felt I wasn’t being as focused on him as I need to be. It was through prayer that I have been redirecting my control and focusing on God’s will and God’s plan for me.

Tomorrow I meet with a new doctor. She is a general surgeon. I hope to learn a lot more of the road ahead.

March 28, 2016 Initial Answers

After posting my link to this site on Facebook last night, I became sick to my stomach. It was a bit overwhelming and I wasn’t quit sure I had done the right thing. I felt vulnerable as I am never one to really share much about myself. This morning reading all the wonderful comments and support made me realize it touched more people than I expected. I felt as if I had just possibility embarrassed myself. However, It truly was so kind to read all the supportive messages and responses. I feel blessed to be going into this journey with such a great support group. From now on people can visit this site and read my blog as they wish which allows me to feel a bit more at ease without having to post anything to Facebook.

Today I received a call from a nurse at Lutheran explaining more information about my diagnosis. She was very informative and was able to give me some initial answers we have been waiting for. She explained I have Invasive ductal carcinoma grade 2 cancer. What does that mean? Invasive means that the cancer has invaded or spread to he surrounding breast tissue. Ductal means that the cancer began in the milk ducts, which are the “pipes” that carry milk from the milk-producing lobules to the nipple. I was shocked to hear the cancer began in the milk duct. I asked her if this meant I got cancer from breast feeding because to my understanding breast feeding lowers your risk of developing breast cancer. She then said it could have been but that its very rare. I have breastfed three children for a combined total of 3 years and four months. I would think that would be a huge reducer…lol. Anyways, she went on to explain the different grades. There are three grades of cancer. Grade refers to how different the cancer cells are from normal cells. Grade 1 is a low grade and looks a little bit different from normal cells and is usually slow growing. Grade 2 is an intermediate/moderate grade. The cancer cells do not look like normal cells. They are growing a little faster than normal. Grade 3 is a high grade. Cancer cells look very different from normal cells. They are fast growing.

Grade is different than the stage of cancer. Stage refers to how far the cancer has spread. I have not had a full exam at this point only a biopsy of the one lump (tumor) I had felt. I will be getting a full exam this Thursday. The nurse also said I might not get the full understanding of what stage cancer I have until after surgery.

After the “big news” call from my doctor last Tuesday evening. She asked I come into the office the next morning to have some lab work done (only time I have been to the doctor since the news). I was recommended to have the gene testing done to see if I am a carrier. This test is called the BRCA test which I understand to carry the gene mutation for breast cancer is very rare. It only accounts for 5% of breast cancers. Having this knowledge however will inform us further on the treatment plan and the likely hood of me developing cancer again n the future. I should have my results on this test by April 6th.

I want to thank everyone once again for your thoughts and prayers. I have received many messages and phone calls and if I haven’t responded yet or called you back just know I will!

Entry 2: A Day of Waiting

March 22, 2016

9:00pm Just about 4 hours ago I received a call from my doctor. I waited all day for this call and knew it would be coming either with good or not so good news. I had called the office earlier as I was in anticipation to hear but I had no luck.
When my cell phone rang a few hours later I thought it was Lenny as he calls right about that time everyday. I answered and it was my doctor. As she started to talk she began to stutter and right then I knew she was going to tell me the not so good news. Whats a bit surprising is I was in a way expecting the bad news.
For the last four weeks God has been working within me and I have been feeling the Holy Spirit directing me. This has been more powerful then I have ever experienced in all of my life. He has been preparing me for a challenge and I knew it was ahead of me. What I didn’t know was what it was going to entail. I’ve been starting my mornings with a study Ive been reading along with my bible.  With Lenny in Arizona these last three weeks I felt he was starting to prepare me for the next three months as Lenny is scheduled to be there till June 1st. Everything I read has appeared more meaningful than before. I have truly taken his word to heart and knew he was trying to get my attention.

Straight from my current bible study book “Anything” by Jennie Allen states: God has bigger purposes in allowing us to suffer, bigger than just winning. He allows us to suffer because we change through suffering. We hurt with others better. We become humble. We want him more.

The “Anything” study allows us to learn how to pray for God to do anything in our lives. It is a prayer of surrender  that allow us to do anything for him, Anything! “A prayer that will move us to stop chasing what makes us feel good and instead begin to live a life that matters.”

Earlier that morning I was guided in my bible to James 1:2 “Count it all joy, my bothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” along with my “Anything” study where I read, “Go. Run. Fight. Do not just sit there feeling sorry for yourself. Run and fight. Let your shield be faith – you won’t need to be afford. You may get tired but you won’t forget why this war matters if you don’t forget me. You’ll fight bravely, like someone who knows she fights for a cause worth dying for. You’ll keep fighting if you see me. You have me with you- I am in you. Fight bravely because I am for you and I am with you.”

These last weeks God has prepared me. At least I felt at peace when I was on the phone with my doctor as she told me, “Your biopsy results came back you have cancer.” 

I know I will conquer this and I will fight it but I am at peace and I am not afraid. I know he has a reason for choosing me. I am not excited for facing this battle but I am very excited that these last few weeks along with the road ahead will build my relationship with our Lord even stronger.

With that I will Count this Breast cancer as a joy and will look forward to this journey with our Lord. 

Entry 1: The Ultrasound

March 21, 2016

I drove down to Lutheran Hospital today to have an ultrasound done of my right breast.

(Rewind 5 weeks prior: The reason for ultrasound)
A little over a month ago I found a lump when I put my left hand almost in my right arm-pit. I have never been good at doing self breast exams, in fact I think I might have done one in college but that was really the extent. So when I found this lump it wasn’t a huge concern to me. I hear women find them often especially when breast feeding. So a few days later I scheduled an appointment with my doctor just to make sure.
When I saw my doctor she explained it was probably a blocked milk duct or a cyst that might have formed from fluctuating hormones during pregnancy and breastfeeding. She ordered me to come off all caffeine and take a Vitamin E supplement along with evening primrose and she wanted to see me in a month.
As the weeks went on Lenny was persistent and wanted me to do a more in depth exam with a specialist. I said I would after a month if that was necessary. As I was approaching a month I ended up just being proactive and called the Breast care center at Lutheran and scheduled an appointment. I knew this would make Lenny feel better and at least I could find out what the lump was.I wasn’t able to get a mammogram as I was still breast feeding so I was scheduled for an ultrasound.

As I drove down today, Charlie got sick and threw up in the car. I pulled over a little past Mary’s Glacier to clean her up and change her clothes. I was so glad I had one set of extra clothes. I was a bit nervous during the drive but kept asking God to help me be comforted. As I continued on my drive I had a small car that was a bit ahead of me to the left. I saw he had a bumper sticker in his window that read “Cancer.” I figured it was his zodiac sign. Then I began to wonder if this was a sign for me. I casted it out of my mind and felt maybe it was just evil in my head. He then went on. A few minutes later he was on my right hand side and I read the other sticker in his window that said “Play hard, fight hard.” I then thought, ok maybe Gods telling me I have cancer and I need to fight hard. Crazy right? Yes, pure craziness is what I thought and figured Im getting myself worked up over my own crazy thoughts. So I decided to stop

Right before I made it to Lutheran Charlie threw up again. I went in and washed her clothes in the bathroom as I didn’t have another change of clothes for her. I met Mike (FIL) there who was waiting in the center to help watch Charlie while I was to get a 30 minute ultrasound done.

As I waiting in the waiting room Charlie quickly warmed up to Mike which made me feel good as she still doesn’t go well to anyone. A nurse came out and called my name. I went back and was given a nice warm pink robe and asked to sit in another waiting room. While I waited I thought this is the most time I have had to myself besides sleeping, it was a bit relaxing given the circumstances. An older lady sitting next to me in her robe started to speak to me saying how awful this was how she was spending her day. I proceeded to tell her I was just thinking how nice it was for me. I didn’t say anything further and she proceeded to ask me how much radiation I thought was emitted from the mammogram machines.

I was taken back to the ultrasound room. The tech was comforting telling me more than likely it was a blocked milk duct and I would be able to know exactly what the lump was. After about 10 minutes or so she became quiet and continued on with taking pictures. She left and went to get the doctor. He came in and introduced himself and said he was going to look over the pictures. He was able to tell me everything the lump wasn’t. He then told me he would recommend a biopsy because the lump had some concerning looks to it. I asked when I would have that done and he said later in the week hopefully.

I got dressed and met with another nurse who was going to schedule my biopsy. She asked me if I had the time now. I thought what she meant was do I have the time now to schedule the biopsy. What she meant was that do I have the time now for the biopsy. I said let me check with my father in law as I also have my baby here. She said it would take about an hour.

I then went back and was given another nice warm pink robe and sat once again in that relaxing room. I thought Im glad I can get this all taken care of now so I didn’t have to make the drive back down. I was now taken into another room and told everything that was going to take place. They were going to do an ultrasound guided biopsy. I had two nurses one of which who held my hand, the other conducted the ultrasound while the doctor performed the biopsy. The nurse asked me if I minded music and I told her I would like it. As the biopsy was performed I was shocked to hear Christian music playing. Then I hear the words in a song, “Jesus take my hand.” Those words made me feel more relaxed and I knew God was there in that room with me.

As I left, I told the nurses they made this experience today easy and comfortable. One of my nurses gave me a bag of snacks and chocolates as I left. It truly was a good experience today. The other nurse as I left walked with me to the outer waiting room and then asked me if she could hug me. At this point all my emotions rushed to me and I felt like crying. I felt like something was wrong and she knew it. I didn’t have time to cry and I said good-bye.