I am pretty exhausted from today's ordeal, and I writing from a hotel room with VERY slow internet service, so I am going to write what I can here. Jim and I are back from UNC Cancer center and we finally have a treatment plan! I feel more at ease now that we know what we are doing for my cancecr treatment. The UNC clinic is CRAZY efficient. We stayed one room and we saw Radiation oncologist, Surgery Oncologist, Plastic Surgeon, Geneticist, and Radiologist. CRAZY!! BUT amazing!
So the one piece of good news: I do not have to undergo radiation because of some of the choices we made (I will go into that). Radiation isn't really dangerous, but it is one step we can skip because of the treatment path we decided to go on.
Many of you are wondering so...we ARE going forward with a double (or bilateral) mastectomy. The reason we decided on a double (or bilateral) instead of simple (or unilateral) is because the Risk/Benefit ratio was higher on the risk side if I kept my right breast. I want to prolong my life without having to worry about my breasts trying to kill me again. This is a deeply personal decision and a difficult one as I am losing both my breasts, but Jim and I talked at length with the Surgical Oncologist and it was a decision she would have made if in my position. She did NOT say this until after Jim and I came to a decision. I am the one living with cancer, and many may not agree with my choice, but I want to prolong my life and this seemed like the most logical for both treatment AND prevention. Along with this, I did decide to go foward with reconstruction. The reason is more psychological than anything. Since I am going forward with a double mastectomy, I didn't want to wake up in complete shock after surgery being completely flat. Also I feel that this will be easier for me to deal with as far as healing and curbing what is known as phantom pain. I feel that having something there will make it easier for me to accept that I have no breasts. I also do not want to try to field questions about why my chest is flat or why I have no breasts. In case you're wondering, I decided to stay the same size. I really can't go any bigger because I am muscular, and since I am not keeping ANY breast tissue, it makes the procedure more complicated. My chest will be numb forever, but hey, if it saves my life I'm okay with it.
I will have to undergo chemotherapy. The surgery is first, so I may not have to have aggressive chemotherapy. This is a good thing as I hate being sick all the time. I will have to go in once every 2-3 weeks for treatment. I will have to undergo hormone treatment for 5-10 years after the completion of chemotherapy - basically I have to take hormone pills everyday. This does inhibit my ability to have children, but if I stop taking it I can still get pregnant. The doctor already told us we wouldn't be able to try anyways for 2 years. This works out for us anyhow since I had no intention of getting pregnant within that timeframe.
The radiologist performed another ultrasound (yes she performed it). She saw 2 abnormal lymph nodes under my left arm so they will be biopsied tomorrow. I am not exactly looking forward to getting yet another biopsy but it is important as this will see if they will remove all my lymph nodes, and confirm the MRI that the cancer may have spread into that area. If this is the case, they will remove all my lymph nodes on the left side, but from what I understand they planned on removing them anyways.
The surgery will take place first. They will perform this about a month from now. The doctor said there was no risk in waiting, so this gives Jim and I some time to move out of our home in Vegas and move to NC. It will be tight but we have the ability to do it. The reason why it takes a month is because the surgical oncologist and plastic surgeon have to coordinate their schedules since they do EVERYTHING in one surgery. My chest is apparently really muscular with NO real room up in my chest cavity so they are going to TRY to put in silicone implants, but if they can't they will put in chest expanders that I have to go in every few months to get filled. This is the downside to the reconstruction if you are relatively skinny or very muscular (the latter being my case).
So, this is the treatment plan. This may not be what you would do, but every person is different. I just ask that you please respect the decision that I made, as I am happy about my choices and feel like I gave myself the best chance for longevity of life. I appreciate all of you and how you have helped me during this time. We will keep you updated as time permits here in NC.
Much Love to all of you!