I saw Dr. Cross this afternoon and got the lowdown on where we go from here. Looks like I'll be getting more tricks than treats this year. Surgery is scheduled for Wednesday, October 27.
Surgery plans have changed, though. I will be undergoing a total mastectomy of the left breast only, without reconstruction. The right breast and reconstruction will happen at another time. Surgery would have been scheduled sooner, except that Dr. Cross doesn't want to do it so soon after chemotherapy due to slow healing and other complications. Have I mentioned?...I hate chemo.
During surgery he will also be doing a sentinel node biopsy. The sentinel node is the first of the lymph nodes under the armpit that receive lymphatic fluid and tissue from the breast and tumor, so they check this one first. When my tumor was smaller, his plans were to do it as an outpatient about a week before the surgery so he'd know what he was dealing with. This was also to help prepare for reconstruction, which won't be happening (yet). As it is, a pathologist will check right then and there to see if there are cancer cells. If not, they take a break from surgery and do a happy dance. If there are cells, Dr. Cross will remove more lymph nodes. Pray for clear nodes.
Something else new...since my tumor is now over 5 cm, I will be receiving radiation following surgery. Frankly, and from what I hear, radiation is a cakewalk compared to chemo. Bring it on.
I may not be finished with chemo, though. Dr. Cross spoke to me about a lab out of California (Rational Therapeutics) that takes the tumor and actually tests all sorts of chemo drugs on it to discover which one works. This is totally what I've been thinking they should have done all along. Why don't they do that for every biopsied tumor? According to Dr. Cross, the doctor who runs this lab has a theory that possibly as many as 40% of post surgery chemotherapy regimens don't work, but no one knows that until it's too late. If they had treated me in the traditional method of surgery first, chemo second, I would have had surgery, then undergone 6 rounds of my chemo regimen and never known it didn't work. How often does that happen?
So yes, I agreed to this seriously expensive (and not covered by insurance) lab test. Again I wonder...why wouldn't insurance cover this? Seems like it would save them a lot of money. But what do I know? When I'm Boss of the World things will be different.
They'll gift wrap and Fed Ex my tumor to California immediately following surgery and find out which chemo drugs work and which do not. It looks like I'll be visiting Highland's Oncology once again for a whole new sampling of drugs. Yuck and bleck.
As far as teaching goes, Dr. Cross said he does not want me back at work for the rest of the semester. Anyone know a good art sub in Northwest Arkansas? The kids are angels right around the holidays...it should be a breeze.