Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Another Update - Warning: A Mostly Humorless Post

Yes, I've been absent.  Took another break from the blog and attempted to get my head on straight again.  It was tending to twist and warp.  Between Christmas and surgery and moments of complete panic, blogging was not at the top of my list.  I'm still struggling somewhat, but life goes on, and therefore, so do I.

Last Thursday's surgery went fine.  The folks at North Hills Surgery Clinic get extra points for being extremely kind and caring.  Considering I was there so briefly, I really felt well cared for and even a little bit babied.  Came home Thursday afternoon and had a very nice nap.  That nice nap is a very good memory, since I haven't slept well since then.

As far as the surgery went, Dr. Cross cleaned me out as best he could.  He said there was a lot of scar tissue he had to work around, but took whatever he could to leave me "clean as a whistle".  He did have to take a wee bit of muscle, but other than that, got every area he could find that might have lymph nodes.  After all that, the pathology report showed only two nodes, both testing positive for cancer.  Two nodes found this round, three the first, adding up to only 5 axillary (under arm) nodes...way less than the normal person (normal is 15-30 nodes), but not unheard of (I Googled it, of course).  I told you, my body is a freak of nature. 

The cancer was contained within these two nodes, though, so nothing was spreading in the immediate vicinity...also known as clean margins.  However, being in the nodes does mean there's a pretty good chance the cancer is moving elsewhere.  Because of this, and since TNBCs more often than not have early recurrences (within first 4 years), we will begin chemo again as soon as possible.

I am, again, healing fairly quickly.  My left arm is sore and feels like there is something tight running from armpit to wrist that prevents it from reaching, raising, or staightening.  I am once more, unable to sleep on my left side and dealing with a surgical drain. 

I did get results back from abdominal, chest, and bone scans.  All showed clear, except for the chest scan, which showed the lymph node that sent me to surgery last week.  I requested a brain scan, since I keep reading that it is very common for TNBC to metastasize to the brain.  I received the results from that on Monday.  It seems I DO have a brain, and that is all.  So praise God for that.  I cannot explain the feeling of fear that comes from not knowing what this evil disease may be doing in my body.  It's great to know that, at this moment, I'm clean and clear.

Backing up a bit farther...Prior to surgery, we met with the oncologist last Tuesday and got his take on the whole thing.  I arrived with my long list of questions and he was great to patiently let me ask these one by one (some intelligent, some kind of nutty - but I had to ask).  He even agreed to some of my queries about treatments and alternative/additional medications to be used...things I had read.  We will be adding Zometa to the chemo cocktail to strengthen my bones, which may help keep this from metastasizing there.  There is also a low dose oral chemo drug that I will take when I do radiation that may help the radiation kill more errant cells.

Of course, I asked about PARP Inhibitors, the up and coming range of drugs currently in clinical trial and showing some promise for a subset of women with TNBC.  He said there were many clinical trials currently in their last phases and one drug should be approved within the next three months.  When I read about the "encouraging results" of this drug giving women with metastatic TNBC 12 months instead of 7 months, it doesn't bring me a lot of comfort.  I don't like thinking in terms of months, unless you count how many months until this ENDS. 

As far as my chemo goes, ideally it would begin after my surgical drain is removed, but I think they are considering beginning chemo while I have the drain, considering the aggressive nature of this cancer.  If this is the case, it will effect how I heal from last week's surgery (not in a good way).  I go back to see my oncologist tomorrow and will find out then.

Chemo will be three weeks on (1 x week), one week off, for four cycles.  If I tolerate it well, he may go four additional cycles.  That's 8 months!  Then 6 weeks of daily radiation treatments.  I have a feeling that 2011 is not going to be my favorite year.

I'm stressing about work, substitutes, sick days (they're now officially used up), sick bank, health insurance, things I so wish I didn't have to think about.  I want so badly to return to work, while at the same time fear dealing with the stress of coordinating non-stop doctor appointments and chemotherapy (and it's related side effects) with a 7:30 - 4:00 (or later) work schedule, lesson plans, sub plans, and the myriad of other stresses that go along with teaching over 30 classes a week at two different schools.  Can I do this?  Right now, I do not know.  I really WANT to, though.  I want normal and everything that goes with it.  All that grumbling I used to do when life was normal...what was I thinking?

What I have to keep reminding myself is that right now, at this moment, my body is clean and clear.  I know there are bad cells floating around (as there are in all of our bodies - did you know that?), so my goal is to do what I can to keep myself clean and clear through diet and exercise.  I miss my sugar and fat, but compared to life and health, it's a small price to pay.  I am working on becoming as alkaline as possible.

As you can see, I continue to need prayer, and lots of it.  My communications with the Almighty have dwindled, for some reason.  I guess I am just weary and not really happy with how He is answering me, so why ask?  I know that's not right, but that's how my mind is leaning.  I need to work on that.

I think lately my biggest enemy is my own mind.  The report on my brain MRI came back with good results, but it didn't show all the darkness and doubt that keep swimming around in there. I need two things to leave me and never come back: this cancer and these frightening thoughts.  Please help pray them away.

If you've made it through this depressing post, I thank you and I also apologize for being such a downer.  Hopefully the next one will be better.  One thing I've found, when I'm down there's only one direction to go.

Right now, I think it's time to put on my sneaks and let Cleo take me for a walk.  It will be good to air the head.


  1. Wow! That is all really heavy! Keep your sense of humor. God understands. Let us all lift you up in prayer and you will be so close you can whisper in His ear.

  2. Hey Patti,
    I was just reading your blog and needed to tell you about Nicole. 2 weeks ago she asked one of the elders at our church if she could give him a prayer request (I guess those don't usually come from children). Anyway, he told her to write it down and he would read it just as she requested. She came home and wrote the letter which he read last Sunday to the congregation during the time we set aside to publicly remember those who have asked for prayers.
    I'm sure you've guessed the letter was about you. The words of a child can certainly bring one to tears. Anyway, after reading your blog, I wanted you to know that while your communications with God have dwindled; Nicole and I and our church family have been praying.
    We miss you at Shaw! Nicole is hopeful that she will get to see you after Christmas break is over. It's so hard Patti not to know the plans he has for us... but knowing that he has them is comforting. (Jer 29:11)
    By the way I didn't know so many people at Robinson Ave. knew your family. Hope your walk helped you to feel some better. 2011 may turn out to be the best year ever-the year you beat the cancer!
    Stacey Dominguez