Breast cancer Round 2: Meeting with my medical oncologist

I saw my medical oncologist this morning. She was more concerned than my surgeon about the tumor and the pathology so far. More extensive pathology will give answers.

That more-extensive pathology will take two to three weeks. My medical oncologist’s concern is that the tumor was larger than expected (and therefore in a range of concern) and that there was one lone cell of cancer in the sentinel node. My surgeon had explained that the lone cell wouldn’t even show up on most pathology reports so it’s considered cancer-free but that my Chattanooga hospital has the specialized pathologists who do a cross section analysis instead of what I understood to be a linear process. So we have a more complete picture than most would have. Therefore we know there was that one cancer cell. One.

The more-extensive pathology will tell us if I’m in the 70 percent of people who don’t need follow-up chemo or in the 30 percent who do. My medical oncologist thinks I might be in the 30 percent based on the two factors I mention above (tumor size and the lone cancer cell).

Of course I’m hoping that her concern is wrong and that the surgeon’s instinct is right.

Nonetheless, I know I might need chemo and am getting my mind ready for that if it turns out to be the case.

If I do need chemo, it would be four infusions total, one every three weeks. And radiation could be in the picture, but that’s also dependent on pathology. I honestly don’t remember what she said specifically about radiation because that is beyond what I’m thinking about as “next.” I try to take it one step at a time.

If I don’t need chemo, then oral meds would probably be the path.

The idea of MORE chemo is daunting. But it wouldn’t be as bad as the AC chemo (the red devil) of last time. It would be more like the Taxotere of last time but not as severe. (And it just struck me that I’d need a port again. Another surgery).

So now I’m in a liminal time again. A time of waiting.

I’ll have genetic testing next week. That’s a whole ‘nother angle, but one that does not factor into this pathology. And I’ll attend to other medical appointments, such as seeing my dermatologist on Friday and my dentist on Monday.

Today I was hoping to get a clear answer that I only needed an oral medication. But I knew that there could be a more complicated answer that required more waiting. I was a little surprised to get the “wait” answer—but not completely since I know answers are more complex as research reveals more about cancers. When I had breast cancer elven years ago the medical insights were much more narrow than they are now.

The good news was that my double mastectomy surgery scars are healing very well. So well that my doc today exclaimed, “Wow, these look great!” She wasn’t expecting the scars to have healed so well in less than two weeks. That was a very positive part of the appointment.

My sister was with me, taking great notes—another positive. It’s so helpful to have someone to verify what you heard. And it sure helps to have her loving energy with me.

All along on this cancer journey, I’ve tried to follow the path and take it one step at a time.

Yesterday the path took me to the last drain coming out after my mastectomy. That was a happy time for me not to be tied to drains anymore.

Today’s appointment took me to another waiting period, a concerning one.

But the lesson keeps being: Live in the present.

Today is a beautiful early fall day. Temps are cooler. The sky is vivid blue. The maple in my backyard has pretty color at the ends of a few branches (as you see in this pic).

Will I need chemo? I don’t know.

Until I find out the next step on the path, I’ll try to be present to the now.

I’ll try to let myself feel what I feel. It seems from the past that I cycle through the areas of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) during these journeys, maybe all five areas in a day or less than a day. I seem always to start with a positive “I can handle this!” which might have some denial in it.

But it’s also true. I can handle this.

I know that whatever the path, I can handle it. I have lots of support from friends and family. I have a good spiritual foundation. I’ve been through one cancer journey before so I know I can go through it again.

But I also know there will be tough days. Days when I’m scared, grouchy, depressed—a whole range of emotions. I’ll try to let myself feel them, know where they are in my body, and then let them wash through.

That’s what emotions are supposed to do. Flow through.

Life/death, illness/health, light/dark, happy/sad . . . . this earthy life is one of cycles, one cycle flowing into the next. Sometimes all seeming opposites happening all at once.

But there can be joy in each one of the cycles.

I feel that’s the root.

That in everything there exists joy if we only look and listen for it.

I’ll be spending a lot of the next few weeks looking and listening as well as trying to be present to this lovely time of year.

Autumn is my favorite. A cancer journey cannot change that.

No matter what I learned at the medical oncologist’s office today, it’s still a beautiful, clear, temperate fall day.

I give thanks.

And I feel joy!

12 thoughts on “Breast cancer Round 2: Meeting with my medical oncologist

  1. So glad to hear you are healing well and really hope chemo is not needed! If it is though, or just fyi, you might want to read a book called “Hacking Chemo”. Written by an RN who designed this protocol for her own treatment through ovarian cancer. Praying and meditating for you. Sarah. 🙏🏻🐾

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