Friday, May 19, 2017

My REALLY Final Surgery

It has been sometime since the breast skin revision, which had its challenges post-operatively. I had another infection, which took some extra time to heal, and because of the radiated breast skin, the suture line was not quite as pretty as the non-radiated breast. But at least no cancer worries any more or so I thought.

The Tamoxifen used to prevent the hormone-related breast cancer, can also cause an overgrowth of uterine tissue and some small percentage of users get a second cancer in their uterus. While I was actively taking the medication, I had two biopsies, both negative. Since then, I have needed two D&Cs due to continued abnormal growth of the tissue. Both biopsies showed dysplasia, often a gateway to cancer. So the decision was made to remove the uterus, Fallopian tubes, ovaries, and cervix. Two days ago I had the surgery. All is well. I will know biopsy results in the next few weeks.

I am home and comfortable and hope to heal without complications...and hopefully this was really the FINAL surgery!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

My Final Surgery 13 Months Later?

It has been some time since I wrote my last entry. Last year was just rough and tough. The stress and physical changes took their toll physically and mentally. I am hellbent on starting this Jewish New Year (September 13 eve) with a final body shape and a new mental outlook. In this effort, I scheduled my final breast-related surgery tomorrow. Because the extenders did not work, the extra skin that was there for my new Foobies (fake breasts) needs to be removed, and that is what will happen tomorrow.

When I started this journey in September 2008, on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, I never dreamed I would be going through all of this and for this long. There has been days of happiness for not having a cancer recurrence, and days of sadness and depression from the loss of my breasts and the change in my body image, not that it was so great to start with.

So off to prepare for tomorrow I go....

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

After Treatment - The Next Chapter

I always wondered what would happen after I stopped the Tamoxifen. No one I spoke to could really define if it had changed their lives in anyway. In January 2014, five years and four months after my initial diagnosis, I stopped the Tamoxifen.

At first, nothing seemed to changed too much with the exception of one less pill to take per day. March was a busy month - our daughter was getting married, work was quite stressful, and my 88 year old father's health was turning downward.

It was during this time, that my family noticed some changes in me that I did not recognize or even realize that continue today, ten months later. I had had an initial bout of vertigo, confirmed by my physician and an ENT doc, that sent me reeling for a few days after waking up one night from a deep sleep with a vasovagal response - my body felt cold and hot simultaneously and I was dizzy and nauseous. I thought I would die. It was terribly frightening.

After that event, I started to have a slight head tremor and my speech articulation changed. I started having balancing issues - having to hold onto a bannister whenever I went up and down stairs. Prior to this, I was able to bounce up and down stairs without holding onto anything. When I went up the stairs at night, it was like dragging 200 pound weights in each leg - a real effort.  The balance issues have improved since then.

I had my yearly physical in April, and nothing untoward showed up - all labwork was normal.Even the neurological testing in the doctor's office was normal. However, the symptoms continued. In June, I started having bleeding from my right nipple out of nowhere. I went to the breast surgeon, had an ultrasound, another mammogram, and an MRI, but nothing conclusive could be determined.

In July, I went to neurologist to get an answer to these neurological changes once and for all. He told me I had either a neurological problem or a neurological response to another problem. I had a brain MRI (to look for brain tissue problems) as well as an MRA (to check out my brain circulation). Both were perfectly normally for my age. There was no evidence of tumors or blockages or past "events." A neurological disease was ruled out. The mystery continues. I have an appointment next February 2015 (earliest appointment I could get) with a tremor specialist.

In late July, with the nipple bleeding continuing, I chose to have a double mastectomy, a decision made years before, after the last time I had breast surgery for left breast nipple bleeding. The continued stress of breast issues and remembering my Mom died of breast mets made the decision easy. The plan was to remove both breasts, have expanders inserted during the surgery, and then replace the expanders with implants.

The surgery went well, but recovery did not. The day after the surgery, my father died. I had drains in for six weeks. On top of that, because I had radiation in the left breast five years before, the breast "rejected" the alloderm lining and the expander. After 13 weeks, I am still not healed in that breast. The right breast healed completely, but slowly - I contracted an e.coli infection in that breast from the hospital. Three weeks after the surgery, I was back in the hospital on three super antibiotics trying to get things on track, but I was going nowhere. On the third day of hospitalization, I asked the surgeon to remove the expanders, and I started feeling better immediately.

The weakness from surgery continued for weeks. When I went back to work, I eased in slowly - everyone being quite understanding of my limitations. I still have excess skin on my breasts, based on the fact that I was planning to have implants, that I will have to have removed in the future. At this point, my breasts look like cinnamon rolls without the icing.  The good news is that there was no cancer. The ultimate goal!

Did going off the Tamoxifen cause the nipple bleeding?  Did it cause the neurological changes?  I don't know, but I speculate the timing and the fact that the MRIs were negative, it could have. I hope to know more in February.  Stay tuned for my next blog...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

11 Days Left Until Treatment Ends

After doing my own research, I have decided not to prolong the Tamoxifen treatment. There just isn't enough research supporting the benefits for DCIS prevention at this time. I am hoping that when the treatment ends, my skin issues will go away. I will be able to more easily lose weight, and I am sure there were other side effects that insidiously creeped up on me that may disappear. 

I would be lying if I said there isn't a bit of fear without the Tamoxifen that has been a shield of armor to protect me these past five years, but I have to hope that my body's immune system is stronger than any cancer cell, and that family history does not repeat itself.

Wishing all who read this is a joyous holiday and a very happy and HEALTHY 2014! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

To Continue or Not to Continue...That is the Question

I'm less than 6 months away from the end of the Tamoxifen Hormone Therapy.  I have been looking forward to January 9, 2014 for a long time.  While I haven't had severe reactions to the medication, I have experienced all the symptoms of estrogen depletion, and some are not all that comfortable.  It has been fun to imagine all the positive changes once the therapy ends.  So, you can imagine my surprise when the oncologist suggested moving forward with another 5 year course of Tamoxifen or another similar medication after this first course completes.

Her logic makes sense.  New studies support extended hormone therapy to reduce the risk of recurrence with death for those of us who have had DCIS.  Even though the percentage is small, no one knows which person is going to be in that cohort. Why take the risk if I did so well with the Tamoxifen?  The other medication causes Osteoporosis, so I would need to have more dexascans done to stay on top of it,

She says we'll discuss it again in October when I go back for my next visit. I will have had a new dexa scan and mammogram just before that visit, and we'll make the decision at that time.

If any of you have been presented with this option, I'd love to hear what you have done and why?  Happy Summer!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Happy Holidays!

The holidays are upon us.  There is much to be grateful for as we head into 2013. Wishing everyone a happy and HEALTHY New Year!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Four Years and Counting

Another great mammogram and another great oncology visit!  Everything is status quo, and the oncologist says only 1 years and 3 months to go on the Tamoxifen. I started January 9, 2009 and will end on January 9, 2014.  It really has gone faster than I could imagine.

On another note, I rarely think about the cancer anymore except for mammogram and oncology visit time, which is the same time as Pinktober. It is only when someone starts talking about cancer, or I see something in the media that sparks my thoughts.

When I was first diagnosed, the breast cancer surgeon told me that this will only be a bump in the road of my life's journey.  I am really starting to believe it!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Another Biopsy in Two Weeks

I have been on Tamoxifen for 3.5 years.  Only another 1.5 years and I'm off...finally!  However, one of the side effects has been an overgrowth of the uterine endometrial lining. A year ago, I had a pelvic sonogram due to this, and it was recommended that I have a biopsy since it is not uncommon to get uterine cancer from this.  About six weeks ago, I had another sonogram, because of lower abdominal pain. It showed that the lining was even thicker than it was a year ago.  Again, the Gyn feels I need another biopsy. It's the only way to know that I am healthy.  I hope that this will be the last was quite painful the last time.  Only two weeks to angst over this...

Update: Biopsy was negative. YAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYY!!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mother's Day May 13, 2012 - 22 Years Later

My mother died of breast cancer mets on Mother's Day, May 13, 1990. This year, the dates coincided for another very sad Mother's Day. However...the day was made brighter. My daughter, living in Chicago, invited all of us to her place for the weekend.  Part of the weekend was participation in the Y-Me annual walk (see picture).  Y-Me is a wonderful organization that provides women with breast cancer a 24 hour hotline for support and answering questions.  It has become a lifeline for women with nowhere else to turn.

There were tens of thousands of partipants walking the 3 mile journey through Millenium Park in the heart of Chicago. The weather was glorious. The atmosphere was charged.  The first time I walked a breast cancer event, it was emotionally painful.  I was with other survivors and we were all sharing stories, and I just cried...for my mother and for myself.  I swore I would never do another walk again. It was just too difficult.

However, my daughter had taken up the cause since my diagnosis in late 2008, and I could not say "No" to her. She cares too much.  Her boyfriend's family joined us, which helped to make the walk more fun.  It ended up being a joyous day - with a beautiful brunch to follow the event and a weekend of total frivolity and family love. It doesn't get much better than that.

Update: Not long after the walk, Y-Me mysteriously disappeared off the Internet; their offices shut down too. Wonder where all the money we collected went?

Monday, March 26, 2012

6 Months Later

Everything is going well.  My cancer breast has really shrunk in size after all these months between the surgeries and the radiation.  I call it "Mini-Me."  It's better than crying, right?  I tend to cover my chest with sweaters or jackets so no one call really tell.

In January, I decided to bite the bullet, and make life all about me instead of pleasing everyone else. I went on Weight Watchers, and have done very well. I try to stick to organic foods, and have concentrated more on fruits and vegetables, although I do have to have one sweet per day. I also give myself weekly manicures and exercise more than I used to. So often, we live to make everyone else happy, but exclude ourselves in the process...not anymore. I count too!

In two weeks, I go back to the oncologist for my 6 month checkup. Only 20 more months of Tamoxifen and that part of my life is over.  I don't think about the cancer as much anymore, unless someone mentions someone who was recently diagnosed or died from it.

I am hoping by living a cleaner and healthier lifestyle that I keep the beast away. In the meantime, it feels great to be good to me!!!