Breast Cancer – The Radiation

Just to keep everyone up to speed I thought I’d give you a quick summary of where we are. I had my regular screening mammogram in March, followed by a diagnostic mammogram, followed by an ultrasound, followed by a biopsy, diagnosed 29 May, followed by 2 lumpectomies, one on 8 June the other 27 July. Finally, onto the final stage of my treatment schedule.

The next step for me was going to be radiation, after the healing from the surgeries was complete. I was scheduled for my first appointment at the Cancer Clinic in Abbotsford in September. That was just a consult appointment with the radiology oncologist. It went well. As always there was lots of information and lots of questions. I then had the physical exam and was advised of the procedures to be followed. The doctor told me that I would have to have 3 little tattoos. He was about to ask if I would be okay with that when he noticed I already have a rather large one on my leg. 🙂

The next step was to come in and get the setup for the series of 16 radiation treatments that were to follow. That required having two technicians position me on a table set up exactly as the radiation tables are. Once in position, they then did a CT scan to be sure that everything lined up. The hardest part about this whole this was lying completely still. Of course, you know what happens when you try to do that…you get an itchy nose, or have to sneeze. Well, almost on schedule my nose began to itch. Oh well, hold still! It only lasted a couple seconds, so that was fine. Oddly enough once I could move my nose wasn’t itchy anymore 🙂 Then came the tattoos. They are three tiny dots. Only I know they are there. Largely because of where they are, and because they are so small.

Then I was given a tour of the facility and the procedures for each of my visits. I was given a cubby to put my things in during the treatments and was to keep my gown there for the week. Saves on laundry and makes a whole lot of sense to me. I was also able to keep my Glaxal lotion there to apply after every treatment. Highly recommended. Sure helped the skin heal. So now I’m all set.

The first day it is all a mystery, even though I’d been through the tour and the step by step instructions from the staff. It was a little scary, not really knowing what was going to happen. Well, it wasn’t that bad at all. The treatment itself only lasts couple minutes. The longest time is getting set up. After the first day it was a piece of cake. The technicians were great. All in all, not a bad experience at all. Again the hardest part was being completely still during the treatment. If you move, the wrong area would be radiated and no one wants that!

I was one of the lucky ones. My treatments weren’t bad at all and my skin held up quite nicely. I have a permanent tan under my armpit and around the breast, but no one is the wiser. My first mammogram after 6 months was clear. I have to go for diagnostic mammograms from now on, no more screening mammograms for me.

I can’t say enough about the treatment I received from all the professionals involved in my care. They all were fantastic, knowledgeable and gracious. I can’t stress enough about getting your mammograms regularly and annually! If you find anything unusual on your own, or your partner finds it 😉 get it checked out immediately. Don’t panic, but get it checked.

I celebrated after my surgeries, treatments and healing were all done by getting a new tattoo. My kids, their partners and my new grandson gave me the $$$ as a Christmas gift to have it done. I waited until June to actually have the tattoo done. Waiting for the right time and place to have it done of course. It is proudly displayed inside of my right wrist. I love it!

I couldn’t have done any of this without the love and support of my family and friends. Their support means the world to me. From my kids being there and listening, even though at times I’m sure my woes was the last thing they wanted to hear, to my friends checking in weekly to see how I was doing and most of all to my husband Ed for being my rock through all of it. He was at my side for every appointment and every up and down that we went through. For any of you who have to go through any form of cancer, please always remember you aren’t the only one going through it! It affects every one in your circle, and even some on the outside of it. Just always try to remember…no one fights alone!

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Breast Cancer – had the lumpectomy, now what?

After waiting the required 2 weeks I got the results from the biopsy of the lumpectomy. (Wow that is a bit of a tongue twister). The results were good. There was no actual cancer in the cells that they removed. The cells were confirmed as pre-cancer cells. Good news! Whew! Now onto radiation, right? Not…

Turns out that the surgeon wasn’t happy with the margins that they had. For those that don’t know what that means, it is the area around the affected cells. He wanted to have a margin of 2 cm on all sides. Turns out they had 1.9 on one side so he was happy with that, but the other side was only .9 cm. So, what does that mean? You guessed it, more surgery.

This surgery wasn’t as critical as the first so I had to wait even longer to get my date for that. I did eventually get the date for that at the end of July. Of course, that would mean another 2 weeks after that to be sure that the margins were what the doctor wanted. Thankfully, the surgery went as expected and the recovery was minimal, other than the dreaded getting the system back up and running. Bring on the prune juice!

Now my next two weeks waiting was done and I had my, hopefully, last appointment with the surgeon. He was happy with the results. Okay, now what? Now onto radiation and possibly medication following. It was doubtful I would need the medications, but I was prepared for them anyway. Back to doing my research on that. Tamoxifen would be the drug of choice. Thankfully there is lots of information about that on the net. Thank you uncle Google!

So now on to radiation treatments. He suggested that I have 16, but that would also be up to the radiology oncologist. I was then referred to the Cancer Clinic at Abbotsford hospital. I had to wait for them to call me with a date for my consult, so, you guessed it, more waiting…

Stay tuned for the next segment of Breast Cancer – The Radiation

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Breast Cancer – the Lumpectomy

I got my appointment for my lumpectomy. It was June 8, it was very quickly after my diagnosis which was May 29. The doctor that was doing the surgery had an opening, but there was a catch.

Because it was booked so quickly I had to go to two different places to have the surgery done. The first part was the insertion of a wire into the affected area of the breast. This was done at Jim Pattison Breast Health Clinic. It wasn’t as painful as I thought as they were doing it without freezing. The procedure was again explained to me in great detail. When the doctor came in, yet another new face, he asked how I was. I said, “Good, but that’s not really important, I’m more concerned about how you’re feeling today. Are your hands steady?” He chuckled and assured me they were.

I was then hooked up to the mammogram machine again with a very precise plate covering the area. It was a lot smaller than they had used before and had a very tiny hole in the middle. The technician then took pictures and made sure that I was in the machine at the right angle and they had a direct hit in line with the little hole in the plate. As is quite often the case, the nurse or the technicians do all the work and the doctor gets all the glory. 🙂

Now I’m all lined up and pinned in the mammogram machine waiting for the doctor. The one with the steady hands. 😉 He comes in and with no freezing inserts a very long needle into my breast through the little tiny hole in the plate. Surprise, surprise, it didn’t hurt! I was expecting the same kind of pain as the biopsy. There was a little pin prick kind of feeling, and then nothing. It took seconds and it was all over.

Then the nurse taped me up covering the wires and I got dressed. Without my bra of course. I didn’t dare look, I didn’t want to see any wires sticking out of me. 🙂 We then drove over to the hospital where the surgery was going to be performed.

The nurses got me all prepped and ready to go. They told me I might have to wait awhile as there were other surgeries that had priority. So we were prepared to wait. Then the doctor came in and explained exactly what he was going to do. He then asked me which side it was and I told him. He then made a funny mark just above the breast. Think he would know where he was going to be operating with a wire sticking out of me, but it was standard procedure. He then told me he was taking me in right away! I was surprised and relieved we didn’t have to sit around and wait any longer than necessary.

I was wheeled into the operating room and before I knew it I was waking up after a nice nap. They then wheeled me back to my starting place and we waited a very short time and I was released. All in all it seemed very quick to me. I’m sure it wasn’t all that quick for Ed who spent most of his time waiting. I think it’s harder for the care-giver or your support person than it is on you. All the waiting and wondering. I spent my time being prodded at poked at and sleeping so my time was occupied, but Ed had to just sit and wait.

We then drove home and that was that! A portion of me was missing, but I was relieved that “that stuff” was out of me. There was no pain to speak of, but I was uncomfortable. Of course, the hardest part is getting the body functioning properly again after the anesthetic. Bring on the fruit juice! Prune, oh yeah, my favourite. 🙂 I felt amazingly calm through the process and in good spirits. Looking back I think that really helped keep me at ease, and speed the healing.

So, now what’s the next step. Oh ya! The follow up with the surgeon and the results of the biopsy of the cells they removed. So, you guessed it, more waiting…

Stay tuned for the next segment in my series, “Breast Cancer – had the lumpectomy, now what?”.

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Breast Cancer – after the biopsy

Had my appointment scheduled for 2 weeks after the biopsy procedure.  When they say, the waiting is the hard part, they aren’t kidding!  It was 2 weeks of pure anxiety.  Trying to keep yourself busy and not think about “the appointment.” I thought I was handling it well waiting for the results, but lurking in the background was that feeling that something was terribly wrong. It just wouldn’t go away.

Then the office called and wanted me to come in 4 days early as they had the results in already. Then began a real mixed bag of emotions. Good it will be over sooner rather than later, and oh no does that mean the results aren’t good and they want me in right way to give me the bad news?! So, of course I took the earlier appointment. Would be a fool not to!

Then the day came. The dreaded appointment. A day I will never forget…

So, I met another doctor. He came in with my folder in his hand. Thankfully my husband was in the room with me. About all I heard after introductions, was cancer, mastectomy, lumpectomy and surgery sooner rather than later! It was all a blur. Ed luckily picked up all the words in between and squeezed my hand and gave me that “It’s going to be okay” look.

What he actually said was that I had pre-cancer, or stage zero breast cancer and going with a mastectomy wouldn’t be required at this time. He would do a lumpectomy to remove all the cells. This would be followed by radiation treatments and possibly medication as well.

Then he explained the margins he wanted. He wanted to see 2cm margins on all sides of the area. I nodded, but had no clue what he was talking about. Then he said he had an opening the following Friday and he’d like me to grab that spot. This was all happening so fast!

The next thing I knew they scuttled me out of the room and into a quiet area and handed me a bunch of papers to fill out. Even though I was trying hard to be strong, that dang tear was back and it rolled down my cheek again. Now I knew I was going to be fine, but it was still very scary.

I headed home in shock after that appointment, but with the realization that it hadn’t been the best news, but it surely wasn’t the worst. This was pre-cancer and they were going to get it out of me and quickly. More waiting now for the surgery appointment date to arrive, and instruction of what to do and where to go on the big day.

Stay tuned for the next segment… Breast Cancer – the Lumpectomy!

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Breast Cancer – the biopsy

After my screening mammogram, diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound, the next step was the biopsy.

“They found something in the mammogram that needs following up” they said. There was a group of cells that they didn’t like and they wanted to take a biopsy of that area. Okay, now what I thought? Turns out there are 3 different types of cells; Definitely cancer, definitely not cancer and those they can’t determine without a biopsy. My type fell into the latter category.

So another appointment. This time at the Jim Pattison Breast Cancer Clinic in Surrey. The staff there were great. I was a bit nervous about the procedure, but the staff there were wonderful. Without them it would have been horrifying for sure.

First a doctor examined me, then a nurse explained the procedure to me in great detail so there would be no surprises, right? Wrong! The biggest surprise was how painful it was.  One of the things the nurse told me was that during the procedure they use local freezing.  Sometimes it doesn’t take, especially on large breasted women.  Well, that’s me!  One of those times it doesn’t pay to have big boobs! 🙂 If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you that may be the only time 🙂

I knew that sometimes the freezing didn’t work, and I had to be one of those it didn’t work for. So here I was locked into the mammogram machine with no chance of movement with a probe drilling into my breast. I’m sure it was a very small instrument, but believe me it felt like the old water well drilling machines I saw as a kid. The nurse was holding my hand trying to console me.  I just focused on my breathing and tried not to scream!  Fortunately it didn’t last long at all.  It was over before the third tear could roll down my cheek.

As soon as the drilling is complete, they remove you from the machine, place an bandage and ice-pack on the area.  Then you get dressed and you go home to wait some more.  This wait was the longest yet, 2, count ’em two weeks.

Stay tuned for – Breast Cancer – Biopsy Results

 

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Breast cancer – Get your mammograms – annually!

Probably the most important event in my life in the last few years was being diagnosed with breast cancer 29 May 2018. (Funny how I used the exact date and not just the year.  Guess it’s one that will forever stick in my mind).  It was a shock, but not as much as you’d think it’d be.  When I had my mammogram in March, somehow I knew.  It wasn’t any more painful than usual, no sign from the tech, just a feeling I had.  I learned some time ago to always trust these feelings. (As a reminder of my intuitions and feelings read my 3:11 post.) http://www.arlenepretty.ca/three-eleven-311-a-lifelong-connection/

I always go annually for my mammogram. Like the nurse at my doctor’s office told me years ago when I asked her how often I should go, she said: “I just go when they send me the reminder.”  I have followed her advice since that day way back when. Thankfully that’s the case.  If I was going every two years my situation would have been a whole lot different.

After my mammogram I did the usual waiting.  No news is good news right?  I didn’t get my usual follow up letter saying it was normal and that my doctor had been advised.  Instead I got the dreaded call.  “They want you to come in for more testing.” What does that mean?

Having been through this a couple years ago, I knew what it meant.  It meant a diagnostic mammogram.  Even then I knew that something was wrong.  They gave me an appointment right away.  That’s always a good thing.  So I had the diagnostic mammogram. 

It’s a little different than the annual screening mammogram that we all have. The procedure is similar, but more detailed. Then you sit and wait while the radiologist examines the pictures and decides if they need another picture, your clear and can go on your way, or you need to come back for an ultrasound.  While I was waiting, I just knew.

Then the nurse goes back and forth between rooms and her smile turned to a neutral face.  Hmmm, not good I thought.  Then she comes to me with a piece of paper stating that I need to come in for the ultrasound.  That’s the next step. Having been through this before, I knew that was the next step.  So I booked the appointment for that.  

I’d been through this routine a couple years before and it turned out to be nothing.  So I was hopeful that this would be the case again, but I couldn’t help this feeling I was getting.

So, I go to the ultrasound and the technician is quiet as a mouse as they usually are.  Then I heard the dreaded “hmmm” while she was waving her wand over the same spot over and over.  Then the “You’re doctor will get the results in 2-3 business days.”  Yikes! That didn’t sound good.  Again the waiting… 

I didn’t have to wait long, the doctor called me the next day.  He told me that they found something and I needed to go for a biopsy.  A biopsy!  What does that mean?  I didn’t have to do that before so I had no idea what to expect.  More waiting was to be the next step.  I got an appointment for my biopsy at Jim Pattison Breast Health Clinic in Surrey.

Stay tuned for my next segment: Breast Cancer – The biopsy.

I have attached some info from the National Breast Cancer Foundation below.  It explains the procedure much better than I could.

What is the difference between a diagnostic mammogram and a screening mammogram?

A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast. While screening mammograms are routinely administered to detect breast cancer in women who have no apparent symptoms, diagnostic mammograms are used after suspicious results on a screening mammogram or after some signs of breast cancer alert the physician to check the tissue.

Such signs may include:

  • A lump

  • Breast pain

  • Nipple discharge

  • Thickening of skin on the breast

  • Changes in the size or shape of the breast

A diagnostic mammogram can help determine if these symptoms are indicative of the presence of cancer.

As compared to screening mammograms, diagnostic mammograms provide a more detailed x-ray of the breast using specialized techniques. They are also used in special circumstances, such as for patients with breast implants. 

What’s involved in a diagnostic mammogram?

If your doctor prescribes a diagnostic mammogram, realize that it will take longer than a normal screening mammogram, because more x-rays are taken, providing views of the breast from multiple vantage points. The radiologist administering the test may also zoom in on a specific area of the breast where there is a suspicion of an abnormality. This will give your doctor a better image of the tissue to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.

In addition to finding tumors that are too small to feel, mammograms may also spot ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). These are abnormal cells in the lining of a breast duct, which may become invasive cancer in some women.

Check out their website here for more information: https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/diagnostic-mammogram

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Getting Started

Never thought that getting set up with a new blog would be so time consuming. There are so many choices, so many photos to add, color schemes to pick, the list goes on and on.  I’m getting used to my dashboard and how to make the changes I want.  Now just to make up my mind and stop changing it.

Still updating all my old posts.  Looking forward to getting onto something new.

Stay tuned…

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Back in the saddle!

Well, here we go again!  I had a blog years ago and it was wiped, so I started it in a different format on a different blog site.  I haven’t posted in there since 2012.  Life just got too busy, so something had to give.  I have really missed writing, so have decided to take it up again with a whole new site.  My old posts will be here as well, so feel free to comment on them.  I will be posting new and exciting stuff, so stay tuned…

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What’s new with me.

Well, I see it’s been about 6 years since I posted anything. Can’t believe it’s been that long.  Time is going just way to fast. I remember my dad talking about how fast time goes the older you get.  I didn’t believe it then, but I sure do no.

Guess I’ve been a very busy girl.  Yes, it’s true, I have been.  Where to start…

Probably best if I break it into a few different posts rather than bombarding you all with everything that is new in my life recently.

I’ll try to keep them quick and simple.  That’s the easiest way I find to read a new post, so thought everyone else would too.

Stay tuned, more to come…

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Bee Stings

Ever wonder what to do if you get stung by a bee or bit by a wasp or any other kind of bug.  Usually you don’t know what it was that got you, you just know that it hurts like the dickens (being polite here, this is a family post).

Click here to read my suggestion, you’ll be glad you did.

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