This post was originally published by Amy Williams while going through her cancer journey several years ago. This post along with a few others which we will note throughout the series are being shared with Amy’s permission as a reflection of her experience.
I had been warned by Dr. Kladder, my primary care physician, that although Dr. Bear is world-renowned, he is not known as “warm and fuzzy.” No teddy bear. He said that he had not received the preliminary results of the MRI, but we could look at it together. He saw nothing on his laptop computer, but noted that the radiologists have much better views. He explained that, assuming that the MRI was all clear, I could choose between a full mastectomy of both breasts, or a “lumpectomy” that removes the tumor and leaves the breasts. With a lumpectomy, I would need a course of radiation therapy, likely to last six weeks. Treatment would occur every day.
My husband asked the doctor, “every day, including weekends?”
Dr. Bear answered, “no, only Monday to Friday.”
Steve inquired, “is that because the cancer does not grow on the weekends?”
“Correct,” answered the doctor.
Ha! Not a Teddy Bear, but a man with a wry sense of humor!
He went on to explain that, statistically, my 10-year survival rate would be the same if I chose a lumpectomy and radiation or if I chose to have a full mascectomy. If I chose the lumpectomy, though, I might have to undergo chemotherapy too. Whether that would be indicated for me would not be known till after surgery. He did say that they tested my cancer and learned that it responds, and grows, when fed by estrogen and progesterone, female hormones. So I cannot take birth control pills or, later, hormone replacement therapy, and in fact I am likely to be prescribed a drug that prevents my body’s natural hormones from feeding my cancer.
Massey has recently published several new treatment options for those with similar diagnoses. We encourage you to read more about those options here.
So, radiation and hormone blocking drugs, and maybe not chemotherapy.
“Which is the treatment that makes you lose your hair?” I asked.
“Chemo. Radiation does not make you lose your hair.’
I decided to go with lumpectomy, radiation, and the possibility of chemotherapy.
But then I realized he said the MRI results were not in. “Dr. Ellison promised me someone would have read my MRI by now,” I reported. “Oh, she promised, did she? We will call her on that!” He called and got the radiologist on the phone. And I heard him say, “oh, I see. Where is it?” He moved his mouse over the mouse pad, and suddenly we saw it. Another lump, smaller than the first, but there. “Is that in the left breast–the opposite breast from the known cancer,” I asked, sick to my stomach.
“Yes. We need to have this tested, to see what it is.”
The “test” would be another biopsy, which could not be scheduled till the next week, and then there would be more waiting for those results. Somehow, this wait was harder than the wait to hear whether the first biopsy was cancerous. If I had a second cancer, in the opposite breast, then I knew the doctors would recommend a full mascectomy. I contemplated this option with some dread, until I read something that suggested reconstruction surgery takes place right away, and can result in breasts smaller or larger than the originals.
Should I go with Dolly Parton’s? Having those was a secret dream when I was a teen, though not so much lately. What about going with flat boobs like Mirinda Cafrae. Fast Ironman World Champion, but mosquito bites, bless her heart. Still, she no doubt can go for a run in a T-shirt, no bra. I did a bit of research, though, and discovered that these options came neither with the honey-like voice nor the Ironman speed of these two ladies. So all in all, I wanted to keep the originals. I prayed for no factory recall. And it wasn’t just a cosmetic worry, of course. How could a second cancer have appeared in such a short time? It would mean that I had some sort of invasive, aggressive cancer that would be hard to fight. So I worried, and I had to wait.