Saturday, January 24, 2009

Back From Tucson

We got back from Tucson about five o'clock last night, but I was too tired and sore to attempt updating my blog. Sorry, I know people were waiting for news.

We started the day at 4 a.m. here at home and left at 4:30 in order to arrive at the breast radiology center in Tucson by 7 a.m. This is where they did another ultrasound guided needle core biopsy. I'll share what the radiologist said and did, but honestly everytime I go for one of these procedures I just get more and more confused and a bit overwhelmed.

They started by checking out under my arm. There is one lymph node there that has shown up on every test I've had done. Every report states that it has normal architecture and is no sign for concern. The radiologist agreed with this and so did not do a fine needle aspiration.

Next, they did the ultrasound of my breast. The radiologist said he would only do another core biopsy if he saw a definite area of concern; a definite area to target. I have a hematoma (blood clot) at the site of the needle core biopsy done last Friday and that showed up on the ultrasound. There was a definite shadowy area below that that he and the technologist discussed being something like a shadow from the hematoma and weren't sure at first if they would biopsy it or not. This was the only area he considered biopsying. This is in the upper right quadrant of my breast. He said the tissue in the other three quadrants looks normal except for swelling and skin thickening and there was no focal area to biopsy. He said this does not mean there isn't cancer or hasn't been cancer in these areas.

We asked about all five of the original core biopsies being positive for cancer and then the one that Dr. Lang did last week being benign. He said she must have just hit a region where there wasn't cancer. It does not mean there was any error in the original biopsies.

He finally decided he thought the shadowy region was not a shadow and did four core biopsies from that area. He said the tissue was very dense and tough. I know he had to use quite a bit of force to get the needle into the area. The samples were white. We should get the pathology results by Wednesday of this coming week. The possibilities are benign (though I don't think benign tissue is white), cancer, or dense fibrous tissue which would indicate scar tissue. This would indicate that there had been cancer there and the chemo was working and it was being replaced by scar tissue. To me, this third option seems like it would be the best one to get. We know I have cancer and if the biopsy showed scar tissue at least I would know the chemotherapy was working.

He also gave us another dose of reality, as if we need one right now. He talked about the ability to kill off cancer cells with chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, but just like when you take medication for an infection, there are usually a few cells left over. He said just like the bacteria or viruses that survive treatment in your body, the cancer cells left are the strongest, most resistent to treatment and are the ones that cause reoccurance.

After we finished up at the radiology center, we headed over to the University Medical Center to have my port placed. My veins are bruised and irritated from the chemo treatments I've had so far, so this port is going to be a great thing to have, but I had a mini panic attack in the holding area and started crying. The nurse was a ten year breast cancer survivor and was very understanding. She gave me a few minutes alone with Joe and I got it all back under control. They started my IV and the doctor who was going to do the procedure came by and explained everything to me and I signed the consent.

Then, it was off to the procedure room. I had to move onto a radiology table under a large machine. I lay there while several people worked at getting everything set up and prepping and cleaning my skin. The tears started flowing again, but before too long the nurse gave me something in my IV that made me feel very relaxed. It didn't make me sleepy, but it calmed my nerves. The actual procedure took about a half hour. I was under a sterile drape the whole time with my head turned to the side so I could see and talk to the nurse. Two doctors did the procedure and explained everything they were doing throughout. It honestly wasn't too bad and I was able to walk back to the holding room afterwards.

When the numbing medicine wore off on the way home last night, it was very painful. Moving my head at all side to side made it worse, so I tried holding very still and that made my neck and shoulders achy. Luckily, when we got home, I took some more tylenol and a sleeping pill. Combined with not getting very much sleep the night before and all the stress of the day catching up with me, I fell sound asleep. I only woke up once during the night and took more tylenol. I'm still pretty sore today, but not as bad as yesterday.

I can't take the bandages off until Monday, so that will be my first glimpse of what it looks like. Everything is under the skin and the doctors said it would be barely noticeable.

After we finished up at the hospital, we headed over to the cancer center to have my stitches taken out from last week's biopsy. While we were there, we found out that Dr. Livingston had agreed to let me start my new chemo regimen this coming Tuesday, the 27th. He had originally wanted me to wait another week until February 3rd, supposedly to build up my strength. This would have meant an entire month between chemo treatments and was causing me a lot of anxiety. Everything I read says you do not die from breast cancer, you die from it metastasizing to other vital organs. I worry about it spreading all the time and a whole month off from treatment seemed like a long time to me. So, even though the doctors both told me they didn't think the additional week off was any cause for concern, they respected my feelings and agreed to start this week.

So, that's all the new news for now. I plan to spend this weekend resting and building up my strength so I go into this new treatment strong. I'll let you all know when we have news from the pathology report.

I know a lot of people were thinking of me yesterday. Thank you!

Love you tons!


Jim said...

Thanks for the update. I've been checking continuously since I got into work this morning.

I think they should give you prizes for being such a good patient. Stickers. Buttons. The coveted chenille [musical] note from band. Mention it to them. They'll think you're nuts (not as nuts as I am for thinking it up).

Keep up the good work.


Dottie said...

Dear Martha, WOW! SO much information to process! I'm sure your head must be spinning with how fast it is all coming at you! I have to read and re-read just to try to fully understand everything that's happening (that's using my "good reader" strategies, right, teacher!??!?).

The really good thing is that it sounds like you've got an incredible team of doctors who REALLY know what they are doing and they're not taking any chances . . . AND they respect and validate your feelings. That has GOT to be a huge comfort and relief for you!

You were the source of MANY mini-prayer sessions and good thoughts yesterday from all of us at Gilbert El who love you SO much! I hope you felt the impact of them all!

We're going to continue to be right by your side, Martha, until you are safely back at school with us!! Meanwhile, we all are right here to help you and Joe in ANY--and I really do mean ANY--way you need.

Take care, dear friend!! I hope you are able to get good rest for your busy week coming up.

Lots of love,

LoriH said...

I've been checking since last night for any new news. I'm sure you're glad yesterday is over & you're back at home, hopefully comfortable. I'm glad that they have agreed not to wait any longer than normal for your chemo--that's got to give you a little peace of mind. I'll keep praying for you, Martha. You just hang in there as best you can & know that you have a wealth of support from your family & friends. Lots of hugs for you & Joe!

velvet brick said...

Hey Chica!
I just got home for a bit - the ya-ya's and I were celebrating Norma's birthday and we were talking about your day yesterday and sending good thoughts and prayers your way. I fired up the ol' laptop as soon as I got home and was happy to see your update. I can only imagine the energy, both mentally and physically, it takes to go through all of this. And 'tis ok to have mini-meltdowns. I'm glad to read that the nurses, doctors and techs are taking such good care of you, informing you along the way. I am sorry for your soreness and pain...but grateful you can get some rest this weekend before the new treatment plan. Again, Martha, I can't reiterate enough how graceful and strong you have been in all that you have dealt with. Even when you feel weak, I see you as being so strong. Same with that hubby of yours, too. And your friend, Jim, is really should be getting some kind of prize for being such a good patient!! At least a lollipop! I thought about you so many, many times yesterday and will continue the circle of prayers, hugs and love for you, Joe, the kids and everyone. The power is there and undaunted. Thank you for the update....and enjoy the beautiful weather this weekend. Love you, chica!

N-Search of Peace said...

I am so grateful you are back home safe and sound!!...well maybe not sound but, home surround by those you love...
As Carol said, you were so on "The Ya-Ya's" minds this morning, as we sat all together at Cracker's for brunch...they were such dears to be so kind to me...Ruthie, Carol, and I, were indeed sending to you, all our love and wishing you the best of good news...
My boobies so hurt for you!
The info is allot to take in...I still do see hope, cure, and faith all in it...that is what it comes down to,right?
Martha, you are ever-so brave,even when your tears have to fall sweetie...and fall they need to do...hold on to those that are around you and we all will dry them for you or collect them for another day...
Have a gentle weekend on yourself and allow the silence to be your strength...
With much love and admiration for you...

Meags said...

Thank you for sharing. You have been in many of our prayers and your family.

I love you and need a Martha fix soon.


Cheela said...


You are so brave!! I truly admire you. Will continue thinking of you and saying some prayers!

Lydia said...

I've been checking for your update just like all the others have. I feel for you and all that you are having to go through. It seems like you have some excellent Dr's and a lot of people that care. You are remarkable and I love you and look up to you and the strength that you have shown. Prayers will be heard and answered. Be strong sweetie! Love you, Lydia

The SAB team said...

Martha, thanks so much for keeping us all updated. I'm so glad that you have found this team of doctors in Tucson. It sounds like you are finally in good hands. You are in my thoughts! Sheila

Jane said...

I have been thinking about you! I am so glad that you have found these doctors, and that you are getting your next treatment. It was so good to see you at school yesterday. I didn't get to talk to you, but it really made me happy to see you there. And the tribute of the hair hero was so touching and had us all in tears as we thought of you.

You are amazing, and so strong. I am so impressed with your attitude and your will. Keep fighting, and you will have this beat.

I agree with the good patient award. You deserve a big one!

Love and hugs