Wednesday, March 12, 2014
It’s just me, cancer free
Today I had my first follow-up appointment with the surgical oncologist, and my pathology report just came in. The doctor prefaced the results by saying, “This is as good as we could have hoped for.” The pathology showed no cancer in the lymph nodes, none at one of the tumor sites, and “residual poorly differentiated invasive ductal carcinoma” at the other tumor site. It measured .8 x .7 cm, and 6 mm “from the deep margin” (which I believe means margin from the chest wall). The doctor is extremely pleased by this report, and he said that I should feel as if I “just won an Olympic medal.”
Have I mentioned that I like to be thorough? Well, I do. I am supposed to be in a very celebratory mood right now, but I must confess that my joy is somewhat measured. I had hoped to be in the 45% of people whose tumors disappear all together. I mentioned that to the doctor, and he said, “Well, it all but has disappeared.” Okay. But this thoroughness-loving get-the-job-done perfectionist wanted more! I wanted it all the way gone. *Sigh* Of course, as I’m writing this, I am reminded that it is all gone now, thanks to the surgery. I am now essentially cancer free, and if that isn’t something to celebrate, I don’t know what is! Regardless of the fact that there was residual tumor, it and the “demon boob” (as my friend called it) are both gone, and that teeny bit of residual cancer was removed with a nice wide margin around it.
Despite these excellent results, I still get my remaining treatments under the rationale that they will serve as “insurance” against any undetected rogue cells floating around my body. In other words, the course of chemo coming up in April and May is not intended to kill any tumors because I now have no tumors to kill. Rather, it is meant to clean up any remaining microscopic bits that may have survived the first course of chemo and the surgery. Same thing with the radiation that I’ll be getting in the summer.
Beyond the path report, I am healing well from surgery. I am mostly off narcotics now, and the swelling is receding. It’s funny. I am now cancer free, but never have I looked more like a cancer patient: No hair, missing a boob, a big scar across my chest, my right arm wrapped up to prevent lymphedema, lymph drain bags hanging from my body. Oh well. While all of that is clearly a pain in the ass (the drain bags, in particular) it doesn’t bother me too much, as most of it is temporary. And no, I don’t miss my right breast. At first I thought I might. Last Thursday, before surgery, I wished it good riddance, and I meant it. However, I was unsure how I would actually feel after the fact. But, honestly, looking at myself in the mirror and seeing it gone does not feel weird. In fact, it feels oddly normal. Having cancer and knowing that I had tumors right there in my breast felt much weirder and scarier to me. So while I probably don’t look like myself to those around me, I feel like myself. This is not a “new, cancer-free me” talking, or even a partially boobless me. It is just me; cancer free.