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Basic breast cancer history

October 8, 2017

July 2017 – I noticed a lump in my right breast enough times to know that it wasn’t a milk gland or something else that would go away. Saw my doctor who referred me for an ultrasound where they confirmed that “Yes, there is a lump in your breast”…

August 2 – Went to The Breast Center and had another ultrasound. I was hoping for a biopsy, but had to wait until the following week. Had a mammogram later that day, which I can only describe as doing a dance with a stranger and a machine and you don’t know any of the steps.

August 7 – Had the biopsy done. Not that worried since I’ve been through this before. I had a benign lump removed in 2005 which I will talk about later. My doctor, Dr. S, is a “little concerned” because the lump doesn’t look like anything familiar – not even cancer. She tells me to bring someone to my next appointment because it could be a lot of information. This concerns me. It’s our 7 year anniversary, and the 2 year anniversary of Jonathan’s vasectomy. We agree that we should stop being jabbed with needles on our anniversary.

August 14 – Jonathan and I go to the appointment and learn that the lump does have cancer cells in it. Dr. S says that even so, everything about it looks good. It doesn’t seem to be in my lymph nodes, receptors are whatever way is best and it doesn’t seem aggressive. Because of my age (36), she wants me to see a genetic counselor. We schedule an MRI and appointments with an oncologist and genetic counselor.

August 15 – I see the genetic counselor. There isn’t any history of cancer on either side of my family. The counselor doesn’t expect to find anything, but we run a 9 gene panel just to check the ones that are most commonly connected with breast cancer. I had neuroblastoma as a baby, which I will talk about a lot more later, but there is only one known gene that might link breast cancer and neuroblastoma. She said if that mutation were present there would be a LOT of other cancers in our family.

August 16 – We meet with an oncologist. She tells me the cancer is stage 1 or 2 based on its size. She had seen my other doctor before my appointment and they had discussed doing chemo to shrink the tumor to improve the cosmetic results of a lumpectomy. I told her my history, my wariness of conventional treatments, my desire to do as little as necessary (lumpectomy vs mastectomy). She was understanding of this.

August 18 – I have a breast MRI. I will talk about this more later as well. It was a total buzzkill and brought me back to cancer reality.

August 23 – I have an appointment with my main doctor and surgeon, Dr. S. I decided to go ahead with a lumpectomy on September 1. She talked about waiting until we got the results from genetic testing back, but I knew it wouldn’t make a difference for me at this point since I don’t think I would have a mastectomy either way.

August 29 – I follow up with the genetic counselor. Everything came back negative as we expected. We decided to run one more test on 14 more genes since it’s easy to do and already covered by insurance. (Nothing came from those either.)

My fortune cookie from lunch after meeting with the genetic counselor. I believe this.

September 1 – I have a lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node dissection. This is where they inject a dye in my breast, see which lymph nodes it drains to first, and remove them. I was concerned because depending on what the nodes looked like, they could decide to take many more of them and I wouldn’t know until after surgery. Thankfully, they only ended up taking three. Surgery went fine and I was home that evening.

September 7 – Follow up with Dr. S. She told us that two of the three lymph nodes they removed had some cancer in them. The tumor was made up of invasive and non-invasive cancer, which is why it was so weird. The margins on the non-invasive were small, but still within allowed limits. She was okay with leaving everything as is, but was going to discuss it with the tumor board. She told me I would have to have chemo in addition to radiation and hormone therapy. This was a difficult appointment.

September 12 – We meet with the oncologist again. Since she knew where I was coming from with regards to treatment, she didn’t insist on chemo, but said if I was going to do one thing, hormone therapy was going to be the most effective and necessary treatment. I wasn’t happy with the lack of specific information we got. I asked for other testing options like a PET scan, but didn’t get anything. She referred me to another oncologist at Emory for a second opinion.

September 15 – Back to Dr. S. I’m healing well. She is kind and as helpful as possible in getting me more details about what I am dealing with, likelihood of recurrence, etc…

September 20 – Meeting with the radiation oncologist. He explains everything and tells me if I choose not to have radiation, I should have a mastectomy.

At this point, we are about to go out of town for family vacation and then to a wedding, so I put out some feelers for alternative treatments. I had already been in contact with Oasis of Hope in Tijuana where I received treatment as a baby. I got a lot of good feedback, but mostly checked out for the next 10 days while we were out of town. I did contact the office of Dr. Bergeron (Real Health Medical), a doctor who practices holistic, functional and alternative medicine, per multiple recommendations.

October 2 – Had a 4.5 hour appointment at Real Health Medical in Roswell. They did extensive blood work, metabolic testing, and a lot of other things I don’t know or can’t remember the names for. I have been concerned with getting to the root of why my body has broken down in this way and believe this is a good place to start.

October 4 – We met with Dr. G at Emory. Though I didn’t necessarily like some of her recommendations, we really like her. Very methodical in her explanations and seems to understand that I need a lot of information. She pulled up some numbers based on my exact case, explained two different tests available (MammaPrint and Oncatype) and which would best apply to me (MammaPrint). She ordered that test and a PET scan.

And that’s where we are now. I have an appointment tomorrow at RHM to get my results and see what treatment plan they have for me. On Tuesday, October 10, I will have a PET scan, and then I will follow up with Dr. G on October 26.

There is so much more to share, but I hope this will help explain the basics of what’s been going on and give me a space to update more regularly.

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