It has been quite an eventful three weeks since my last post.
I guess it has been well over a month now. On July 22nd I had a PET Scan. The findings from that was a dark spot on my left adrenal gland, my right Femur, and in my stomach. The appointment with my surgeon on July 26th was to tell me of the PET Scan findings and subsequent tests that would be done to see if my breast cancer had spread to the darkened areas.
According to my surgeon, a dark spot on a Femur is an indicator of breast cancer. If a spot is found near the hip, breast cancer is soon to follow. In later days I would have a bone biopsy done.
August 3rd was the start of a pretty rough week. I have been a one pack a day smoker for over 40 years. I’ve tried to quit on numerous occasions, with not much luck. I am under the supervision of an RN who specializes in Smoking Cessation. Through her care I have been given a box of nicotine patches to help me quit smoking. And a box of of nicotine gum.
The thing I have been able to keep uppermost in my mind is not the cancer or treatment, but the rich blessings I have received from hundreds of people around the world. Each person let me know they were praying for me. Through your prayers, encouragement, support, and the love you have freely given to me I feel POSITIVE that you all have had an enormous effect on my cancer. This post is to inform you of what those prayers have caused and to tell you how grateful I am for each and every one of you.
Earlier in the month of July I had been informed my breast cancer is fed by hormones, Estrogen specifically. Then I was informed by a nurse to the Oncologist that nicotine feeds the breast cancer. And to top it off, I was later informed that all foods I consume feed the cancer. This is truly a case of “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. No winners here.
Before I met with the Smoking Cessation Specialist I had worked pretty hard for a couple of weeks to cut down on my smoking. I was able to get a pack of cigarettes to last for 48 hours. After I was being treated with the nicotine patch I gradually worked myself down to two cigarettes per day. Stressful days I would have three.
That first week of the patches, having to write down the time I lit up and for how long I smoked….a few puffs, half a cigarette, or an entire one was really quite challenging to my temperament. I had to indicate if the desire to smoke was “Low”, “Moderate”, or “Strong”. Also I had to make note of WHY I lit up. No matter what the reason was that I put down on the little paper, the end result was just plain old REBELLION.
On August 8th I had to go for the bone biopsy. I would be put into another scanning machine to locate the dark spot on my Femur then the doctor would drill for oil. I had a peek at the tool he used, after the procedure was over, much to my dismay. A specially created drill bit that would do a core sample as well laid on the instrument tray. That bit was every bit of 5 inches long!
Bone biopsy drill
Scanner for my bone biopsy
I was awake through this procedure. The nurses who monitored me and assisted the doctor had me lie on my stomach. Once prone, the nurses were not very happy with where I had placed myself on the bed. Each of them grabbed a bit of the sheet at my feet and speedily hauled me backward. That was shocking if I do say so. I’ve watched too many movies and television shows. The speed at which I was jerked backward was very unsettling. They giggled, I loudly blurted “Holy Sh*t”, which caused more giggling.
The nurse that monitored my vital signs told me she would give me a drug that would cause me to forget what was happening and another drug that would be a pain medicine. What was I supposed to forget? The amount of discomfort this procedure was going to cause or if my potty mouth was no longer in check?
I can say the drugs I was given made the stabbing pains in my left breast go completely away. That was a comfort all by itself. I had to remain awake to move around as needed for the drilling. I would hear the drill motor going then it would stop. I would be told to tip over to my left side just a little bit. Then the bed I lay on would be mechanically moved into the scanning machine. At a sufficient position a whirring noise would sound, the doctor would say something, the whirring would stop and the bed would come back out of the machine. I was then instructed to lay flat once more and the drill motor would begin again.
When the procedure was finished, then and only then, did the doctor tell me to be careful for the next 72 hours. No heavy lifting, no household chores, no strenuous exercise of any kind. I could possibly break my femur and that would entail major surgery. Thank you Doc. You could have warned me when I was a bit more lucid in my head instead of at the end of the procedure when I would be allowed to go to sleep. I thought of breaking my leg for more than 72 hours.
I was in no pain at all by the time Joe came to take me home. He had been told I would be held over for four hours and he was told to go get something to eat. While he was gone they reduced the time to two hours, of which mere minutes of that time remained. Poor Joe nearly broke a leg hurrying to my little part of the hospital to take me home.
Oh, Lord have Mercy! That night. The pain in my right leg was tremendous. It was such that made my entire body shake from the intensity. I had not been prescribed pain medicine. Do you know what I did at 1:00 a.m. when the pain was too much? Well I’ll tell you what I did. I dug through my bathroom drawers and cupboards until I found a bottle of Hydrocodone which expired June of 2006. I took one of those pills and waited for it to take effect. By 3:00 a.m. I was blissfully asleep.
My cigarette smoking has stayed in the two per day for a few more days. By the end of the week I had managed to get it down to one and a half.
On August 10th I saw my Oncologist. She got a good hold of my left breast. Raised it, lowered it, moved it the right and left. She was not very delicate with her maneuvering either. She squeezed it. Put a micrometer tool under my breast, flopped it around while she adjusted her measuring device. Jammed the toothy tool into the under part of my poor breast to get her measurements. That was uncomfortable but worse was yet to come. She began firmly feeling for the edges of my cancer. Pressing deeply with her finger tips then squeezing firmly with both hands to find all the various separations, of which there are several.
When she was finished my lower jaw ached.
I was under a NO ASPIRIN restriction so I had to ease the discomfort with wimpy Tylenol. I couldn’t use my Vanquish which I rely on. I would have my stomach scoped the next day and would have a biopsy done which required the No aspirin restriction.
After visiting with my Oncologist I went to see the Smoking Cessation Specialist. I told her of my progress, which she was pleased. I was a bit bummed because my smoking had increased to three the day before. She performed some kind of lung test. I would inhale a deep breath before blowing into a machine that would indicate how much of a smoker I am. On my initial visit with this Specialist this test had a result of “16”. She said that did indicate a 1/2 pack a day smoker. On this day when I took the breath test it was on “5”. She was really happy and told me that I was now considered a Non-Smoker. So that made me feel better.
The cravings can be quite strong from time to time and hard to ignore. I do make many attempts to distract myself during those powerful urges. Sometimes I’m successful and other times I am not. I have come to find that during stress is when I smoke more.
On August 11th I had my stomach scope done. This time I would be put completely out with the aid of drugs. Of course, while all the prep work was being done in getting the equipment ready for the doctor one of the nurses asked me if I had any questions or concerns. Of course I did. Not with the procedure as they were expecting me to pose my queries.
“How clean in that thing you will be putting down my throat? I mean, am I going to end up with some terrible infection that is left over from a really sick person before me?” I was serious. I’ve read the articles on the internet and you know….if it is on the internet then it HAS to be true!
Both of the nurses began telling me how clean they keep their equipment. I was told how they get inside to the different levels and thoroughly clean them. They went on further to state that they have been where I was and their main objective was to make sure the equipment was clean enough for them to be tested and not get infected.
Hey, I was in the room and time was short before the festivities began. A bit late now to be bailing out. Besides, I was already hooked up to some pretty good drugs that were taking the edge off of my anxiety.
The nurse that would be in control of my drugs was the one who was working to ease my anxiety. I remember her saying they were about to begin and that I would be going to sleep now. Indeed I did go to sleep. I felt them put some kind of weird thing in my mouth and put the elastic around my head. With my tongue I felt a round hole in the center of this thing set between my teeth. That was where the probe was going to be fed. That is all I remember….UNTIL
I was partially awake and had an intense desire to swallow. I could feel the probe far down my throat. I tried hard to swallow, which was very difficult. I lay there wondering how I could breath. I concentrated on inhaling through my nose to see if I could, in fact, breathe. I wondered at that hard tube being somewhere down my esophagus and tried to see if I could feel just how far down it was. Then I felt the probe being pushed further down my throat and I heard myself groan. Yep, the drugs were then pumped into me right then and there.
I don’t remember being moved from the room I had started in to awaken in the Recovery Room. I thought the nurse was lying to me. I was so disoriented and groggy that I have no idea if I said anything I would have been ashamed of were I not drugged up. If I did the nurse was kind enough to let it go. She stayed with me until I was able to stand and walk into the waiting area where Joe was.
Once home I went to my living room chair for a moment to quell the dizziness I felt and three hours later I made it out of the chair. I had gone completely to sleep.
Friday, August 12th I had my normal stabbing pains in my left breast. Sometimes it was really intense on the underside and almost unbearable. I could rely on my Vanquish now that I was not having any further biopsies and could leave the Tylenol alone.
I had been spending quite a lot of time on my business paperwork the week before and on the days I didn’t have doctor appointments or biopsies. I was making quite a bit of progress in getting that dreaded chore done. Some days I would get into my third cigarette by nightfall.
I worked each day diligently. Three hours or more to get that job done. I had the various files sorted and in some stage of completion.
Now I had it to the point where I could get the finished files into one box. I still have one month to go for the personal bookkeeping and a small bit for the business.
Completed files, bank statements, and personal files
My breast was giving me some fits for quite a few days. I had been scheduled for an Ultrasound on my breast for August 16th. The stabbing pain was quelled with my Vanquish, which has 227 milligrams of aspirin in it, over the weekend and on Monday. Tuesday the pain was pretty intense and constant. I went back to my 10 year old Hydrocodone stash and took another one to ease my discomfort.
The morning of the 16th I’m told I will have a biopsy done on my breast to get me started on treatment. The bone scan came back negative for any cancer cells. The stomach scope came back with an ulcer and I had some bacterial pockets in my stomach that would need treatment with antibiotics. I have H. Pylori. A bacteria commonly found in people that eat Sushi or undercooked food. I don’t eat fish raw or cooked so I have no idea how I ended up with that bacterial infection.
Anyway, since I had been taking Aspirin then the biopsy and ultrasound would be postponed until Friday, August 19th. That was today. The doctor who would be performing the biopsy was kind enough to prescribe me a pain medicine that was current and I would not have to rely on my outdated supply any longer. So I used that medicine instead of my Vanquish.
This is my left breast. It is swollen with the cancer and is mottled purple underneath. This is when it gets to be quite painful, even to the touch of my clothing brushing against it. The sheet in bed can be very uncomfortable.
My left breast
I decided to take this photo. Today I begin the treatment phase and it is hoped that this will work. Reduce the cancer tumor, make it less hard, shrink it enough that surgery can be performed to remove it. I’m hoping that it will and I won’t have to go through Chemo.
Because the cancer has not spread to other parts of my body and remains localized in my breast I can begin the Research Study which will be for six months. Every month I will have a biopsy done on the cancer to see what the “Ki67” score is. That is the growth of the cancer. If it continues to grow and the Ki67 score gets higher this Research Study treatment will end and I will have to begin Chemotherapy. If the current treatment on the Research Study is working as intended, at the end of the six month period the surgery will be performed to remove the cancer in the breast and the lymph node(s).
During my treatment it is expected that I will have “Hot Flashes”, which I have deemed Power Surges. Some flu like symptoms, fatigue, bone pain, headaches, and other nuisance symptoms that can be dealt with by generally ignoring them and just suck it up.
There have been reports of abnormal liver functions in the blood tests with Fluvestrant, the drug I am being treated with. Cancer treatment has come a long, long way since the first diagnosis and treatment. There are different types of breast cancer and each type is treated in a different way. Today there are pills and shots for cancer treatment. My study is to find out if Fluvestrant can be used alone as treatment for hormone related cancers, before surgery.
Currently, I am working on a financial report regarding the GoFundMe account my daughter set up for me. I thought, those of you that have been so generous, you would like to know how the money has been spent. I assure you, I have not trotted myself to the local craft/hobby store to find the most shiny and beautiful papers and embellishments.
Thank you everyone for your prayers, encouragement, financial support, and love you have so freely given to me. I am so very grateful for the abundance I have been given. Thank you is just such a small thing but it is all I have to give.