Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Oh, My Elephant

I've told you many times about my Cancer Elephant. He's really big this week.

I told you that I have had my genes examined and indeed, I have BRCA2. Having an oophrectomy (ovaries and tubes removed) was the most immediate recommendation.  I could wait for the second mastectomy, right? That was true, until I had an MRI.

My big pink and teal cancer elephant has come to call, again.
Hello, Cancer Elephant...please go back to your shelf!
First the MRI was unpleasant. I had to lie face down, and the ear protection fell out. I was calm until the noise really got going. I thought all that buzzing was happening inside my skull. I had to practice mindfulness to keep calm.

The MRI showed a mass, most likely a cyst. It looked small and rounded, not fed by veins, not spidery and reaching. Just a mass.

Well, hell, I'm done with that. Now I want my mastectomy immediately. Can I do them both? At the same time, so that I can recover all at once and avoid problems at work? 

Maybe, they said.  You need to talk to your breast surgeon and coordinate with your gynocological surgeon.

Hello, Cancer Elephant.

UPDATE:  Ok, it's benign. HUGE sigh of relief.

In the meantime...

A few weeks ago, I had was referred for something called Mohs surgery... on my nose!  I had developed a small bump at the base of the old basal cell site from many years ago.  The dermatologist looked at it and decided  to refer me "to be sure."  

Mohs surgery (micrographic surgery) takes slices of skin from the affected area, layer by layer, until the sample finally shows no cancer. If there is cancer, the surgery can go quite deep. This surgery is a big step, and the gynocological surgeon suggested I get a second opinion.  

That dermatologist got me in immediately.  He looked at my nose, numbed it up, and  took a "small biopsy so we will know if we need Mohs."  Now, I have a big hole in my nose.  Dammit! That was what I was trying to avoid!

See, call me vain, but I've been down this road before. It takes months to heal. Yes, I'm glad for the early biopsy, but, I have to face people with a big bandaid on my nose.  It's not like they aren't worried about me at work already. Do I need to parade my vulnerability on my ample nose?

Never trust a dermatologist when they say "just a little."  I'm officially traumatized back to earlier days.  So much so, I refired my therapy. I need a little support, honestly.  The elephant is a bit bigger.


I had an echocardiogram for my heart. If you remember, I've been struggling with heart palpitations, especially on Tamoxifen. (I've stopped taking it at the moment.)  But seeing my screens with valves opening and closing and Doppler-colored blood flowing brought back memories of my daughter, who had many of these as we tracked her aorta and her heart health.  By the end of it, my anxiety was pretty high.  Fortunately, they reassured me that my heart would probalby be determined to be fine, although they'd take a deep look at specific structures to make sure the chemo hasn't affected them.

A while ago, a smaller EKG was conducted, when I first saw the cardiologist. When the findings were posted on my Electronic Medical Record, it basically said I'd had a heart attack. That was another tipping point: I had to get my cardiologist to call on a Sunday to assure me that that was an error.  So, I spent about five hours, all told, thinking I might be on my way out much sooner than I expected.  

My findings from the Doppler do indeed, show a pretty healthy heart. Thanks, God. The chemo, radiation and all this fun hasn't hurt me yet.  I don't know how, but I'll take it.  Even if it means we have no idea why I'm having palps. (HINT: *ahem* Tamoxifen *ahem*)

Ok, taming my elephant back down....


I had that consult with my breast surgeon. A 15-minute appointment turned into four hours,  as they poked and proded me with more mammograms, ultrasounds and fine needle biopsies. Again, my anxiety got the best of me before the end, and I was weeping on the table as the resident learned to get good tissue samples.  These biopsies do not hurt much to me, they just play games with my mind.

A picture of a maze, my internal mind game.
The game is in your mind.  And you have to play.
This was another tipping point. You see, there's no one that can say the biopsy will come back clear. No one can guarantee that I am not in a whole new world of horror.  I've been on this exact table before, you know. Queue the tears.

It is ironic to be told how strong you are when you just don't feel it at all.  You feel small and vulnerable and so done with this cancer anxiety.  You just want to wake up from the nightmare of very nice caregivers and fear of what's next.


I'll probably have the findings of this next week.  I'll have the dermatology findings later this week. Meanwhile, I had better get comfy with my boy, that elephant of mine, cause he's like an elephant in the china shop of my emotions right now.

How's your elephant? Feel free to post here, on Facebook or Inspire.

Update on the dermatology finding: Yeah, no cancer, just some actinic keratoses. And big hole in my nose.  Not happy.