The countdown begins. Today is exactly 21 days until my 6th and final chemotherapy treatment! I was able to receive my fifth treatment today. My blood cell counts were a teensy bit low. But the nurse said that it’s expected at this stage that they will be slightly low and not a concern unless they’re way low.
I have to say, the human body is an amazing thing. Given how I felt the past 5 days and running a fever and having no voice, chest congestion and a brutal cough, I was skeptical to put it midly and scared shitless to put it more honestly that I would be unable to have treatment today. My body pulled through! I tried hard to give it what it needed, so it reciprocated, and I’m grateful for that.
Today at my appointment, Dr. Paul said that I’m doing great. Still no palpable masses. He’s very pleased with how I’m responding. I discussed with him my upcoming surgery and gave him the date. I talked to him about the lymph node procedure that my surgeon, Dr. Schwartzberg will be doing. She has me scheduled for a sentinel node procedure instead of a full axillary node dissection. Here’s what that means:
The dictionary defines “sentinel” as a guard, watchdog, or protector. Likewise, the sentinel lymph node is the first node “standing guard” for your breast. In sentinel lymph node dissection, the surgeon looks for the very first lymph node that filters fluid draining away from the area of the breast that contained the breast cancer. If cancer cells are breaking away from the tumor and traveling away from your breast via the lymph system, the sentinel lymph node is more likely than other lymph nodes to contain cancer.
The idea behind sentinel node dissection is this: Instead of removing 10 or more lymph nodes and analyzing all of them to look for cancer, remove only the one node that is most likely to have it. If this node is clean, chances are the other nodes have not been affected. In reality, the surgeon usually removes a cluster of two or three nodes — the sentinel node and those closest to it.
Strategic removal of just one or a few key underarm nodes can accurately assess overall lymph node status in women who have relatively small breast cancers (smaller than 5 cm) and who have lymph nodes that don’t feel abnormal before surgery. Studies have shown that after almost 5 years, women who had just the sentinel node removed were as likely to be alive and free of cancer as women who had more lymph nodes removed.
I was concerned with doing the sentinel node procedure because I’ve already had a positive biopsy of one lymph node. Dr. Paul said that recent studies have shown that outcomes are similar for both procedures and that radiation of the remaining nodes is really the key in treatment. I already knew that radiation would follow surgery and have chosen that doctor too. So it’s business as usual. Stay the course. Thousand points of light.
I can see clearly … then
I asked Dr. Paul about my vision. Frankly, it sucks suddenly. Contacts, glasses, light or dark. Though I’ve had glasses since the fourth grade, my prescription hasn’t changed in a decade or more. It seemed odd that I’d have a vision change that abrupt that wasn’t linked to chemo. Dr. Paul confirmed that it is. He said it can cause a change in the shape of the eyeball! Ain’t that some freaky stuff? But that it usually returns in a few months. Of course, I’m going to run out of contacts before my eyes will readjust. So now I’m sure I’ll have to jump through some hoops for my eye doctor to extend my prescription without an eye exam. Still, good news that the vision will self correct!
Thank you to Phil and Linda for my care package from South Carolina. It was like Oprah’s “Favorite Things.” I really appreciate a great book. And I’ll find my way to the goodies when my treatment permits. I appreciate your thoughtfulness. And I enjoy reading Phil’s letters!
Thank you to Erika for the awesome bag. I’m seeing “pool bag” in my future. I’m sure it’ll be the go-to spot when the kids are looking for the sunscreen or their cell phones, t-shirts and whatever else they can shove in so that they don’t have to carry anything. Also thank you for all the things inside: book of inspiring quotes, warm socks and foot lotion. LOVE them!
Thank you Franny and Donn for the Amazon gift card. So awesome. I am planning to redecorate my bedroom after treatment is done (I’m SO tired of looking at those freaking covers!) so I’ll put it toward that.
Thank you to Michele and David for a SECOND house plant. It’s beautiful. Michael repotted it, and it’s on the fireplace hearth.
Thank you to Brittany for stopping by to visit. I’m so glad to stay connected at this time. I appreciate you taking time to catch up, BS and have some laughs.
Thank you to Kerrianne for coming out to spend Spring Break with us. She’ll get here Saturday, and there might be some surprises waiting for her!!
Finally, thank you to everyone who sends me cards, texts, emails and Facebook messages, comments on my blog, reads my blog and prays for me. I don’t know what I’d do without you ALL.
This is a departure from cancer treatment talk, but it happened today so here goes… We have a lot of deer who hang out in our yard. Two females in particular that I call Jane and Fawnzie. Well, evidently, Fawnzie is hurt. She’s limping and holding one of her back legs in the air. She curled up in the mulch under the tree and chilled for a while. I asked Michael to find some fruit that’s about to turn to toss it out to her. We waited until she was up and foraging again. He threw a pear and an apple. She went right for the apple and was devouring it. Suddenly, Jane appeared (she must have been on the side of the house) and ran up on the hillside. She hit Fawnzie with her front paw several times and made her drop the apple! I was appalled! But as quickly as she overtook, she turned up her nose at the apple and retreated. It was as if she wanted to prove she could have the apple if she wanted. What are they, animals? Is this about survival of the fittest? Come on, Jane, it’s March in Ken Caryl Valley. You don’t exactly have to be so instinctual. You’ve stayed fat all winter. You’re not hurt. And there’s a pear up there on the hillside. So don’t be a mean girl. It’s very unattractive. I hope she reads this and is very embarrassed of her behavior, thus bowing to societal pressure to conform to more ladylike norms. Honestly, I felt my mom instincts come out. I wanted to tell her that she was not being fair and think of her poor herdmate who was injured. “Now you go sit and think about what you’ve done.”