In the words of that great philosopher, Shrek, I took the approach that regarding my tumour it was better out than in. In fact I couldn’t wait to get that thing out of me.
I met my surgeon with list of questions in hand, and listening buddy at my side. I knew I needed a second set of ears for this meeting – to be sure I heard the things I needed to hear.
Based on my research, I knew that the best practice these days was to have a lumpectomy (sometimes called a partial mastectomy and/or incision biopsy) and a sentinel node biopsy. The lumpectomy leaves most of your breast in place, including the nipple, which for many women is an important consideration. The sentinel node biopsy was to determine if the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes – another important factor in the staging classification. Yes, after this operation my stage and grade classification would be revised based on this larger biopsy.
I LOVED my surgeon. She was compassionate, informed and direct. And she recommended the lumpectomy/sentinel node biopsy approach, based on my pathology report and personal history shared on the multiple forms I’d completed.
First things first – more exams. She felt both breasts and armpits. No sign of lymph inflammation in the armpits. I answered more questions about family history, and about my overall health. She wasn’t just being polite. They are looking for signs that the cancer could have spread. Did my bones hurt, did I have headaches, did my back hurt, did I pee a lot or a little. And so on. I had no family history of breast cancer on either side, and nothing hurt. I peed and poo’d just fine. Discussing bodily functions seemed like the most natural thing in the world. And, now’s the time to be completely transparent – remember those downstream options discussed in a previous post? Be as honest and open as you can up front and you’ll help your team design a course of care for you that optimizes all your choices. She drew pictures for me – where the lump was, what she would do during the operation, etc. We discussed the possible side effects – including the dreaded lymphedema (swelling of the arm). I signed more “I have been informed of and understand the risks” forms.
Plus, she ordered another test. This time an MRI to be done on both breasts. It would give a more detailed look at the tumour itself in my left breast, and a chance to see if there was anything on the right breast that had not shown up on the ultrasound. A prickling of fear crept in at this point – sigh, there could be something in my right breast even though the hand exams and ultrasounds and mammograms had found nothing. Fingers crossed the good news would continue.
A surgery date was provisionally set – June 29. MRI set for June 17 – lots of time, I figured.