What has been happening since October
I wanted to take some time to explain why I have been so quiet on my blog and on social media.
On October 13th or 14th, I found a lump in my right breast. My husband and I freaked out the whole weekend.
When Monday came around, I called my OB and got an appointment. I was told it was probably nothing, but I was scheduled for my first Mammogram and Ultrasound. Because my husband and I were told it was probably nothing to worry about, I went to the mammogram by myself. Because I don’t turn 40 until February 2018, my first mammogram was an experience! The first shock of the day was that my co-pay was $500. What great insurance we have
To back up a minute, I had just had my annual exam and she found nothing. So that means whatever was growing in me, grew within a month. Another thing is that I never really did a self-breast exam. SO IMPORTANT!
Then it came time for my ultrasound. A few minutes in I knew something was wrong. The tech started asking me questions like, “What is your insurance? Do you have a high deductible? Is your schedule flexible?” When she asked about my schedule, I knew something was wrong. I answered the questions about the insurance and then said I am self-employed so yes, my schedule is flexible. I then asked why she needs to know that and she said that the doctor would want to do more tests. That’s when I started crying. I cried for the rest of the ultrasound.
The doctor came in and said that they found something on both breasts that would need more testing. I asked what kind of testing and she said that she would need to do a biopsy on both breasts. I immediately called my husband because I was a mess. Then shock number three came — the co-pay for the biopsy was $1,600. I started to cry even more. They said that I could come back and do this another day and I said that I was already here, and someone was watching my son. Because this took place on a Friday, I wouldn’t get the results until Tuesday. Another weekend where my husband and I were a nervous wreck.
I started calling the test place that Tuesday morning and then twice that afternoon, but they had no results yet. Towards the end of the day, my son was playing at the neighbors. Luckily, I brought my phone with me when it was time to go get him. We were walking across the yard when my primary care doctor called me. She started talking and I knew it was bad news. Because I was with my son, I couldn’t start crying because I didn’t want him to know anything was wrong. Then those words came, “YOU HAVE BREAST CANCER”. I stopped for a second and realized my son was already in the house. I composed myself and told my son to go into mommy’s bedroom while I finished this phone call. I then locked myself in my office and fell to my knees. That’s when I started crying. I tried to really pay attention to what my doctor was telling me. I was told that it had invaded the breast but doesn’t look like it had spread anywhere else. The tumor is on my muscle, but she couldn’t tell if it was in my muscle. That explains why it hurts and sometimes I get a burning sensation, meaning it is near my nerves. She then gave me a list of surgeons and would put in a referral for one of them that she knows and sends all her patients too.
The rest of that night was a blur. All I remember was my husband coming home from work and family and friends coming over. Before any of that, my husband and I talked with Mikey. He saw that I had been crying so we told him that mommy found out she is sick and that I’m going to have to see doctors to make me all better. I told him that people were going to be coming over and that they may be crying. He asked why, and I said that we are a little scared of this news, but we will get through this.
The next day from 8:00 am until 1:30 pm I was on the phone scheduling appointments, talking to the insurance and see what is or is not covered with our high deductible, talking to Mikey’s pediatrician, talking to family and friends, etc. Then 1:30 hit. I had plenty to do but I said out loud, now what do I do? I started bawling for like 15 minutes. Asking why is this happening, asking for guidance and begging to not be taken away from my son. I just kept repeating “please don’t take me away from my son and family.” After 15 minutes I had to calm myself because my son would be home soon.
The rest of that week was more phone calls and getting things into place. We also had to deal with Mikey acting out at school. Luckily his teacher knew what was going on and was able to deal with Mikey the proper way.
November 1st, I had an MRI and let me tell you if you haven’t had one for breast cancer, it’s an experience. Nobody told me what I would be walking into. My husband was able to stay in the room with me. We walk in and they tell you how they want you. You have to lay on your belly, which is fine, but then you have to place your breasts into these holes and put your arms above your head. I also had to get an IV, so they can put this dye in you. I had to lay there for about 45 minutes to an hour and not move. I can see why they give you earplugs because it is so loud. All I could do was lay there and try and control my breathing. When those results came back, I was told that it hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes, which is good.
The following week, my husband and I got back to some sort of normalcy, which was great for Mikey. If he is taken out of his routine, it is crazy town! Good news was that Mikey was better at school and there were no bad reports
November 13th, I met with the first surgeon. She walked in and we fell in love with her. We did find out that I have Invasive Ductal Cancer — Stage 1.
We did go for a second opinion, but did not like that doctor at all.
On November 22nd, we met with the oncologist and we found out that I have Grade 3. There are three grades of breast cancer — cancer cells are given a grade — grade 1 usually means that the cancer is slow growing and less likely to spread — grade 3, which is what I have, means a faster-growing cancer that’s more likely to spread (https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/understanding-a-breast-cancer-diagnosis/breast-cancer-grades.html).
I also have a triple negative breast cancer — meaning that my estrogen and progesterone receptors are negative as well as the HER2. Triple-negative breast cancer grows and spreads faster than most. Hormone therapy is not helpful in treating this (https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/understanding-a-breast-cancer-diagnosis/breast-cancer-hormone-receptor-status.html).
We also found out that the tumor is the cancer. THE GOOD NEWS is we have caught it in time and the tumor is small — like the size of your pinky finger. The job of the chemo is to kill the cancer and hopefully shrink it away from my muscle. The chemo may also get rid of it all together.
Now about the treatment….
I will be getting chemo for 16 weeks, once a week, every other week.
I will be having two types of chemo — 4 treatments of Adriamycin/Cytoxan every two weeks and then 4 treatments of Taxol every 2 weeks. I will then have the Neulasta patch 24 hours after the chemo to help fight off infections. I’m sure you have seen the commercial about this patch — https://www.neulasta.com. This drug is to help boost my white blood cell count to reduce the risk of infection.
In order to receive the chemo, I had a port surgically put in on December 4th. Through that port and before each chemo session they will test my white blood cells to make sure I am where I am supposed to be. Also through that port, they will give me 2 anti-nausea medications before chemo. Those are Aloxi and Emend and they should work for several days. I will also have some anti-nausea medications prescribed to me to take at home.
I will start losing my hair about 2 weeks after starting chemo 😭
December 8th was my first chemo treatment and it was very overwhelming. I think they do this for all first-time patients, but I was able to get the private room. I was actually much happier there because I was so very overwhelmed. My nurse, Gail, was fantastic. She was so caring, sweet, and took her time with everything.
The first thing they do is go over everything with you, such as side effects and what to do if I get any of those, especially the really serious ones, like a fever. Then it was time for them to access the port. Because the glue was still fresh, they couldn’t put any numbing cream on it. She asked if I was ready and I started to cry. I was scared, overwhelmed, frightened and more. I thought getting the port on the 4th was making it real. It was getting the chemo that made it all real for me.
I finally calmed myself down and they accessed the port with a very small needle. Honestly, I hardly felt anything. They first drew blood for the genetic testing, which I’ll talk about in a few minutes, then they also drew blood to test my white blood count, red blood count, and platelets. They then started to administer the anti-nausea medications. These medications can last up to 5 days in my system. Once those where done then came the chemo.
I think I need to change my favorite color because the first drug I got was red. There were three big syringes of this red, chemo drug that she had to administer. Once that was done, they did the second chemo drug which was hung from a bag. This they had to administer a bit slower because of some side effects. Halfway through I started to feel pressure in my head, like sinus pressure, so they slowed it down a bit. I have to say, between those two drugs, I was feeling a bit loopy and tired.
Once we were done, we had to go to Wegmans to get some medications I forgot to purchase beforehand and then went to get Mikey from my parents. I couldn’t wait to get home and crawl into bed. I was mentally and physically exhausted. I think I was asleep by 8:30 or 9:00.
I want to thank my cousin, Kelly, who was at Pluta when I was there. She sat with me and Aldo the whole time and was very supportive. It meant so much to me.
Day 2 I felt very drained but ok. I wasn’t hungry but ate what I craved and drank. I slept most of the afternoon. The Neulasta patch worked like it was supposed. Slept through the night.
Day 3 was a different story :( One of the side effects from the Neulasta is that your body may hurt. Well, it did. My problem is that I couldn’t tell if it was a fibro flare or the drug. I did have the energy to sit in bed and do my Christmas cards :) but then slept the rest of the day. I woke up around 5:00 and I was up, no joke, until 7:00 the next morning. I couldn’t go to sleep for the life of me. I don’t know if it was because I was hurting and couldn’t get comfortable.
Day 4 I spent most of the day in bed. I tried not to sleep so I would be able to sleep last night. I finished my Christmas cards and tried to vacuum the house a bit. I was still hurting but I know I can’t just lay in bed all day. By the time Mikey got home from school, my energy was shot. We did his homework, YUCK with trouble, but we got it done. After dinner, I took a shower and I was exhausted. Once Mikey went to bed, I think I finally fell asleep around 9:30.
Day 5, which is today, I feel different. I am still very tired, but not like I’ve been. My body hurts some but I feel very weak. Like shaky weak, if that makes sense. I have had breakfast the past couple of mornings, which is something I never do. I know I need to eat small meals because I don’t have an appetite.
I am now on Day 8 and I finally started to feel normal again on Day 6 & 7. Actually, Day 7 was my first day back in my office.
I have set-up a Caring Bridge site where I can make journal entries. My caring bridge site is also connected to a Gofundme. You can find my site at https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/michellearbore. If you click on Ways To Help, you will find my Gofundme.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story.
Originally published at Savvy Social Media with Michelle Arbore.