Wow, it's been a crazy few weeks...where to start!
It's been like "Germ-a-palooza" around my house; everyone has been sick! First Alex, then Jeremy, then a nice sendoff with me...ugh. It was just a 24-hour thing for all of us, but with 12 hours of puking for each of us that was no fun! I am happy to say that we are all healthy (for now at least)!
I got the pathology reports back from my surgery and everything looked really good. The largest of the tumors went from being apx. 11 cm to 3 cm (which after only 4 chemo treatments is really good they tell me). There were no abnormalities found in the skin or nipple tissue and the tissue sections closest to my left breast (the unaffected one) showed negative for tumor involvement. They took out 21 lymph nodes and only 11 of them showed metastatic tissue (cancer). She had told me prior to the surgery that since there was no way for them to know conclusively how many nodes had been affected, they would take out more than they thought just to make sure they got it all, so that was just a positive reinforcement! So what this all means is that as of now, I am officially cancer free...whoop, whoop!! Now, don't get too excited, I still have to do all the additional treatments as planned, but it will all be for preventative measures and not to treat any remaining cancer.
The plans have changed slightly, but not too terribly much. I will still do 4 rounds of dose dense chemo starting on Tuesday, but they aren't sure what type yet. The "industry standard" is to follow up surgery with Taxol (that's the name of the chemo - as opposed to Adriamycin-Cytoxan which is what my first 4 rounds were) however my doctor is considering switching that to Cisplatin, which is a newer drug. She was going to talk to the Tumor Board about it and see what their consensus was and let me know on Tuesday. After reading the side effects, I am leaning more towards the Taxol, however I guess I will wait and see what she has to say before I make my final decision. Also, the original plan was to do chemo, then radiation, wait 6 months for my skin to heal, and then do the rest of my surgeries...however Dr. Burt has made the suggestion that I start the surgery process before radiation so that my skin won't be so damaged. She wants to see what Dr. Balanoff says (that's my surgeon) so I'm still not sure what the plan is. I'm sure I will know more on Tuesday when we meet.
A little off the subject of me, but still a relevant topic I think...my oldest sister was tested for both the BRCA2 gene mutation (the one that I have) and P16 (one that they think might run in my family on my dad's side due to all the melanoma). Her results came back negative for the P16, but unfortunately they were positive for BRCA2. Now, I want to make sure everyone is clear...this does NOT mean that she has cancer. What it means is that she has a genetic mutation which makes her more likely to develop cancer sometime in her future. A "normal" female has apx. a 9% chance of developing cancer sometime in her lifetime. A woman who is BRCA2 positive has apx. an 87% chance. So, that obviously is a pretty large jump, which means they do a lot of preventative measures for those who test positive for the gene. They will recommend that she have a double mastectomy sometime in the next year or two and they will also recommend that she have her family early and have her ovaries removed by age 35. In addition, she will have frequent testing and lots of monitoring for the rest of her life. This is where I want to say that my sister is AMAZINGLY STRONG!!!! I'm not sure how many 23 year old women would get this news and not have a complete breakdown and she is handling it so well. Obviously she's upset, but she is being so level-headed and thinking through all her options just like she's a mature old woman! I am so incredibly proud of her that words can't even express it. I know how many of you are praying for me and I would humbly like to ask that you would add her to your prayers. She's obviously got a long road ahead of her, but I know that with her strong faith, a smart head on her shoulders and a lot of support from her friends and family she will get through this and never let cancer invade her body!
Now, to end on a positive note...I went shopping last week and got my boob! Well the temporary one at least. ;o) I must say though, I really felt like I needed to buy that girl dinner or something because after 2 hours of being felt up I sure thought we were close! As odd as it sounds, I actually got the prosthetic and my bras at Nordstroms. Apparently they do a lot of work with the American Cancer Society and they have a class where they get certified in prosthetic fittings, etc. And all joking aside, she was actually really great...A+ for Kelsey! :o) It's amazing how realistic it looks and feels, and it really does make me feel more "normal" until my surgery. If I do end up waiting until the fall to have my surgeries then I will go back in the summer and get my "swimming boob". Really, I could insert a LOT of bad jokes here, but since I think my grandparents read this blog I'll just leave it to your imagination. :o)