Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Claiming victory was a bit premature

Earlier this year, I went to St. Louis with Rick on a business trip and spent the day shopping in St. Charles, a little historic town along the Mississippi with cute shops and restaurants.  I came across a tshirt that said "I fought like a girl and won" and had to buy it, thinking it stated exactly how I felt about my "bout" with breast cancer.  And I wore it proudly last week on my flight from KC to Boston to visit the kids.

Well, it appears that I may have won the first round, but I didn't quite deliver the knockout punch that I thought kicked cancer's butt.  It's back.

That seroma I had was not infected, but it did contain cancer cells.  That was confirmed by Cytology last week.  Unfortunately, the lab didn't handle the specimen properly so no additional "pathology" tests could be performed.  All I know is that cancer was present. 

Today I met with the breast surgeon and asked her how I could possibly have a recurrence so soon in the same spot when we had zapped that site with 34Gy's of internal Mammosite radiation at the end of July.  That is just not supposed to happen.  All the clinical trials indicate that Mammosite is extremely effective.  The only explanation she had is that rarely, cancer cells will adhere to the biopsy hematoma site.  It is extremely rare and is why they proceed with biopsies when they are certain cancer is present.  Otherwise, biopsies would be a bad idea.  It's not supposed to happen. 

I am now an "interesting case" and she will present "me" to the tumor board next week for discussion.  How reassuring, right?

So, the plan is to have a bilateral mastectomy (BMX) with immediate reconstruction.  The procedure is called DIEP - deep inferior epigastric perforator.  The simple explanation is that the plastic surgeon takes fat from the abdomen and uses it to replace the breast tissue removed by the breast surgeon.  It is done during one 6-hour surgery.  Here's a link for more info:


So here's the current battle plan:  on Thursday I have an oncologist appointment in the morning and an MRI late in the afternoon.  The oncologist will order a PET scan, probably for Friday.  On Monday I meet with a plastic surgeon.  Assuming there are no surprises from the scan and MRI, I will have surgery within the month. 

Recovery is not easy; the first day or two are spent in the ICU so that nurses can monitor the blood supply to the grafted tissue and I will have a pain pump, then I'll be moved to a room for two or three additional days.  The first two weeks are rough, and full recovery takes about 8 weeks.

A bit of good news for my immediate family members - there was some thought that my father had breast cancer but we learned definitively that he did not; he died of lung cancer.  Apparently he had a lump removed from his breast at some point, but it was benign.  That decreases the risk that we have to worry about the BRCA gene, which indicates hereditary tendencies toward breast cancer.

Time to kick "survivor mode" into  high gear.



  1. Michelle, you will survive this I'm sure of it


  2. You're a fighter and you will kick cancer's butt!


  3. As usual, you will handle this with grace and courage. I wish you didn't have to.


  4. This really stinks, but you live in a great city focused on medical care, you have great doctors you like and a solid plan you are comfortable with. You even have options that were not available to me a few years ago. There is power in all of that. You are resilient, and your body will respond as such. The decision I'm sure brings you some sense of relief- and you'll feel even more relieved when it is accomplished. No more feeling like you're waiting for the other shoe to drop- AND you get to be any size you want to be when it's all said and done- some silver lining there. Keep us posted. My thoughts and prayers are with you. LE

  5. I wish I could wiggle my nose and make it all better. I cannot, but what I know of you, you are strong and an indomidable spirit and you will prevail. Not without a fight but you WILL prevail.