First, for the better news …
I’m definitely improving by the day. Thankfully, the knife that was in my side last Wednesday is dwindled down to the size of a plastic drain that is stitched into my skin and attaches to a pump we must empty regularly. The other 3 incisions (for port, breast, and lymph nodes) seem to be doing quite well. And I’m off the heavy pain meds. But, the drain is quite uncomfortable – and painful if in the wrong position. Thankfully, there are plenty of positions where I don’t really feel it at all. However, I’m discouraged because it can’t come out until I have 3 days in a row of less than 30ccs of output. And, for the last 2 days I’ve had over 45 and had 25ccs the first thing this morning. I hoped to have it out by Wednesday then held out for Thursday then crossed fingers for Friday and now just bummed that it might be in through the weekend. Remember my first entries about ‘what does one wear to chemo?’ well those are nothing compared to ‘what does one wear to (1) disguise a hand grenade and (2) be comfortable?’ I surrender before even asking for the trifecta to include cute as well. In addition to being attached to my skin, the other end of the drain has to attach to something and I bet you can imagine that a bra that goes around my chest and over the drain insertion point isn’t a real fun idea. It’s bearable and I’ve braved it 3 times for short periods but that’s the main reason I’m on day 6 of pajamas and have only left the house once. I’m about to ask Scott to take me to work with him just so I can remember how to get around my neighborhood. Needless to say, I’ve been thankful for help again this week – with grocery runs, errands, laundry, meals, and Linc. Especially with Lincoln! He loves his playdates and it makes me happy for him to smile so big at me as he drives off in the car with his playmates for the day. And, in fact, my friend Louise who picked him up this morning asked if he could spend the night so I know 14 months is a little younger than most sleepovers – especially with adorable girls who are much is senior – but tonight’s gonna be a big night for the big boy. I feel like he is getting smothered with love even if it’s not mine. My mom played with him all day on Monday, he was Hope’s baby brother yesterday and now he’s Nancy and Claire’s little brother. We are so thankful for folks that love us and our little man. And he seems to be having a better week of revolving caregivers. He seems less ticked off that I won’t get back on the job as his mom. I laughed as I went to his crib this morning and, literally, the first thing he did was reach for the hose of the drain. I couldn’t help but think (in addition to please don’t pull or I’ll scream), ‘yep, still there. And I’m as anxious as you are to have it gone but I’m still off-duty as full-time Mama until it is.’ Poor little guy wakes up to a scary sight of a bald Mama with no eyelashes or eyebrows and tubes and drains coming out of her pajamas. I’m trusting all of you who remind me that he won’t remember any of this:)
And for the ‘worse’ news …It’s not terrible just different (and worse) than we expected. We got our pathology results on Monday afternoon. I haven’t posted sooner because we are having a hard time processing it. In summary, Dr. Lamont’s PA pronounced good news that we got clear margins on the breast tumor but started the second part with “unfortunately …” and continued to say that they removed 19 lymph nodes and 9 of them were cancer. We knew there was lymph node involvement but based on feel and preliminary data we imagined it would be 3-4. This is 3x as many as we expected. The good news is that he took them all (did you know that we all have a varying number of lymph nodes?) so they’re gone. And, as we understand it, this news doesn’t change our course of action because an aggressive course was already taken, but it was just sobering – and a little scary. Maybe it’s a blessing that the weight and severity of my prognosis is just now catching up with us – once we have the worst part behind us. But, along those same lines, I re-read my original diagnosis and pathology report on the breast tissue and, knowing much more now than I did 6 months ago, I read it with different eyes and greater understanding. I noted my proliferation index (how fast the cells are multiplying which assesses the tumor growth rate) was a 40 and “elevated.” So I did a little research and now know why my oncologist talks about how aggressive it was – because the highest category of proliferation index is >36. And ours, at 40, is definitely in that ‘high’ category. As I said above, I don’t know that this changes anything in our treatment since they had already treated it aggressively because of the known lymph node involvement but we find ourselves a bit taken aback. And also grateful. It seems that the weight of our reality is catching up with me slowly and, more than ever, I marvel that I even found the lump. In the tumor and medical world, a 3cm lump is quite large but that’s not very big and easy to miss if you’re not regularly doing self exams and it’s not on your radar. To this day, apart from divine intervention, I have no idea what made me notice a lump on the outside of my right boob. Thanks Lord. And, as is obvious by the path results, it had been there and growing for awhile – and invited lymph nodes to the party.
We will meet with the oncologist tomorrow so if she sheds any more light on the pathology report I’ll let you know. Her primary agenda for tomorrow is next steps for treatment. Though the hardest parts are behind us, 2 real important parts remain: radiation and hormone therapy. Thankfully, the latter, is just a pill. Unfortunately, that pill is life-altering relative to the opportunity to have more kiddos. The jury is still out on my post-chemo fertility (trusting “nothing is too hard for the Lord”) but the hormone therapy would be super dangerous to a baby so pregnancy out of the question while on it. And she wants us on it for at least 5 years. She has said she’d consider giving us a few month reprieve to consider pregnancy. But there’s a lot to consider and evaluate. Thankfully, God knew all this and still has us under the shelter of His wing. And, He knows whether more kiddos (biological or adopted or whatever) are part of our story or not.
Lord, thanks for where we are today. Thanks for sustaining us on this unexpected road with your grace, your people, your provision, and medical resources to extend my life as long as you intend. Thank you for a husband and baby that you sovereignly and graciously provided in advance of cancer. Thank you that this life is really fleeting and finite compared to eternity with you and I pray that we will endure it well for your name’s sake. I thank you that the best is yet to come. And that’s not after cancer but after this broken world. Lord, I pray that my friends and family will have the same hope, joy and confidence that Scott and I do that though this life is temporary and hard, You are good and gracious in the midst of it. And we can genuinely thank you for this hard season because it has drawn us to you and reminded us again and again of Your care for us and unfailing love. We thank you that our hope isn’t in this life but in the one to come where we will be forever with you – with no more sorrow, sadness, sickness or suffering. Our Savior has made a way out of this life and into eternity with you. And we are thankful. We praise the One from whom all blessings flow. Thank you, Jesus.
And, thank you, friends. Thanks for standing by us in prayer. Thanks for all the ways you’ve met a long list of physical needs – and continue to do so. Though the worst is behind us, there’s still a fair amount ahead. And we face it with confidence because of our Savior and you.