We are headed north on 45 with Houston in our rearview mirror, BBQ in our bellies, and peace in our hearts.
This journey for second opinions was motivated by a desire for confirmation and, as Dr. Cheek (our radiation oncologist) described it well, to shake out any doubt like a pebble in our shoe that could drive us crazy. Well we’ve taken off our shoes (or, in my case, ‘everything from the waist up, please, and tie the gown in the back…’) and shaken out any doubt that we aren’t in great hands in Dallas.
We stopped by MD Anderson to pick up films I’d taken with me and the new mammogram and ultrasound films and reports from Monday. As we got close, my friend Amy said that Dr. Tereffe would like to visit again if possible. And, as I’m sure y’all picked up from my previous visit, I was quite a fan so more than happy to oblige. She wanted to confirm my final pathology report from Mondays biopsy (still negative) and walk through her observations on my CT scan about my internal mammory lymph nodes. I admit that sometimes I nod knowingly but really don’t know what I’m looking at. There are some variables and risks associated with the radiation I need (more intense and strategic to get lymph nodes in addition to breast tissue) but another conversation that I walked away from just glad that someone else understands it and can tell us what we should do. I also confessed my woman crush. It was a sweet moment. I proceeded to tell her I’d felt rejected by her not responding to my text. We pretty much had a DTR. She said that she felt inadequate to respond to my ‘well thought out text’ (those of you who know me well are laughing now bc you know that my texts can be short essays and hers was no exception!). And since this was all while Scott was waiting in car instead of with me she may now be wondering if I was making my move. Not so much. But tempting. She is beautiful, and smart, and Ethiopian, and loves Jesus. And dare I dream and pray about ministering to Ethiopians alongside her someday?! I already have. And she thought it was a great idea. Sadly, in Ethiopia, a large number of people die from breast cancer while awaiting radiation treatment.
From her office, we raced to see Dr Kent Osborne at Baylors Clinic (associated with the College of Medicine and no connection to our Baylor hospital in Dallas). And, again, we were so thankful for the opportunity (and new friend, Trey, who made it happen through his close working relationship with Dr Osborne) to meet with someone of his caliber and experience. After reviewing my history he said he’d start with us as if we were his patient and hadn’t yet been treated. He gave us a Cancer 101 talk that was helpful even though we are 7 months down this road. He explained my type of cancer (invasive rather than in situ which means contained within the duct) and why its so problematic to be in the lymph nodes. He explained that my type of cancer (estrogen positive) rarely has a great response to chemo but that it’s valuable to systemically treat the body for any ‘seeds’ that may have traveled through lymph system or blood to other parts of my body. He then weighed in on the go-forward plan of radiation, hormone therapy, and ovary suppression. He didn’t have radically different recommendations but definitely some tweaks that I liked. For example, though there are some practical considerations, he thought suppressing my ovaries via shot rather than surgery for the next 5 years had some advantages – namely that I could go into menopause naturally and delay those poor quality of life factors. After 5 years of hormone therapy he thought I could still have 5-7 years of pre-menopause which has benefits for none health and to delay the menopause side effects (hot flashes, weight gain, etc.) Am I really talking about menopause?! Unfortunately, I am. The practical downsides would be the hassle and/or pain of a monthly shot every month for 5 years and a cost of $1000/shot! Scott is super supportive of whatever is best for me – with a caveat that there could be benefits of surgery in this calendar year because we met our $6k out of pocket in the first few weeks:)
All in all, he created confidence in our doctors and, for the tweaks, provided great explanations on his drug preferences and other recommendations and offered to write those up for our doctors.
Thanks for praying for clarity and peace of mind. Check. Answered. We leave Houston with clarity and confidence.
Scott planned our day around a BBQ place he’d heard about in Huntsville. For Scott, all cities should be evaluated by its food and all roads lead to BBQ. And he’d heard about a baptist church that served BBQ Th-Sun. Needless to say, this has been on our agenda since Monday since he was disappointed then that it was closed. When the doctor has just told me that most breast cancer patients gain between 10-20lbs (why do I have the onland to make sure I’m not one of them, I really doubt he envisioned me leaving and driving straight to a BBQ joint for the 2 meat plate. But when your husband refuses to share and you can’t decide between ribs and brisket, what’s a girl to do?!
Here’s the ‘statue’ and ‘the more’…