A man begins to die
when he ceases to expect
anything from tomorrow.
~ Abraham Miller
Yes – the results are finally in. It felt like a lifetime. And, before I get to those, I MUST take another “lifetime” to apologize for being silent a while again. Reasons being, of course:
I’ve been high for most of the past two weeks. Legally high, of course. On Norco and Lorazepam. (Or is it Diazepam? Or is it eggs and spam?) Regardless – Whoohoo!! Historically, pain meds gave me diabolical migraines, so I’ve just never taken them. The pain from this surgery was, by far, WELL WORTH a migraine, so I took a chance. And thank goodness I did, ‘cause this time the stuff worked. And worked REAL WELL. Needless to say, I had no business updating you in the state I was in – – just ask anyone who was around me for more than two minutes at a time (or less).
I was in un-be-LIEVE-able pain. Even with taking the prescription meds. (I just didn’t care about the pain NEARLY as much.) With this, the thought of organized communication just made me green about the gills. And, just to help establish a Kerried-Away pain-scale-baseline: I’ve delivered 2 babies, had three other major surgeries, and even experienced dry socket when I had a tooth pulled right before chemo. (Oh – add “had chemo” to that list – duh). But, never took pain meds outside of the hospital. Just Ibuprofen and Tylenol. (I’m such a man, right? *heehee*) I’d rather do all of those things listed at the same time than have the surgery I just had. Jeez-Louise, pain for real.
And last, but not least, “T-Rex Arms”. Yes – like the dinosaur. Sadly, I have incisions clear around to my underarms, had four drains along my rib-cage (which are thankfully now gone), and on my right side, the surgeon removed 17 axillary lymph nodes. So, I have my arms hitched to my sides as permanently as possible, afraid to move them for fear of God knows what – pain – stitches – ripping – who knows. For perspective (and not accounting for the pain), imagine you are on a first date, it’s 119 degrees outside, and you’ve forgotten deodorant…….THAT’s what I mean by “arms hitched to my side”. 😉 Of course, the silver lining is that I can EASILY move from my elbows down with no twinge of pain and no problems whatsoever. You know – T-Rex arms. There’s not been enough allowance for me to arrange a comfortable keyboard position, and therefore, no updates for all of you wonderful, loving supporters. <3 😀
Now – – – on to the surgery and the results.
Go ahead and grab yourself a tissue. I’ll wait right here…..
Nurse “Enn” was so great to make sure I always had warm blankets – even around my bald little head. <3
As I’m sure most of you remember, my surgery required full removal of the right breast, and all axillary lymph nodes on the right side. (These are the lymph nodes in the area extending from the clavicle area above my right breast, extending across my right armpit and slightly into the underside of my right arm.) Additionally, I opted
to have the left breast fully removed as well because I have already dealt with questionable tissue and biopsies on that side, and frankly, I only want to have to go through this chemo/surgery/radiation once. ESPECIALLY surgery. 😉
The next two paragraphs are a bit more descriptive, but I’ve written them very gently to ease the squeamish loves in my life. <3
The removal of the breast tissue created two slightly diagonal scars, each measuring roughly nine and a half inches long. Each one begins about 1/2 inch from either side of my breast bone, continuing out and up to my armpits. (I call them my “alien eyes” – because the proximity of this pair of incisions to my belly button TOTALLY looks like the History Channel’s quintessential nose-less grey alien dude!!) Oops – I digress.
To finish the surgery, I had four separate drains inserted about half-way down my rib cage, equally spaced below my incisions. Each drain extended about 6 to 8 inches inside my body, and about 12 inches outside of my body. The rest I’ll leave to the imagination, but they were each removed separately over a two-week recovery period by a home-health nurse as the healing progressed and the need for drains subsided.
The breast tissue, and the 17 axillary lymph nodes were sent off to a pathology lab, where every bit of it was tested to determine where the cancer cells
were and where the normal cells
were. And remember – the goal was to have a very large cluster of normal cells COMPLETELY surrounding the cluster(s) of cancer cells. In other words – “good margins”. Right? So – during my recovery time at home, I sat waiting for some type of communication stating something like one of the following statements:
“We got all the cancer, your margins look great! No more surgery needed.”
“We got all the cancer, but your margins were very small, so we need to discuss the possibilities.”
“We got most of the cancer, but will need to do more surgery to ensure eradication and longevity.”
Of course, I don’t really know if those are the words they use – but you get my drift, right? SOMETHING about getting all or some of the cancer.
Well………..………….here’s the ever-so-brief, life-changing email that my wonderful, beautiful, talented (with COMPLETE sincerity) surgeon sent me:
Let me reiterate what it reads there at the end…..
“NO CANCER WAS FOUND!!”
Can we revel in this for a moment together aaaaaaaaand even say it again???? 😀
“NO CANCER WAS FOUND!!”
Told ya you’d need that tissue!!!! CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS???????????
Now, with my neurotic tendencies (understatement), you know I could NOT wait two weeks to see the wizard in person – I needed to call IMMEDIATELY. Because the statement I received via email didn’t match the form of what I was expecting. (My problem – not theirs, I know!!) But – I ALSO wanted to MAKE SURE it was actually MY boob they had under the microscope when they were doing these tests. Because when this all started, with three, Stage 3a, HER2+, Invasive Ductile Carcinoma tumors, there wasn’t a high expectation for the tumors to shrink before surgery. Only hope.
So I called, and even though I had to relay messages through the nurse, while my poor “I-work-only-for-Kerri-Cook-today” surgeon was in surgery, I was ELATED to hear the following small, but ever-so-meaningful, relayed elaboration:
“The results were the best outcome that we could ask for. There was no evidence of cancer in any of the tissue. The chemo did its job wonderfully.”
The amazing Dr. Miller <3
Then, this past Thursday, August 13, 2015, I met personally with my oncologist and then my surgeon, and had them both say the same words to me. OUT LOUD. 😀 It’s for real.
The rest of my treatment will still continue, due to the high percentage rate of recurrence (metastasized elsewhere in the body) for my initial diagnosis. So, unfortunately, I still have a long road ahead of me. HOWEVER – – it’s the easiest part. Oh – and, did I mention, I am currently cancer-free????
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, ALL!!!!! For the prayers, for the cards, for the motivation, for the financial support, for the emotional support, for the Facebook posts, for the text messages, for the Messenger messages, for the sharing with your church groups, for the sharing with your friends, for the sharing of fears, and tears, and laughs – with me and with others.
But – – – – – – most of all – – – – – – thank you ALL for sharing hope. I will never again in my life use the phrase “Only hope.” 😉 As HOPE helped saved my life. <3
All my love,