Archive | June 2014

Clean Mammogram

Since it’s been a year since I was diagnosed with cancer, it’s also been a year since my last mammogram. Back downtown I went. I had forgotten to check the name of the practice that does the mammograms, so I was a bit lost when I got to the professional building. I knew I was at the right building, but finding the right floor was trickier. Got it in one, though.

They were quick to call me back to get my mammogram. I barely had time to fill out all the paperwork I was supposed to before they called me to change. Everything off from the waist up, of course. At least they had decent gowns – they kind of felt like a bathrobe.

My gown for the mammogram

My gown for the mammogram

Once I was escorted to the mammogram room, it took half as long as last year, since there was no reason (or ability) to do the right side.

A mammogram machine - your breast gets squished between the clear and black panels

A mammogram machine – your breast gets squished between the clear and black panels

They do two images. The first is with the machine parallel to the floor, and the second is at a 45 degree angle, and your arm has to hold the metal bar on the gray outer circle. The technician very tenderly places your breast in between the two plates, and then starts to squish. Not painfully, but quite firmly. She stays in the room the whole time, behind a little protective station.

The technician's station

The technician’s station

Once she finished taking the photos, she headed out to the radiologist to “check the quality of the image.” Dr. Chan actually came in to the room to go over the results with me. He started out his conversation with, “I don’t know if you remember me.” Of course I do! He started the whole process, so he’s seared into my memory. Luckily, the results were much better this time around. He let me know things looked fine this time. Yeah! Won’t have to do that for another year, although I have plenty of other doctor’s appointments still on the docket.

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Back to the Sonogramist

Is sonogramist even a word? What do you call the technician who does the sonograms, if not sonogramist? Something to add to our list of random questions posted on the fridge I guess.

The gynecologist wanted me to go back and get another sonogram, just to see what the cyst was doing on my left ovary. Since we hadn’t looked at it in about a year, we needed some current data. I trekked on back into Erie to the fancy OB/GYN practice. It’s a bit big for me – I’m not sure I like getting a pager when I check in. They do have a lovely view, though, and get you in and out pretty quickly. At least for a sonogram.

Overall, it was a quick process. The practice is set up mainly for pregnant women to get a look at their baby, so there’s a monitor mounted on the wall that I could easily see from the table. I find it fascinating to be able to see all my body parts, and the technician was more than happy to explain what she saw and what she was doing. She found the cyst again (darn – I was hoping it would disappear) and did comment it looked a little smaller. At least it wasn’t bigger. Now I can wait until the doctor decides what to do about. I’m leaning towards a big fat “nothing”, but we’ll see what she has to say.

 

One Year Anniversary

So, Wednesday was the one year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, kind of. It was the one-year anniversary of my first mammogram where the radiologist told me he was 99% certain I had cancer, but he’d have to do a biopsy to determine what kind of cancer. Needless to say, it’s been a whirlwind of a year. Treatment had it tough times, but it wasn’t all a bad year. We had two lovely family vacations (Montreal and Avon with Little Pink Houses of Hope) and got to see Mumford and Sons in concert, among many other lovely smaller events.

We celebrated this year with another bike trip. Last year we took two days while the kids were at camp to bike around the Niagara Peninsula (on the Thursday and Friday after my mammogram. The doctor wanted to do a biopsy on Friday, but I informed him I would be out of town. Cancer was not going to ruin my fun even at that point.) This year, we took three days and bike south of Cleveland, Ohio. StatsGuy and I love touring by bike, although 60 miles is all I can really handle without more training. It’s a good way to celebrate being cancer free. I’m sure we’ll do it again next year.

After biking 160 miles over three days.

After biking 160 miles over three days.

 

Darn it, more drugs

I had a check-up with my oncologist on Monday just to see how things were going. I had bloodwork a couple of days before, which came back mostly fine. I am slightly anemic, so Dr. Li recommended I start taking iron pills. I’m not too thrilled about it, but considering my multi-vitamin doesn’t contain iron (I was really surprised about that fact), I’ll probably do it. I only need one a day (or maybe every other day), which should minimize its constipation effects.

I did ask Dr. Li what he was looking for in my bloodwork (beyond the general blood counts). He explained that he’s watching to make sure my liver functions and kidney functions aren’t damaged, which would show up with some abnormal results. He’s also looking for high calcium levels, which is often a sign that the cancer has metastasized (especially to the bones) and can be a big problem. Luckily, all those chemical values were normal.

The two bad news items all had to do with the length of treatment. I asked Dr. Li how long I’d have to keep my port after my Herceptin treatments were over. His response – one to (preferably) two years. That’s the time frame that the cancer is mostly likely to recur, so the typical practice is to just leave the port in so it’s already available for treatment. That makes logical sense, but once again I was disappointed by the amount of time it takes to be done with all this cancer stuff. One to two years with my port means I’m pretty much done with my hockey career, and that is not a good thing.

Bad news number two is Dr. Li is recommending I take Tamoxifen, for the next ten years. Again, intellectually, I understand why he’s recommending this course of action (it potentially decreases the recurrence rate of the cancer with limited side effects) but TEN YEARS? I just want to go back to my old life, and it’s not happening any time soon.

And, on top of all that annoying news (it’s not really bad news – evidence of cancer is about the only bad news), I had to sit for an hour waiting for my Herceptin treatment because a new person at the Cancer Center screwed up the pharmacy order. All in all, not one of my better days at the Cancer Center.

Army of Women

logo_newI thought I’d do something a little different on this post, and talk about some breast cancer research. I can’t remember how I found the website, but the Army of Women is a clearinghouse for researchers actively seeking participants in various projects that touch on breast cancer. They are a part of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, which is a “non-profit breast cancer organization, working to achieve a future without breast cancer by focusing on prevention and finding the cause”.

The basic principle of Army of Women is they provide details about research studies in which their members may want to participate. There are two options to find a study – you can look through their list of current projects, or wait until they send you an email about a project you may qualify for. If you think you fit the bill for that study and are willing to do whatever actions are necessary, there are a few more qualifying questions to answer and a researcher will contact you about specific details on the study.

I thought it was a pretty cool idea. I’m all about science, which you absolutely know if you know IRL and should guess based on the types of posts I put up here. I signed myself up as soon as I found the website. There’s even a study I qualify for: Breast Cancer Risk in Young Women Study. You have to have been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer (yes – invasive lobular carcinoma) at or before age 40 (yep, I was 39). All it takes for participation is to fill out paperwork (of course)

The paperwork sent for the project - lots of things to sign

The paperwork sent for the project – lots of things to sign

and get some blood drawn and sent back to them

The return package for my blood.

The return package for my blood.

Should be easy enough. I’m going to see if they can draw my blood while I’m at the Cancer Center this afternoon for my latest Herceptin dose. You never know what they’ll find, but hopefully they provide access to the completed research so I can see their results. We’ll see!!

Graduated From One Doctor

I had my last appointment with Dr. Figura, my radiation oncologist, yesterday. It was just a short check-up. I got my vitals checked first. I never bother to get on my scale at home, because I know I’ll be weighed nearly every week at the Cancer Center. It looks like my weight might be dropping slightly instead of climbing slightly for a change. Then, it’s into the room to meet with the doctor.

A radiation check-up room

A radiation check-up room

Dr. Figura asked me how I was doing (fine), any pain (I’ve got a spot on my shoulder-blade that’s been hurting since radiation. If it gets worse, I’m supposed to let them know), any problems (no), and then into the gown:

The gown I chose was really long and ugly.

The gown I chose was really long and ugly.

Dr. Figura checked over the radiation site and confirmed there were no issues (you can’t even tell where the radiation was at this point) and I was done. It was a short enough appointment I would have felt a little cheated if I had paid my co-pay for the visit. The best news was I don’t have to go back and see him again. I can cross one doctor off my list. I’m pretty sure the other doctors will make sure I don’t miss him.