The Day I Learned about Chemo and Implants

Tuesday, June 14th

I decided to work as long as I could. Little did I know that today would be my last day for a long, long time. It was so very hard. Retail already takes a certain kind of person to do it. Day after day you have to be having the best day of your life for every customer. That is a lot of pressure when all you want to do is hide. It was good for me to talk to people and focus on something other than the bird-like looking tumor taking over my bigger boob. This boob also tripled the milk production of the cancer-free lefty. God has a funny sense of humor.

The day was pretty uneventful. The best part of these couple of days was Milo. At 4 months old he started to say “Mama”!  I remember taking a nap and Jimmy sent me a snapchat of Milo laying on him saying “ma ma ma ma ma.” It was everything I needed in life.  I hear most babies say “Dada” first, but Milo knew his Mommy needed him to say mama at that exact moment.  It did not take long before I heard it in person.  Moms, you know what I am talking about.  It is hard to explain all the “feelings.”  When I think I couldn’t possibly love him more, he goes and does something like this. My heart just burst with love for him. These moments are what make being a mom so incredibly amazing. The funny thing is that I never wanted to have kids, like ever, but that is a story for a different day.  I will say that being a mom is by far my favorite thing I have ever done.  I am so glad I changed my mind.


Wednesday, June 15th

It’s been a week since my mammogram and biopsy.  Oh how my world had changed!  Monday started what I am now referring to as my week of doctors’ appointments. I knew I needed a lot of doctors to beat this, but I don’t think you are ever really prepared for the amount of information they give you.  Jimmy and I met with my oncologist today.  She was so friendly. I instantly liked her. She started off the appointment as all doctors do, stating her case to earn my trust.  I had many options when it came to choosing my doctors. I was interviewing her while she was teaching me about what she was able to do for me.  She got out a piece of paper and started writing down everything she told us.  Amazing! Right? Don’t you wish all doctors did this for you.  She put me in a trance with every word she spoke.

In my case, Breast Cancer had 2 or 3 parts. 1) Surgery. This was a must. 2) Radiation. This would only happen if I had a lumpectomy. If I decide to have a mastectomy and no cancer was found in my lymph nodes, I could eliminate this step completely. 3) Whole Body “Systemic.” This was her specialty. It included chemotherapy and the dreaded pill. A 5 year pill that I am told sucks…I will let you know when I figure it out for myself. Then, she explained I can do them in whatever order I see fit.  She explained the positives of Chemo before Surgery. 1) The tumor would get smaller for a better cosmetic result if I wanted a lumpectomy.  2) A live analysis showing how the chemo is impacting the size of the tumor.  3) It allowed more time for the results of my genetic testing to come back. Meaning more time before making a decision on either a lumpectomy or mastectomy surgery. 4) If I decide to have a mastectomy, it would give me time to interview plastic surgeons. Then, she explained the positives of having Surgery before Chemo. Okay, so she really only said one positive; surgery first will allow options for fertility.  Chemo can stop fertility and can make it hard to conceive after treatments.  I didn’t take this decision lightly.  Although babies never seemed to be a part of my future, my whole life could have been so different if I was diagnosed before Milo’s birth.  I knew now that being a mom was my new favorite thing, and it would continue to be my favorite thing until I die… which I plan on being a very very long time from now. Hopefully with a few more babies to love.  I believed from the moment Milo was born, he would need a few brothers or sisters.  I know from my own experience that having siblings is the greatest gift your parents can give you, even if you don’t believe it when you are young.   I didn’t make the ultimate decision until I met with my other doctors. 

She went on to explain the treatment she would implement for me.  Chemo is given through the veins. If I chose to, the chemo could be administered through a surgically imbedded port in my chest.  A port is a device that the surgeon puts under the skin and is a direct line to a vein in your neck. I was like, “Hell Yes, I want a port!”  I hate when nurses are “looking” for a vein.  I would rather be chased by a dinosaur, than let a nurse poke and poke at me again.  This was another positive to having surgery first.  The doctor could put the port in while doing surgery on my boob.  Okay sorry, I got off topic. 🙂 She would give me Adrial/Cytoxan as a combo every 2 weeks for 4 rounds. She said, “it would take a total of 4 hours every time.” Because this drug can affect your heart, she explained I would need an echocardiogram to make sure my heart was working properly.  After these rounds of treatment, I would get Taxol every week for 12 weeks. Then came the many side effects of these drugs. The list is unending and completely overwhelming. She assured me that she would make the sides effects as minimal as she possibly could.  I will lose my hair around day 14.  My hair is very long, and it took me a long time to grow it out.  I understand the idea of losing my hair, but I don’t think I will truly understand until it happens. For now, it is just a thought.  I am not worried or scared about it.  I will feel sick and will be more prone to getting a cold.  If you know me, I don’t get sick… Like ever!  I don’t understand what a cold even is, and I mean that.  If I get a little allergies, my world comes crashing down.  Oh, poor Jimmy.  I can only imagine that I will be a little monster with a cold.  At this point, I still think I am special and will not get sick. (Boy was I wrong!)  I will have fatigue.  Fatigue is different than just being tired.  I can nap for 3 hours and still wake up felling “tired”… that is fatigue.  Sounds like I have my work cut out for me, especially while taking care of a baby. 

Then, she ordered a CT scan and explained she just wanted to make sure the cancer had not spread to other parts of my body.  She scheduled it for the following morning.  Although all the things I am getting ready to go through seem awful, my oncologist had a way of making me feel calm. As we left her office, I just knew she was my doctor.  She instantly cared about me and about my family.  Plus, she loved Milo after all the pictures we showed her.  It is an amazing feeling to know you are in good hands.   

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The Day Milo Napped With Me

After we left her office, we rushed over to the plastic surgeons office. I really needed to pump breastmilk at this point. My boobs felt like they were going to explode, but I didn’t have time to pump.  We walked into his office, and I was immediately weirded out by the waiting room. There were these strange pictures on the walls. One was of an abstract carnival crown; the other had many illustrated people in very interesting clothes and in weird positions around a bar.  The best way I can describe how I felt, is that I was in the waiting room from the movie Beetlejuice. You know, when the main characters died. In a sense, I felt like I was there awaiting my fate. There were not weird looking people in the room like the movie, but being I was in a plastic surgery waiting room, I am sure I will see some characters in the future. Just kidding. 🙂

I was warned by another physician that this plastic surgeon is very quiet but eccentric. Boy was she right… I was immediately impressed with his choice of clothing. He was wearing a bright multi-colored striped shirt with a bright multi-colored floral print tie. I truly enjoyed his outfit. He was soft spoken but began explaining everything he would do for me. Basically, he would come in after the mastectomy and put an expander where my breast used to be. After I healed, he would add silicone to the expander biweekly until it was at my desired size. Ultimately, he would replace it with a permanent silicone implant. He informed us about the implant, how long it would last, gave us some reading material, and let us feel a silicone implant. He continued to talk in length about the recovery process. He said, I would have tubes draining fluid from the surgical area. Also, he wanted to assure me that if I decide to have a single mastectomy, he would lift and reconstruct my other breast so I have a matching pair.  However, I asked if I could leave the other boob the way it is until after I decide if I want more children.  I want to be able to breastfeed even if it is just from one boob. I think he was surprised but agreed that the surgery could happen at anytime. 

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The Day Milo Puked On My Head

Finally, he asked if I had any questions. I said “I don’t know. I am just so overwhelmed.” I looked at Jimmy and asked if he had any. I think he was just as speechless as I was. I understood everything that all of my doctors so far have explained.  I think reality was starting to creep in.  The information helped ease the scared feeling but did little for the raw emotion I felt.  Milo was always on my mind.  Breastfeeding was always consuming my every thought.  I was so overwhelmed with information, but knowing all this “shit” would lead up to the last time I could personally feed Milo was truly the hardest part of it all.  Nothing seemed as important as that… not an implant… or a new perky boob… In the end, it may look like a breast, but its function will be taken away.  It will be purely vanity and will no longer sustain life.  I knew he was great at his job, and I trusted him.  I think that is all that mattered. 

We sat in silence for a minute, and then the doctor asked if he could get my picture. We moved to a different room.  I took off my shirt, and he started to take pictures: first, a front shot and then, a side shot.  As I was turning to the other side I felt it…  My boobs were done. They just started leaking right there. Oh, how embarrassing! I am sure he has seen it all and frankly doesn’t even notice.  However, I was a little mortified.  Jimmy grabbed some paper towels and started wiping up the floor.  The doctor was finished. As I put my shirt on, Jimmy and I laughed.  This was one of those moments only a mom and dad can have.  We were a mom and dad… We were good at it too.  We had been through a lot in the last 5 months, so adding leaking boobs in front of a plastic surgeon seemed fitting.  Jimmy joked that he hoped the camera was low quality otherwise we may have an action shot of milk going out.  Oh my… Wouldn’t that be a sight!  One thing I can say is that my boobs were at their very biggest, so I will get to keep my “milk” boobs forever.  He will try to match them as best as possible. YES!!  His receptionist grabbed a book full of pictures; we looked at his work, and it was beautiful. These women before and after surgery were amazing.  I got to see them with cancer and starting their fight, and then after the cancer was gone with a beautiful perky new boob.  It was inspiring.  I think many people would just see the product but I see the women.  They are strong.  Their lives were forever changed, and they were smiling.  They started were I was scared and unknowing but ended proud and with a new beginning.   She also showed us a young woman who decide not to reconstruct her other breast.  It could work, I thought. They would be lopsided, but no one would know with a bra on.  I am not really that vain, so I don’t think it will really bother me. Jimmy would love me if I had four arms, so I wasn’t worried about him either.  He would probably love me more with four arms.  I could get so much more done.  Heck I would like it too.  I could get things done faster which mean more time to chill.   

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The Day Milo Was a Puppy

We left the office and immediately started looking for an electrical outlet so I could pump. We found one right by the elevators. Thank goodness is was later in the day and not many people were stirring. I pumped out what felt like a ton of milk.  I brought a cover and as people walked by, Jimmy would stand in front of me.  This was another sight.  I don’t think I could do any of this without him.  He is my protector.  I am glad we picked each other.  Through sickness and health… I would have never guessed “sickness” would be less than 5 years into our marriage. Thank God we have been together for 11 years otherwise we might not have made it through this. Just kidding!   Then, we packed up and headed home. My mind was swirling with thoughts, but mostly, I missed Milo.  He is my beginning and end.  Yes, I was fighting for me. I was fighting for Jimmy.  The fight that I embraced for Milo was beyond words.  For Milo, I would not lose.   

“I would never again be the same person I was before cancer, and in a way, I was okay with that.”

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