Find I am really struggling at the moment with anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.
Just shortly after I had an appointment with my Gyn at the end of January I found a lump under my left arm. This was on the opposite side to my original BC and I had a breast exam at this apt and a mammogram and breast exam in September. I thought it was maybe a cyst. It seemed to disappear when I raised my arm and thought maybe I was imagining it at first (or maybe it was denial). A month later I realized it was getting bigger and could feel it clearly with my arm down. Took a week to get into my family Dr. office as she was in the process of retiring and had a locum in. Got a referral for an US next day. Took another week to pry results out, must come in, obviously not good. Thankfully secretaries who know me knew I had seen my surgeon in September and called her office for guidance and got me in at the Breast assessment centre for another US on the Monday there and a mammogram. On the way out they handed me a copy of the first US results "highly suspicious for metastatic lymphadenopathy" Definitely a WTF moment. Mets from other side, new BC, wild card like lymphoma. Thus started almost 2 months of ruling out mets and trying to find the tumour after a biopsy of the node revealed it was IDC although the mammo was negative. Finally found a 6mm tumour in other breast close to nipple. As soon as confirmation of biopsy, I was in surgery in six days. Lumpectomy and full ALND. By then the node had grown from 2.5 cm to 3 cm with extra-capsular extension. Only one other node had stray cells, but surgeon said texture and size were not normal with any of them. Cancer looked aggressive.
First time I was diagnosed was October of 2011. Premenopausal, 5mm tumour in right breast. Grade 2, ER+ PR+ HER2- Oncotype Score of 18. So no chemo, radiation and 5 years of tamoxifen should be good. 11% chance of recurrence. Finished tamoxifen in January of 2016, have a nice life, get yearly mammos and exams. SO, how did I get here!!!
After recovery from surgery started DD AC-T and Herceptin. It hasn't been easy, some heart issues with the A chemo which have resolved somewhat on the Taxol thankfully. But feel like I have just been trying to survive and get through to the other side. As I've been getting closer to the end I think my brain is starting to go from survival mode to having more time to think. Added to the anniversary of my first diagnosis 7 years ago October 27th and questions about what it means to be a "survivor" who has breast cancer. The joy of Pinktober as a constant reminder. Questions about bilateral BC and the possibility of some genetic component related to that and what it means for my 3 daughters. Having a much more aggressive pathology this time. Not really being given any real ideas about survivorship this time as more complicated diagnosis - although pretty conflicted about statistics a the moment anyway. Having a hard time buying into the "everything will be fine".
Everyone thinks the 2nd time is easier. "You know what to expect" - Not this! and not really. Much more aggressive and complex treatment this time. I think those that offered empty platitudes of help the first time are very absent this time. Has been even more isolating than the first time. I could go to the newly diagnosed support group at our local cancer support centre, but I would only be expected to talk about my current cancer/treatment. Watching everything I said sounded exhausting and I'm not in the same mental place and I genuinely don't want to freak out the newbies, so it really didn't seem like an option.
Finishing last week of chemo so onward to 30 radiation and Herceptin every 3 weeks until August 2019. Feeling alone, overwhelmed and exhausted mentally and physically right now. Know there aren't that many in the same circumstances (only about 3% get metachronous bilateral BC), but thanks to anyone who has listened to my story/rant.
10/27/2011, IDC, Right, <1cm, Stage IA, Grade 2, 0/4 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- (IHC)
11/10/2011 Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Sentinel
12/27/2011 Tamoxifen pills (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone)
1/20/2012 Whole-breast: Breast, Lymph nodes
4/4/2018, IDC, Left, <1cm, Stage IIA, Grade 2, 1/19 nodes, ER+/PR-, HER2+ (FISH)
5/7/2018 Lumpectomy: Left; Lymph node removal: Underarm/Axillary
6/22/2018 AC + T (Taxol)
8/17/2018 Herceptin (trastuzumab)
12/3/2018 Whole-breast: Breast, Lymph nodes, Chest wall
1/30/2019 Tamoxifen pills (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone)
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