Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Medical stuff - the Beginnings

Dear friends and family,

As many of you have gathered from my recent facebook status postings, I have been dealing with some medical problems. Now that I've been given a diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan, I'm ready to share all the details. (Even if you don't know me that well, if you have a female relative or friend, it might be worth a quick read)

I have been diagnosed with that is technically called “Ductal Carcinoma in-situ” (DCIS). This is a type of breast cancer that is called Stage 0. It has not become invasive (starting to affect surrounding tissues) nor is it malignant (growing outside of the affective area).

This all began on Saturday, April 9, 2011, when I woke up with a soreness in my breast. This isn't unusual, as most women can agree. It's the kind of pain we've all had once in a while. I didn't give it a second thought, and went about my day. On Sunday, I went to church, taught my class, and even served at the church dinner that night. Through the day, the soreness increased and was very sensitive to the touch. On Monday, I woke up with redness and hard spots on the top of my breast. Since I was volunteering at the hospital that morning, I went in early and went into the Emerg Department to have one of the doctors take a look at it. (For my U.S. friends, Emerg Depts often act as walk-in clinics for people who don't have family doctors or can't wait until the doctor could see me the next day or so.)

After about an hour wait, the doctor on duty told me that I had a very bad infection. She started to write out prescriptions for an antibiotic and a pain med, but asked if she could get an ultrasound just to see how large the infected area was. I agreed (thanks to the free healthcare), and after the results were back about 15 minutes later, she asked if she could call in the surgeon on duty. She felt that the infected area was large enough to warrant a second opinion.

Dr. Black, the surgeon, came in shortly afterward, examined me and my records, and said “Yup, this is a biggie.” When he couldn't drain it in Emerg, he decided to admit me right away for surgery as soon as possible in the day to remove the abcess. He didn't even want me to go home and come back, he was afraid that if it ruptured, the infection would spread through my bloodstream and we'd be dealing with a systemic infection. (poison in my bloodstream). He did the surgery at 7.30 that night, I stayed the night, and went home on Tuesday.

So far – so good. Now the fun starts!

Because of the nature and size of the wound, I had to visit a care nurse every day for a month to have it packed (3.8cm long x .1cm wide x 4cm deep) and dressing changed every day. Then every other day, then every 3 days for a total of 7 weeks of care. Dr. Black had also taken a biopsy, and this came back showing the cancer cells. Now we're talking another surgery and more time.

After another mammogram (which showed nothing unusual) and another ultrasound (again-no new infection), at my visit with him two weeks ago, he told me that he is going to have to remove a section of tissue about the size of his fist. Yes, his fist! He needs to get all the affected tissue in order to prevent this returning. When we talked yesterday, I asked him for more information, and what was in store after the surgery. I then found out that I'm facing radiation therapy to prevent any further spread.

It seems that my Stage 0 cancer is a “high active” kind, which means that if it occurs, it will come back fast moving and strong. Without the radiation therapy, there is a 50% chance of reoccurance, this time as Stage 2 or 3 within 2 years. With treatment, chances are 10% within my lifetime.

So to summerize – for the next 3 months, I'm going to be a mess. I'm having surgery on June 23, with stitch removals 1 week and then 2 weeks later. Then an appointment with the Cancer clinic in London (about 30 min away) for treatments for 4 to 5 weeks, 5 days a week (M-F).

In the meantime, I'm going to try to keep my normal activites. It seems that the radioation side affects are mostly a lack of energy and a sunburn look to the area being treated. There is NO chemo involved!

As for what you can do –

John, Katie, and Robby are great cooks and know how to clean and care for pets.

What I need from all of you are prayers and good thoughts, and patience with me when I seem short-tempered or can't keep up with my activities.

But mostly – and my main reason for writing all this – is to make all of you aware of how suddenly things can creep up on you. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!! If it hurts – check it out! After talking to the doctor, and reading up online, if I hadn't gone it, I would be facing a fast growing, aggressive disease. So – I've lucked out. But it's still going to take time and energy, so I'm going to take this Day to Day.

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