We meet with my oncologist, Dr. Hanna. He has squeezed us in as his last appointment. We arrive at 5:30. On the ride there I meditate, take in slow breaths in and out. Calm in, Fear out. I find that breathing, really taking conscious breaths helps. We forget to breathe at times, we tend to take short breaths. Taking deep breaths calms me. When I'm really stressed, I take three deep breaths from the toes on up and I'm calm. I'm ready to embrace what's ahead.
We arrive, the office is closing. Everyone is so kind. We are put right into a room and I fill out the pages and pages of paperwork. Most of the questions are the same. I'm thinking I need to make a copy and just bring it with me where ever I go.
I've thought about my treatment. How long will it be? Will I go every week, every two weeks, every three weeks? Will it be 4 months, 6 months, a year? Every time I think about it, I bring myself back. It doesn't serve me. Stay present and take in the moments I have in the now.
Dr. Hanna comes in. He's a gentle quiet man. I like him immediately. He's kind, I can tell. We talk about my family history, the fact that my mother and aunt had breast cancer. I tell him I had the genetic testing. I don't have the gene, it wasn't hereditary. We discuss my last bout with the Big "C". What stage I was in, what type of treatment, etc.
We then discuss my current cancer. I'm stage 3, I have invasive lobular cancer. It's a slow growing cancer, which is good. My body and bone scans were clear another plus. Because of it being stage 3, I need to have chemo, radiation and more importantly I will be on an estrogen blocker for at least 10 years. He says this is more important than the chemo. I hated taking tamoxifin the last time. I didn't complete the 5 years, I stopped half way through. I was experiencing 40 hot flashes a day and gained 35 pounds in two months, besides the fact that it can increase the odds for ovarian cancer. I opted out after a lengthy discussion with my previous oncologist. (I had a 97% cure rate last time and I was stage 0/1a). We discuss the side affects. He feels that since I'm post menopausal, the side effects should be easier. Either way I tell him, I will take it.
He examines me. He spends a lot of time on the breast that is left. What was that about? Anyway, he feels I'm healing well. While examing me, he asks if I work. I tell him about my training at Beaumont as a Reiki practitioner. I let him know for the last three years, how I've been volunteering in the infusion center and oncology floor administering Reiki to cancer patients. Full circle, I tell him. Full circle. Examination complete. Clothes back on, ready to hear the plan.
He then begins to tell us the chemo regimen. Basically, the chemo is given to insure that if any rogue cells have gone elsewhere, they will be killed off. I'm all for that!!
I will be receiving an intense chemo - A/C (didn't write down the clinical name) at first. I will have to receive 4 rounds. Once every two weeks for 8 weeks. Once this is complete, I will then be given another form of chemo - Taxol (a less intense chemo) once a week for 20 weeks. 28 weeks. Well I guess I know what I'll be doing for the next 7 months!
He wants me to heal for a few more weeks before we begin. I will need to get a heart echo and the port put in prior. He is thinking either first or second week of July. Okay that just a month before my son's wedding. My biggest concern is my son's wedding. I tell him the date. I let him know I don't want to be tired that week. I want as much energy as possible. He assures me they will work around it. I'm relieved.
I then ask if I can have my chemo on Wednesdays in Troy. He asks why. My response is this is where I've been volunteering for 3 years. I know the nurses, I feel at home here. I know I will be well taken care of. These ladies are my peeps. He smiles and says whatever I want.
We have some questions. When he was discussing my last dance with cancer, he asked if I had regular mammograms. I tell him, I had them every 4 months for the first two years, followed by every 6 months for a year, then once a year after that. I ask if this cancer has grown within a year since my last mammogram. He says probably, maybe longer. He drops the bomb - mammograms don't usually pick up invasive lobular cancer. (Well that settles it - the other tata is going!)
Bob tells him I will have reconstructive surgery and asks the time frame. We're thinking - January/February of next year. Nope. After I have radiation, I will have to wait at least 6 months for my skin to heal. A year - I will be dealing with this for a year to year and a half minimum. Okay then.
I ask if I can continue exercising. I tell him I aqua exercise 4 days a week. He thinks it's an excellent idea. Whoop Whoop!! I'm coming back to the pool ladies!
We ask about chemo side effects. I want to know when I'll lose my hair. Probably after the second treatment he says. (Better order than wig!) Bob asks when it will come back. Not until I'm done with chemo. Okay then 7 months without hair - oh well, easier to get ready. I ask when the chemo will hit me. He says usually 4 to 5 days after. That is when my white cell count goes down. I will feel exhausted. I will be given anti-nausea medication at the same time as the chemo and be given medication to take at home. Okay I'm looking for the silver lining here - and I've found it - I may lose some weight - that's a positive!
I'm to meet with the chemo nurse to discuss this further. I am scheduled for next Monday at 1:00.
Throughout our discussion, I find Dr. Hanna stopping at times and just looking at me. I think he's assessing how I'm digesting this. He's trying to be very gentle. I keep smiling at him, I almost want to reassure him. I tell him everyone has something, everyone has a story this is just mine. This is life changing, not life taking. He smiles. He says he will be seeing a lot of me during this process. I say I'm glad. He gets up to shake my hand and looks me in the eye and says "I know you're going to handle this just fine". You know what - I am.
On the way home, my husband says, we can do this. (I love that he says "we"). We will just create a new normal. He's so right. Isn't he fantastic?
I'm not going to say I'm not fearful of chemo, because I am. I have no idea how my body is going to respond to the chemicals being put into it but it is a necessary "evil" to make me whole. I will think of it as my helper in my journey.
I've stated many times about this being a battle. I'd like to change that energy. This journey really is about love, abundant love. Love from my family, friends and caregivers, love for the healing I will receive, love that I give to myself to heal. I will allow the love to fill me.
I will look at this next phase as my job. My job is having chemo to help me heal. I will go to my treatments, I will follow and execute everything that is told to me, I will embrace the love. It is what it is, nothing more nothing less. I will manifest a positive, loving experience. Because the bottom line is this - because of a mastectomy, chemo, radiation and Rumidex, I get to have a long life. I will be great at this "job".