Some more answers…and now more questions…

I met with the surgeon at MGH today and she’s absolutely lovely.  I also met with a geneticist and had labs done to check for the BrCa1/BrCa2 gene mutations.  If I’m positive for either or both of these genes, it will have implications for my immediate and extended family….but we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the results come back negative.  The vast majority of breast cancers are random, and not genetically-induced, contrary to popular belief.

Many of you have asked about what the surgery/surgeries entail, when and how I’ll find out if I need chemo and/or radiation, etc.  Unfortunately we won’t have all the answers until the day of surgery, and then when final pathology results come back on my breast tissue.  The first (and maybe only) surgery will be the mastectomies – because I’m not opting for a huge “upgrade” in size (sorry, no DD’s for this girl), the plastic surgeon may be able to do the implants at the same time.  This will be a 4 to 5 hour procedure…yikes.  One night stay in the hospital.  Two weeks no driving.  Six weeks total recovery.

If they aren’t able to put in the implants at the same time, then they insert “expanders” underneath the pectoralis muscle.  Every few weeks they inflate the expanders to stretch out the pectoralis muscle, and about 12 weeks later, the implants are put in.  That second procedure is really much easier than the mastectomies.

Regardless of what happens in terms of the implants though, at the time of mastectomies the surgeon does what is called “sentinel node resection”.  This process removes the local lymph nodes which drain the breast tissue.  A frozen slice is sent to the pathologist during the procedure and they look for cancer cells in the slice of the lymph nodes.  If there are cancer cells in those lymph nodes, then an additional procedure called “axillary node dissection” is done – this is a more comprehensive removal of ALL the local lymph nodes.  With this comes the lovely long-term complication of “lymphadenopathy” of the arms.  A fancy word for swelling, which I would deal with for the rest of time.  But that’s better than having cancer though, right??

If there are cancer cells in any lymph nodes, I will get radiation and chemo.  I will probably also be on a cancer-preventing medication called Tamoxifen for at least 5 years.  If I have the mutated genes, I may need to be on it for life.  This medication blocks your estrogen, basically giving me the symptoms of menopause.  But that’s STILL better than having cancer…right??

I will meet with the plastic surgeon next week to get more details about the two possible surgeries, and to pick out my new boobs – errr, implants!  Yes, Austin is coming to that visit also.  He can’t wait to post a picture of what we’re choosing, hahaha 😉

Oh, and we have a surgery date….so mark your calendars for Tuesday, May 19th!!

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5 thoughts on “Some more answers…and now more questions…

  1. Alex,

    I am so glad you have such a positive outlook and your witty sense of humor about this whole situation. So you need to tell me how I can help on the 19th…It’s on my calendar. If you list me as an emergency contact at school I can help with Aiden and Chace. (I know 2 different schools) Please make sure Austin has my number in his phone too because I will want updates. (Please). Sending you the biggest hugs and can’t wait to see you this weekend! ❤

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  2. Thanks for keeping us all informed so we aren’t flooding your inbox with questions. I’m happy to set up a meal train for folks so you know there’s good/healthy food in the house. And of course, it goes without saying, you’re going to fly through these procedures and heal quickly…we’re all rooting for you and we’ll be there to support you every step of the way.

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  3. Well Alex, you’re getting your ducks in a row–you’re going to kick some cancer ass!!! Your consultation with the surgeon sounds very thorough and the treatment will be very effective no doubt!!! We are all here for you–friends and family alike!

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  4. Thank you for you the updates, Alex, and please continue to do so. And as someone commented above, your positive attitude about the prognosis and procedures is amazing and inspiring. Your doctor sounds awesome. Thinking of you and sending big hugs. xxoo

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