Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Results Are In!

Today was a long day. The whole morning was spent at the Regions Specialty Center having a PET scan done. I was concerned about the PET scan, but it was a piece of cake. Other than the radiology tech handing me a size medium scrubs (ummm....did you look at me before you handed me those scrubs?), the PET scan was a piece of cake. I was given an IV, a little contrast in the IV, followed by a thick, chalky contrast to drink. Then I was left alone in a recliner in a private room to read for an hour until the contrast had fully taken effect. An hour to read in peace with NO ONE bothering me. It was kind of like a spa experience--a spa with really shitty cocktails, but a spa nonetheless.

In the afternoon, I had a breast MRI done. After the wonderfully relaxing PET scan, I was sort of looking forward to the MRI. It had to be at least equally relaxing, right?


The breast MRI was probably the most horrendous thing I had ever experienced in my life. To start off, I AGAIN had to ask for larger scrubs when I was handed a medium. Seriously, people? Look. At. Me. Then the radiology tech asked me what type of music I wanted to listen to during the MRI. I almost deadpanned, "Do you have any 80s power ballads?" I bit my tongue though and instead said, "I don't care." Because really, I did not care. The technician took one look at me and immediately thought 1970s Easy Listening. Apparently, that is the vibe I give off because that is the music I got.

So the test itself? Here's how it goes. You walk into the MRI room in ill-fitting scrubs. Then you are asked to open your top, climb onto the table on your knees and lower your boobs into two boxes laying on the table. Yes, you are face down for a breast MRI. I lowered my boobs into the boxes, and two technicians on either side of me pulled and tugged and rearranged them to make certain that I was not laying on any tissues that needed to be scanned. I now feel a sort of strange affinity for milking cows. I feel like I really understand them. Like we are compatriots, in a way.

So once I was in place, I laid my face down on the padded face mask thingy and the scan began. The music was hideous, but it didn't matter because I couldn't really hear it over the deafening ka-chunk, ka-chunk noises the MRI machine made. It was so incredibly loud. The entire scan took about 25 minutes, but 10 minutes into it, I was in almost full blown panic mode. I couldn't see anything. I was sweating bullets. And there was all of three inches of breathing space between my face and the table. I have a touch of claustrophobia, but I thought I would be fine because I usually get agitated in crowds, not small spaces. But it appears that three inches of breathing space is also a trigger for me. It took every single bit of composure I could muster to refrain from screaming hysterically. Seriously. I was a MESS by the time it was over. My heart did not resume its normal rhythm until we were home again.

After all of that, I expected to receive a call from my doctor tomorrow with the results. However, she called me at 6:30 this evening. The results were mixed. Here's what I now know:
  1. The skin biopsy came back negative. There was no evidence of cancer in the skin of my breast. This is a good thing.
  2. The PET scan came back showing that the cancer in by breast had metastasized to my lymph nodes. Several lymph nodes were involved at three different levels. This is a bad thing.
  3. The PET scan also showed no evidence of cancer in any of my outer bodily organs or systems. This is a good thing. 
  4. The lymph nodes that are effected seem to be the reason for the swelling and redness that I have been experiencing. The affected lymph nodes are blocking the lymphatic drainage in my breast. The back-up is causing my symptoms. It looks unlikely that I have the rare, aggressive Inflammatory Breast Cancer, after all. This is a good thing. 
  5. Because the cancer is in my lymph nodes, the cancer is considered Stage 3 cancer. This is a bad thing.
  6. Because the cancer is in my lymph nodes, the plan will be to start chemotherapy immediately rather than having surgery right now. Surgery will happen down the road. We want to prevent the cancer from spreading, and the best way to do that is to treat me systemically--treat my WHOLE body rather than just the tumor. Chemotherapy is the best way to do that. I haven't decided yet if this is a good thing or a bad thing. It's just a thing.
  7. The oncologist will call me tomorrow and we will set up and appointment to discuss the treatment regimen. This is a good thing.
  8. Stage 3 cancer is still CURABLE. And a cure will be our ultimate goal. This is a good thing. 
  9. I will lose my hair and, if my luck holds as it had been, it will grow back in snow white. I just know it. This is a bad thing. (On a side note, knittters please feel free to get to kitting. I am not a wig girl and I do not see myself in flowing scarves. I think funky knit hats will be my go-to fashion statement in the coming months.)
  10. I am feeling positive. Strangely, inexplicably, stupidly positive. Seriously. It is worse news than we hoped for, but honestly, better news than I expected. It does not appear that I have Inflammatory Breast Cancer, which frankly, terrified me. The cancer is not in any of my other bodily systems. Stage 3 breast cancer is advanced, but the chances of the treatment working for me is pretty good. The statistics seem to be in my favor. And I have an amazing support system, so I am feeling freakishly hopeful. 
That is all for now. 


Heather Arnett said...

You got this, Shannon - and we, all your friends, have your back. Much much love. Oh, and don't immediately pass on wigs - I think you'd be a knockout with a sleek hot pink bob one day, and a marge simpson wig the next. :)

Sam said...

Fight your ass off, woman! You got this! We are rooting for you and sending you and your family so much hope from Wisconsin. #fuckcancer

Sam said...

Fight your ass off, woman! You got this! We are rooting for you and sending you and your family so much hope from Wisconsin. #fuckcancer

S said...

Well, shit. Wished for better for you, but thrilled that it isn't inflammatory and it isn't metastatic - all the rest is doable. I'll plan to knit you a cap, but at my speed, your hair will regrow before that. If you are down for a fancy silk scarf to tie jauntily around your head, I've got plenty to loan. Thinking of you lots.

Madge Woods said...

You got this sister friend. Hopefully, it is in just a few lymph nodes and they die easily with treatment. Then they will do surgery and take up as many lymph nodes as needed. I am holding you in the light of healing.

Rebecca said...

Glad to see you've got your sense of humor in tact. It's the only way for me to muddle through when things get tough. Also, I totally related to your "spa experience." I had minor surgery a few years ago, and I remember telling the nurses that you know you're a mother of three if outpatient surgery feels like a vacation.

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