“Never tell me the odds!” - Han Solo
In stage IIIC, the cancer:
has spread to lymph nodes beneath the collarbone and near the neck; and
may have spread to lymph nodes within the breast or under the arm and to tissues near the breast.
Stage IIIC breast cancer is divided into operable and inoperable stage IIIC.
In operable stage IIIC, the cancer:
is found in 10 or more of the lymph nodes under the arm; or
is found in the lymph nodes beneath the collarbone and near the neck on the same side of the body as the breast with cancer; or
is found in lymph nodes within the breast itself and in lymph nodes under the arm.
In inoperable stage IIIC breast cancer, the cancer:
has spread to the lymph nodes above the collarbone and near the neck on the same side of the body as the breast with cancer.
In stage IV, the cancer has spread to other organs of the body, most often the bones, lungs, liver, or brain.
Once again, I'm giving you advance warning about gory medical stuff
ahead, and if you’d rather not know, DON’T READ THIS.
When we last left our fair heroine, she was headed in to get an MRI. The team wanted to see if there was more than the two sites that had been biopsied, see February 25, 2005 and March 7, 2005.
The MRI was an experience unto itself. Now, there’s not a huge number of things I fear. Heights? No, I’m a (former) rock climber. Spiders? No way. Large hospital orderlies with syringes? Not really, although we’ll get back to that one. Snakes? Nope, I used to chase my cousins with snakes I caught, as a kid. (You probably think this tells you some unflattering things about my character, which I would say, all in all, are probably true. In my own defense, I was the youngest of seven cousins, and in my small way I had to find ways to take a little power back. Judge me as ye will.)
I am, however, claustrophobic. Very. As in, the elevator stops between floors, and my heart rate picks up. I don’t think I would get hysterical if I was stuck in one for four hours, but I would not be the zen mistress of calm and light, either.
I could feel my heart rate increase as they backed me into the tube. Hands pressed flat at my sides, forehead resting on a pillow. If I lifted my head, I could see light at the end of the tube…and the old firefighter inside me kicked up, and thought, okay, now, there’s my escape route, and if I REALLY needed to get out on my own, I could…skrinching like a seal, forward, until I could get my elbows free, then it’s a piece of cake.
In the meantime, I sang. Mining songs. It both controls my breathing, which decreases fear, and give me something to focus on (What the hell is the next verse?), which decreases fear. And thought about those miners in West Virginia, about 10 years ago, who were rescued, alive, after many days…I wept when I heard that they had been found, alive, and I had a small weep, in the privacy of the MRI tube. After that I was fine – although that may have had something to do with the Valium, as well.
Next day. Being the curious sort that I am, of course I had to take a look at the pictures. I’m fascinated by x-rays and such, and so I always sneak a peek if I get the chance. I got to look at slices of my brain after an MRI once, and it was extremely cool. Not to mention that I did NOT have a subdural hematoma, which is always good news.
Note to the squeamish – skip this next section.
Now, remember, this is a total layperson’s description. The left breast just looked, well, regular. Or rather, it looked regular in contrast
to this other mess. Tumor, clearly visible as a blackish lump. Enlarged lymph node in the chest wall, also smaller blackish mass. And what looks like spider webs, or dryer lint, throughout. Dang. Again, I’m a layperson, but I have the suspicion this is not good – that the beastie has spread throughout my right breast.
Wednesday, March 9. We meet with the oncologist, to whom I took an immediate liking. He put up with our nonsense (bald jokes
and boob jokes
abound) and went right along with it, but was also no nonsense. And not patronizing, which is my biggest peeve with modern medicos.
And, in spite of the fact that I’m a lay person, turns out I was right. That spider web is not good news. I will not be having a lumpectomy, definitely a mastectomy. Also chemotherapy – adriamycin, cytoxin, and some form of taxol. AC+T, if you are familiar the marvy new cancer acronyms. Then, after 18 weeks of that, radiation.
AND. MORE. TESTS. See what I mean about the medical machine? I’ll be having a CT scan next Monday, surgery probably on Thursday, and a bone scan a week from then. Chemotherapy will start in two weeks, then radiation after the chemo is done, just in case I'm not already beat up enough. I don’t really know all the details of those yet.
The hope is that I don’t have cancer in the chest wall, my ribs, or the lymph nodes underneath the collarbone. The lymph nodes along the collarbone are inoperable, stage IIIC, the ribs or the chest wall would push me up into stage IV, metastatic cancer.
Luckily, I’m left-handed, so I’m effectively cutting off the appropriate breast to be a true Amazon. Reading some of the descriptions of the various side effects of chemo, I think I’m going to need to be a true amazon in other ways, as well. Also! No spots in the left side! This is happy making.
In the mean time, it's 80 degrees, the pear trees are dropping so many petals it looks like snow drifts, and Kevin is here. I'm off to carpe the damned diem.
(R) breast and (R) axilla - Caught in the medical machine - Going Amazonian - When the Breast Fairy Comes - So there we were, in Oncology, wishing for Star Trek technology - Weddings, and other Sundrie Diversions - Support the Amazons: A Dual-Function Ninjagirls Bakesale for Boobies - Seven Down, One to Go - 1950s technology meets 21st-century woman. - Getting better, but cancer SUCKS - An Open Letter to Macy's regarding Tits