Saturday, October 31, 2009

Meeting with the surgeon, Dr. Quiros.

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Thanks to Sue at the breast health center, we got in to see Dr. Quiros in two days!  I told you she’s the best.  We’d researched Dr. Roderick Quiros, & boy, does he have quite the resume.  I was confident that we’d picked the best doctor in the area.  Here’s his picture:

We drove up on Friday, October 23rd, & pulled into a large, newly constructed medical campus.  They had valet service, can ya’ believe it?  Not that Matt would use it, but, still.  Up to Dr. Quiros’ office we go.

When we opened the door, the first thing that struck me was that “new office smell”.   And the second thing I noticed was that no one was there.  No, I take that back.  There was a construction worker on a ladder, who kept eyeing us as if to say, “Um, folks, do I look like a doctor to you?”  I’m thinking, you just keep working on that light fixture there, Gilligan.  I’m liking the view.  He was kind of cute – just saying!  Besides, you really never know what dumb thing goes through your mind during stress.  And since so many dumb things go through my mind on a daily basis, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised.

We began to get nervous that we had the wrong day, place or time (which would surprise no one who knows me).  Thankfully, one of the nurses came in & explained that the doctor had been held up in surgery & the staff got caught in traffic.  She apologized profusely, & then did something I never expected.  She gave us $20.00 worth of meal vouchers for the hospital cafeteria.  It’s no Mexican restaurant, but, it was an amazing gesture.  And it was indicative of the type of people I was trusting my life with.

We were called into the exam room, & as we walked, I could have sworn I heard the music from Chopin’s “Funeral March”.  We went into the room, & the doctor’s nurse sat & spoke with us.  She was very sweet, but Matt was anxious to speak to the “man”.  She gave me the usual examining gown; you know, the one that never fits, is a God awful colour & smells of antiseptic.  Thankfully, I could keep my jeans on.  After having over 10 abdominal surgeries, the only thing attractive about my lower half is my underwear – when I’m wearing a good pair.

Finally, the door opened, & in walked Dr. Q.  It struck me that I’m at that point in life where I’m older than my doctors.  Remember Skippy the Radiologist? 

He was very nice, & had me hop up on the exam table.  He looked in my nose & mouth, then started on my neck.  Now, at this point, I thought he was heading for my boobs, so I shrug off the gown.  He gently put it back on me & said that he doesn’t need to see the girls just then.  Turns out, he was feeling my lymph nodes.  Hey, I was trying to be helpful here!

Finally, it’s time to look at the twins.  Dr. Quiros asked me to put my hands on my hips & he struck a pose that reminded me of Yul Brynner in “The King & I”.  So, I did.  And, as I did, the only thing I could think to do was say, “Ta Dah!  Myyyy booobies!”

The doctor managed to keep a straight face, almost, but I thought the nurse & Matt were going to pee their pants trying not to laugh.  The rest of the exam went without incident.  I’m not too sure, though, as I’m fairly sure I was babbling the entire time.

After the exam, the doctor sat down with us & said that I needed a mastectomy.  Thankfully, he didn’t feel any swelling in my lymph nodes, although, he may have been trying not to laugh so hard he couldn’t tell.  But, that was a good sign.  Still, he’s concerned about the small nodule they saw on my left breast (which we’ve nicknamed “Ol’ Lefty" right now).  To be sure that it’s nothing, as the radiologist thought, he wants me to get an MRI.  Also, the MRI will help him tell if the cancer has spread to any other areas.

At that time, we discussed reconstruction.  Dr. Quiros feels that beginning reconstruction at the time of the mastectomy is the best idea.  For me, there wasn’t any other choice.  It’s going to be hard enough to lose Ol’ Righty, so, getting the reconstruction thingy going asap is the only option for me.

We ended our meeting, & both Matt & I felt comfortable with Dr. Quiros & his incredibly wonderful staff.  I’m really beginning to think that if you work in the cancer area of medicine, you have to be unbelievably kind.  At least, that’s what I’ve encountered at every step of the way on this journey.  Of course, you know if someone irritates me, I’ll tell on them here.

Truth be told, I’m having business cards made (Matt makes them in the business center) to hand out at future appointments.  The cards serve two purposes – one, to let them know why my daughter, Elyse (who’s a professional photographer), is bringing a camera along to take their pictures (that I’ll be posting here).  And the other is to remind them that I can tell on them.  Hah!  I’d bet even Brun Hilda would be on her best behaviour.  Oh, & let me know if you want a few for yourself.  You can put your own stuff on them, or you can threaten that you’ll sic me on them!  Remember, I still write for Examiner!
Well, now you’re up to date on what’s been going on.  Right now, I’m doing the insurance samba to get the MRI paid for.  I’ve got major medical, but I only have $1,000.00 in diagnostics per year.  I blew through that budget at the first mammogram & ultrasound.  Sue Folk signed me up with a program for “underinsured” women.  I’ve been accepted, but we’re wading through a sea of red tape.  I think “wading” isn’t the best choice of words.  “Drowning” is more like it.  I’ll keep you posted on that.

Up next, I’m meeting with the plastic surgeon on Wednesday, November 4th.  Hmmm.  Wonder what dumb thing I’ll manage to do or say then?  Whatever it is, you know that I’ll tell you every embarrassing detail.  I’m not called The Brunette Lucy for nothing!

Here’s the link for Chopin’s Funeral March, just in case you weren’t sure what I was referencing:

Friday, October 30, 2009

J promise, I’ll get the story about the surgeon’s office up by tonight!  It seems that no matter what’s going on in my life, I manage to have a Lucy moment!  Oh, & sorry about the different fonts.  I'm still playing around with them.  If you have a preference, would you tell me?  You can reach me at  Thanks!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oops, forgot to say thanks!

Oh, before I forget, St. Luke’s Regional Breast Health Center in Center Valley is the best!  The people there are amazing.  I can’t tell you how much I love Sue Folk.  She’s amazing on so many levels.  If you ever need a mammogram, & a fantastic support staff, then St. Luke’s, & Sue Folk, is the place for you!

And now, for something completely different

If you keep reading my drivel, you may notice something about me.  I’m very easily distracted.  In fact . . . .  ooh, look, a pretty bird.  So, I decided to take some time to tell you about a typical day AD (after diagnosis).

With everything that's been going on, I forgot all about Elyse having to take her PSSA's (standardized testing) today.  She’s a senior at PA Cyber, a cyber charter school. I got a phone call from some jerk saying that she needs to get up there – it’s a half hour drive.  I explained what's going on, & that I was trying to schedule a pre-op MRI.  Of course, I’d hoped that he would say something human like, “oh, then, we’ll discuss this later”.  But, noooooo.  He was a raging jerk.  He told me that she has to get up there tomorrow or we'll have to take her to Harrisburg or Philly to take them.  It’s probably a good thing that we don’t have teleportation technology.  I’d have had Elyse up there all right – with a gigantic pencil to stick up his jerky little… well, you get the idea.

When I told Matt, he hit the roof, started screaming, & said "pull her out [of the Cyber School].  She can get a GED."  Then Elyse started freaking out & crying, & of course, Aubrie gets into the mix.  She & her sister are very close – if one is upset, the other is too.

I managed calm all of them down, & called the Director of the school (I profiled the school in the paper & he really liked the story).  I left a message for him.  I then call my family doctor to discuss changing one of my medicines on the house line, when the Director of the Cyber School called on my cell.  I had to get off the phone with the doctor, take the call from Director, & put out that fire.

I called the doctor back, & we were going over my options, when Aubrie started bellowing from downstairs (we own Palm Business Center & we live above it).  Here, someone was on the phone for me downstairs, even though I have no idea how they got that number.  I was rushing to get off the phone with the doctor to take the other call, & I managed to do it.  Unfortunately, by the time I got the other phone, whoever it was had hung up.  Then, my cell rings again.  I thought maybe it was the MRI people, but it was something different. The next thing I know the house phone rings & it's radiology to set up the MRI.  Then, while I'm on with MRI people, the plastic surgeon's office called on my cell, to get insurance information.

When it was finally over, I was exhausted.  I felt like I’d just run a marathon.  Tell ya’ what; the hospital stay is looking more like a vacation!  Only, with pain, lousy food and . . . ooh, look, the “Who my Baby Daddy” show is on!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Biopsy

Before I continue on, I have to tell you that I shared my story with the homeschooling community.  I can’t tell you how many emails I received, as well as offers for help.  They’re uniting to feed me.  I may very well be the first cancer patient to gain weight! I think that support & humour are very important at a time like this.  I’m very blessed to have them in my life.

I got to the breast center, more than a little apprehensive.  I’d never had a biopsy on anything when I was awake.  Years ago, they put you out.  Yet another reason to miss those “good old days”.  However, they also didn’t have the advances of today; so, I guess it all evens out.  Still, it really sucked.

I was numbed & they took 14 samples from one breast.  Even though they injected me with Novocain, I felt a good deal of it.  It felt like I was being flicked from the inside. I’m not going to lie & say that it was pleasant.  But, it was tolerable.  I’ve heard that other women don’t feel a thing, & I had hoped that I would fall into that category. Well, Hell’s Bells, isn’t that always the way?  They didn’t see anything in the left breast, & decided to leave it alone.  The doctor felt that maybe the original ultrasound was a shadow.  Yeah! 

A day later, I received a phone call from Dr. Egan (I think that’s what his name is – I was so freaked out, I can’t remember).  He asked if it was a good time for him to tell me the results.  I kind of felt like saying, “Really?  Is there ever a good time?” Because, at that point, I had bought a clue (bring on Vanna!). I knew it wasn’t going to be good news.  And it wasn’t.  He told me that all the sites came back positive for cancer.  I needed to schedule an appointment with a surgeon.

You know how when people tell you that bad news is like someone punching you in the gut?  Well, I wish that was true.  For me, it felt like the Earth stopped moving.  I have three children, a husband, lots of friends & an extended family.  He might as well have told me that the sun was going to burn out for all of us.  It kind of felt that way – at least for my family & my close friends. 

Life was now going to be divided into BC – before cancer & AD – after diagnosis.

Up next – the meeting with the surgeon, Dr. Quiros.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Beginning

When I turned 40, my doctor gave me the forms to go get a mammogram.  And again, when I turned 41.  Of course, there was no breast cancer in my family, so I put it off.  I’d also heard how awful mammograms were, & that gave me yet another excuse.  I continued this stupid dance for years. 

Then, one day before we were to go on vacation, I discovered a lump in my breast.  I knew that I had to act normally for the kids, so, off we went.  As soon as I got back, I scheduled my appointment. 

My family doctor didn’t think it was anything to be concerned about.  Still, he wanted me to have a mammogram.  Oh, all right already! I went to get what I had dreaded all my life.  I wasn’t concerned, though, as I thought it was normal.  I got my book & was on my way.  Of course, this was after all the whining, moaning & groaning about this MAJOR inconvenience.

I was taken to a private changing room (very nice), & told to get ready.  From there, I was led to the “booby smashing room”, also known as the mammogram testing area.  I had the first set of x-rays, & was escorted back to my private sitting room, where I continued to read my book.  I was completely unaware that anything was wrong.

 (This is where I went)
I have to say at this point that the mammogram was nowhere NEAR as bad as I’d heard.  It was a little uncomfortable, but, once they took the x-ray, the plate immediately releases.  Ladies, if you’ve had children, then trust me, the mammo is nothing!  Honestly, I’m a big whiner, so if I didn’t mind it so much, neither will you.  Please don’t let that be an excuse not to get one.  OK, back to the story.

My ex-ray tech, Beth, came back into my little room, & told me that the doctor wanted to take another set.  This time, when I got into the booby smashing room, I saw the film of my original mammogram, but it had big circles on it.  This was my first idea that something was wrong.  After that set, I was taken back to my room.

Beth returned shortly, & said that the doctor now wanted to do an ultrasound.  Now, I KNEW something was up.  Of course, the techs were very close mouthed. 

I was taken to another room, & met another woman, who said she’d be my ultrasound tech.  I wanted to say, “And I’ll supply the boobs”, but, I was pretty sure she’d heard that before.  I was there for a while, as she took lots & lots of pictures, & used lots & lots of gel.  Lilliputians could have skied off my boobs.  But, on the bright side, she wasn’t smashing them.  So, there’s that.

Finally, I met with the radiologist, who told me that I had 3 suspicious areas on my right breast, & one on my left.  I needed a biopsy.  Now, between us, Skippy the Radiologist looked like he’d just graduated high school.  I felt like giving him a pop quiz.  He told me I had to have both breasts biopsied.  Ugh. 

Up next, the biopsy.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Normally, I write about silly things & the dumb stuff I do.  I still do, on my “regular” blog, The Brunette Lucy.  However, this blog has been started because on Thursday, October 22nd, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  This blog is a chronicle of my journey.  I plan to be completely honest & frank with what I share.  However, I hope you find it uplifting as well.  There’s always a bright side. 
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