From surgery to oncology

Sorry for dropping off the net after my early December update. It’s been quite a month. Since I’m not sure who knows what at this point, everyone is going to get the whole (short) story.


When I last signed off, Jerry and I were preparing to go to Michigan. Sadly, my father passed away on December 5th, the night before we departed. We flew as scheduled and were in Michigan for the funeral and to help my mother during the first difficult week. We returned on the 13th to prepare for my surgery. My mother flew to San Diego on the 18th with my Aunt Anne, and she plans to stay in southern California till about the 1st of April (when we can be sure that the snow is gone for good), splitting her time between our house and Aunt Anne’s in Sierra Madre.


Surgery on the 15th went as planned, I spent one night in the hospital, and came home for an uneventful recovery and to wait for the pathology report. We were expecting to hear something before Christmas but didn’t. The report was stuck in a “pending” status. I expected some slowing over the holidays, but started making calls just before the New Year to try to get things moving. After a couple of more calls on the 5th, it suddenly surfaced. And it was good news. The margins were clean and none of the additional 14 lymph nodes removed showed signs of cancer. So the surgery phase of my treatment is complete. I saw the surgeon yesterday for a follow-up and to have my drain removed. That was the most onerous part of the recovery. I expected to have it about two weeks and it ended up 3 weeks and 3 days! It was uncomfortable and inconvenient, keeping me out of the shower and preventing me from lying on my preferred (left) side. Was I glad to see the last of that!!! My mobility (and my overall “wellness”) improved immediately. But I have lost some range of motion on the left side and will have to work to get back to normal. I will see a physical therapist who specializes in cancer recovery and lymphedema next Thursday.


Now my case has been handed off to Oncology. We will meet with the medical oncologist next Thursday, 15 January, to discuss next steps. The oncologist will take everything that is known about my cancer to date and feed it into a model which will predict the degree of benefit of any particular treatment (chemo, hormone therapy, radiation). Radiation is part of the protocol for lumpectomy. Since my cancer responds to estrogen and progesterone, I expect to be on hormone therapy (Tamoxifen or one of its relatives or one of the newer aromatase inhibitors) for 5 years – at least. The primary unknown is whether or not I will do chemo. The surgeon expects it to be recommended. Next week will be an important discussion – I hope.


I am feeling well and remain very optimistic about the final outcome, though I don’t look forward to the treatment that still awaits. Just something to get through. I worked a couple of shortened days between Christmas and New Year’s, and began my regular 3-day schedule this past Monday. Must admit I still have a hard time getting up in the morning and think wistfully of naps, but I did fine. I’m looking forward to getting back to my yoga practice. I plan to try qigong. I won’t wait long to see if I can still swing a golf club. 2008 had a great start and a difficult end. 2009 is going to be the reverse!


I’ll try not to wait so long between updates.

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