Choose your own Cancer adventure!

My studio at night

I had a truly beautiful day.

It started with going to see my surgeon, and I was anxious about it. I was actually late (3 minutes) for it, because I was so anxious and pokey about getting there.

Last week I knew I wasn’t going to work well with my oncology navigator, an RN. She’s perfectly capable and professional, but I know I need someone that has a more loving touch. Last week I called to ask a question, because my old navigator was on vacation. I talked to the lovely Sue on the phone and she made me feel calm and heard. I told her I wanted to talk to a plastic surgeon, and that I didn’t want to participate in the study. She made a note that I don’t want the study, and she scheduled the appointment.

When I called yesterday to ask her what the plastic surgeon’s name was, I asked if she could be my navigator. “Just from talking to you on the phone, I just feel so comfortable with you.” She said “OF COURSE!” Insert hug emoji.

I was having meltdowns all day yesterday, especially in the evening. I called oncology again at 4:59. A receptionist picked up and must have heard the urgency and panic in my voice, so she spent her time talking to me. She said she picked up because she didn’t want to have extra messages, lol.

She is a breast cancer survivor, and based on my file and all the panicky things I was saying, she chose to tell me her story. We were on the phone for 10 minutes. She was the FIRST person I’ve talked to that said she didn’t want to do a mastectomy because she, ahem, likes her breasts. She was professional and cagey about it, until I said “YES, I FEEL THE SAME, I find pleasure in mine.” It was a relief to have someone talk about sexual pleasure and breasts and nipples with me. Finally. She had a lumpectomy and radiation and tamoxifen, too. Everyone is different, of course. But it was so helpful to hear someone that didn’t choose to do any more aggressive procedures than necessary.

Of course it’s all a choice. Every person that goes through this (women and men get breast cancer) gets to make their own choice. And of course it is devastating for anyone to have a mastectomy.

So today I met Sue, the new navigator. She immediately put me at ease and made me feel like I had my mom with me. Not having my family close is hard, so having a nurse that feels like she’s family is a special little miracle. Then we went in and met my surgeon, whom I loved immediately. He just had the exact way I needed. He was matter of fact and straightforward, but super relatable. When I talked about recovery and going back to work he gave me examples from his own life. We had this whole bit about dishwashers and teenagers and I just loved him. I know I am in great hands with him.

THE BEST part was that I got the answers to the questions I needed to have answered, and they were the answers I wanted to hear. I can take hearing news I don’t want to hear. BUT. After the power research I’ve been doing, it was nice to hear that my more conservative approach is absolutely reasonable.

  1. A lumpectomy will have to take out more than the cancer. He described it like a cube, and every surface has to have no cancer. ALL the cancer has to stay on the inside. That’s what clear margins are.
  2. If the final path report from the lumpectomy shows not clear margins, NO it doesn’t mean another lumpectomy or a mastectomy has to happen. It just means he goes back in and cuts off a tiny bit more. No biggie. (I’m saying no biggie. Because, no biggie.)
  3. If the final path report shows I have invasive cancer vs. non invasive cancer as is diagnosed based on my biopsy samples, it doesn’t mean they have to do a mastectomy after all. It just means more medical oncology (medicines/chemo possibly, etc.) will likely happen.
  4. Sure, in the future it could come back. But that is the future and we’re just talking about what we know right now. THIS I am going to keep reminding myself, daily, hourly, by the minute, all I need to. All we know is what we know right now.
  5. If the cancer is actually invasive and appears to be spreading, it could mean more surgery, such as a lymph node. But that is the future. Not right now. Right now it’s still DCIS.
  6. If the lumpectomy heals and needs plastic surgery for ANY REASON, from dimpling in, being smaller than it is now, etc, I can have that fixed to my satisfaction. Which is why I am going to talk to a plastic surgeon. I can even choose to do breast reduction on the other one to match, or breast enlargement on cancer girl to make them match. DUH, reduction please 😉

I have always secretly wanted to make my left breast match my right, so if I end up doing that it will be delightful. However. I am not going to just willy nilly do another surgery. I will choose what I choose based on the information I have later. Everything is so CHOICE based, and he reiterated that multiple times. “It’s like “Choose your own adventure!”” I exclaimed and made everyone laugh. But it is. You make a choice based on data, then see what happens. Then you make another choice based on data and see what happens. I LOVE THAT.

I admitted to my surgeon that my cancerous right breast has always been my favorite, and that we are going to baby her, ok? Sue told me later that she loved that, and said she’s going to remember that one. “Take care of my baby girl, ok?” She was chuckling when we parted. I love her, too.

At one point when my surgeon was explaining things to me, using the scientific terms and then translating them into layman’s terms, I said, “I’m following you just fine! I have two Master’s degrees. You’re good. Yay science!!” He and Sue laughed. Later when he left, Sue said, “I didn’t have to say a word, you asked every question I would have asked for you. Most people don’t know what to ask!”

I got back to school about 90 minutes later. My substitute, who subbed for me last year as well, said “They were great, you have a sweet class.” Then she looked at me again and said, “But really, you always have a great class., you just do.” That made me feel like a million bucks. If I have to leave my precious third grade humans with anyone besides myself, I for sure want it to be with someone that will treasure them like I do. All the heart emojis.

I coached cross country today after school, and I managed to run almost 1/2 a mile NONSTOP in 6.22 minutes. Then I did another 1/2 mile in just over 7, because I had to walk some. It felt amazing! The kids were getting pokey, but I was running right along with them. I said, as I ran by, “If a 50 year old lady can do this, you can for sure do it!” A 5th grade runner said to me, “WOW! My mom is 53 and she looks waaaaaay older than just 3 years older than you.” I had to gracefully say everyone ages differently. But you know that made me feel vainly amazing.

I’m still human.

Live in love. Live in it.

And trust the heck out of your intuition, your body, your heart and your mind. They’re all working together to help you rock at life.


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