Reality Bites, But Life Goes On

I was walking down the aisles of Bed Bath and Beyond this afternoon. The point of my trip there was to buy new shower curtain liners (What? I’m assuming we’ll have a lot of visitors over the next few months and I don’t want them showering next to gross, mildew-y curtains. Plus, I won’t be able to lift either of my arms after surgery, so I need to switch out the liners ASAP!), but I ended up buying a ton of other crap — like soap, Keurig pellets and shaving cream.  I’ve been out of shaving cream for a few weeks now. Everyday, when I’m in the shower, I make a mental note to buy more shaving cream. My poor legs have been getting abused by my Dial bar soap (which Paul says smells like the hospital (ironically)) and my lady razor (very much like the Lady Bic Pens we’ve all been hearing about lately!) lol.

So, I found myself in the toiletries aisle.  I put a regular size can of shaving cream into my basket — only to realize how wasteful that was.  So I put it back on the shelf and walked over to the travel size area — and grabbed a small can instead.  The reality of my impending chemo hit me head on — in the middle of BB&Beyond — I won’t have any hair on my body in about 6 weeks — so there is no need to buy a giant can of shaving cream. Oy.

But, as the title of my post indicates, life goes on. So, I got home, took a shower, shaved my legs and am getting ready for dinner out with my pal Shadin. A girl’s gotta eat, right?

Cancer Nesting

I’ve decided to do the bi-lateral mastectomy.  I don’t want to deal with this crap again in the future. So now we are just waiting for our surgeon and plastics guy to pick a date that works with both of their schedules. In the meantime, we’re nesting.  You know how people who are just about to have a baby go on a babymoon and get the house ready? Well, that’s exactly what we’re doing, but for Cancer!

We’ve busied ourselves with the realities of Cancer. There is a lot of paperwork and research to be done!  We have to figure out our insurance and my disability leave.  We have to find a medical oncologist we like in the city (We’ve decided that it’s crazy to drive 2 hours roundtrip down to PAMF for chemo — so I’m going to do that part here in the city, but do my surgery and reconstruction down in Palo Alto). We have to figure out how and where I get my hands on edibles (my friends who have already walked this path tell me that medical maryjane saved them during chemo). We have to figure out when our parents will fly in to help out, and for how long. We have to decide if we break our cardinal rule of “no TV in the bedroom” and go out and buy a cancer TV for the days that I inevitably won’t be able to get out of bed.

Also on the list, is getting in touch with local TNBC (Triple negative Breast Cancer) survivors. I want to learn and truly comprehend what the next 8 months are going to look like for me. I’m one of those people who can handle things IF I know what to expect and mentally prepare for it.  So I want to hear the good, the bad and the very ugly right now. How sick will I really feel? What does “really achey” actually mean? Do I need a port? When will my hair fall out? etc, etc.

Like any good nester before us, we also want to go on a cancermoon! I’m thinking Hawaii — I think I’ve earned it! And of course — we MUST throw a “Kick Cancer to the Curb” party. I mean, goes without saying, right?

Receptor Results & Denial

Alrighty, so the pathology on my receptor tests came in last night. Jennifer Glover, nurse coordinator extraordinaire called to tell us the facts.

Before I get to my results, here’s the scoop, as I currently understand it (I’m a newbie to all of this). They look at my cancer to determine if it’s receptive to (read: fed by) estrogen (ER), progesterone (PR) and/or Her2/Neu. If the cancer is fed by any one of these (or all three) the doctors treat it with hormone therapy. So, for example, I believe that Giuliani’s cancer was fed by estrogen, so her after care treatment includes taking tamoxifen for 5 years. That is an estrogen blocker (hence the reason why her doctor told her she shouldn’t carry a pregnancy herself — because her body would produce estrogen as a normal part of pregnancy — that’s why she opted for a gestational surrogate). So, basically, the doctors give you pills to stop the your bodies’ production of the hormone that feeds your cancer. Makes sense, right?

If you are “triple negative” (test negative for ER, PR and Her2/Neu) that means your cancer is not fed by hormones, so your treatment plan will likely be more aggressive because they don’t know what’s feeding the cancer. From what I’m told, those with triple negative cannot escape chemo.

So my results are:

ER – weak positive (1-5%)

PR – negative

Her2/neu – negative

According to Jennifer Glover, the weak positive ER will likely be read as a negative by my docs. Meaning that hormone therapy probably won’t be of any benefit to me. Upside to this news (or at least that’s how Paul and I are choosing to look at it — as an upside), I probably won’t be on estrogen blockers for years like Giuliani — which means there is still a chance I can carry a pregnancy after all this crap is behind us. Down side to this reading is that I’m probably a triple negative — which means I’ll probably have to have chemo. OMG. Yuck.

We meet with the oncologists today and will hear all that they have to say. Everything we know so far came from our nurse — and she can’t interpret any of my test results. She did give us some good advice though — she said “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best”. I like that.

Paul is worried that I am in total denial. I am. I still think that this whole thing is no big deal. But hearing “chemo” last night made it a lot more real for me. However, my brain is playing tricks on me again. It’s convinced itself that, because our beloved Jennifer Glover is a nurse, not a doctor — I don’t have to listen to her at all. I have about 4 more hours until our appointment at PAMF. I choose blissful denial for now…


On the morning of 10.11.12 (a day I assumed would be auspicious — stupid girl!) I was told I have cancer. Christine Huo, my PCP, delivered the news over the phone.  I could tell she was nervous; a bit rusty delivering news as big as this. She’s a family practice doctor — she deals in kids’ colds and allergy shots — not stuff like this. Let me back up. I found a lump in my breast a few weeks ago, so I made an appointment to get it checked out. I’m lazy and didn’t want to drive all the way to Palo Alto for my appointment. Since PAMF and Sutter Health merged recently, there are PAMF’s scattered throughout the Peninsula. So I opted to see some random doc at the Redwood Shores outpost because it’s closer to my work.  That doctor also felt the lump and called in an ultrasound for two days later. Christine’s name was attached to the ultrasound request because she’s my PCP on file. So there she was, my poor, clueless, referring doctor, delivering the news. What a bum deal she got. Probably sipping her morning coffee, going through her emails and patient test results: strep throat positive for Sally, mono test negative for Billy, allergy RX refill for Amanda, cancer diagnosis for Andrea. WTF? Who is Andrea? Why do I have to make this call? Shit. She cut to the chase quickly and told me the diagnosis swiftly and factually — yet with compassion. I was proud of her. (Can you believe I even gave a crap about how she was feeling delivering the news? This is how my mind works though. At my job, I am always having difficult conversations over the phone. I never know if I sound compassionate or if I bumble through the conversations, nervous and awkwardly.) She said, “I see that you had a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy performed yesterday. The results of your biopsy are in. It’s not good. You have breast cancer.” (Here’s where I tune out and my body gets sweaty and tingly, but I’m still standing — just looking out at the parking lot through the window of Charmed Life (we have cute names for our conference rooms at Stella & Dot!)) “The pathology indicates that you have a poorly differentiated infiltrating ductal carcinoma.  I’m sorry to have to deliver this news to you. I didn’t want to wait however, because I want you to come in right away. I have an opening today at 1pm with Jennifer Glover (I wonder if she’s related to Danny — what is worng with me? Why am I wondering this?) the nurse coordinator, can you come in?” That’s how it went down. In a conference room at work. lol. seriously?