I never dreamed when I began this nutrition, health and fitness website, that I would be documenting my dear wife’s, my sweet Loraine’s journey with breast cancer on these web pages, yet here I am this evening, writing my third piece in this series.
I am doing this in order to share with others the good, the bad and the ugly of this journey. I am sharing this experience in order that maybe, just maybe, it might help someone else in their own struggle with breast cancer. Loraine’s experience may be different than the difficult path you or a loved one might encounter, but maybe it might still answer some of your own questions, or give you ideas of what to ask about if you or a loved one has been recently diagnosed.
To the guys reading this, my intent is to also help you in understanding this tough path we travel with our loved ones. I want you to know that what ever emotions you might experience are completely natural and okay. Brothers. if you need to shed some tears, then by God, let them flow. No one is going to demand you give up your “Man Card” for being a human being with human emotions.
A little over a week ago, we got Loraine’s diagnosis that she has breast cancer. An appointment with a surgeon was set up for as soon as possible which was today. To say the last week has been stressful and an emotional roller coaster ride, would be an understatement to say the least. We have been through her having beat two other cancers over the years already, now we are in for a third and different type. My God, just how much is one woman supposed to endure in life. Lord, when will enough be enough for this kind and gentle woman, my wife, mother of our children and proud grand mother of our four beautiful grand daughters. Why does my dear wife have to suffer these indignities…
This morning, we arose and fussed around each other over our morning coffee as is our norm. Today was the day for the visit with Loraine’s surgeon, where we would find out our immediate coarse of action with this breast cancer. Yet, this was really not the topic of discussion as we went about our normal daily breakfast rituals. We had our coffee and breakfast while sitting in the living room and watching the local news with great attention being placed on the weather forecast. Placing our focus pretty much anywhere and everywhere except from dwelling on what might be said in the doctors office at our noon visit. I believe despite both of us being worried about her prognosis, we simply avoided the topic until it was time to leave. Even then, we found other distractions to occupy our minds until we arrived for her appointment. First we had to run by the bank to deposit a check, then gas up my truck before heading over to the UPS store where we mailed a Christmas package to our daughter and her small family in Germany. We were not consciously procrastinating our arrival to the appointment, but these little side excursions on the way gave us something else to focus on instead of worrying about receiving news of a worse case scenario. I kept stewing on how much it costs to mail packages to Germany from Kansas while Loraine kept telling me the price doesn’t matter, after all, the package was gifts mainly for our two year old grand daughter we have not yet met. Needless to say, I surrendered to this little battle, as we arrived at the doctor’s office…
After battling Black Friday shopper traffic we arrived at the doctor’s office at about 11:30am. The parking lot was almost empty,which I later found out was because they were only working a half day, and the surgeon had actually fit Loraine in during what would have been her lunch hour.
Once inside we were given a stack of forms to fill out, forms wanting the basic new patient information along with more forms that covered Loraine’s entire medical history along with that of her family. I was glad we had actually arrived a little sooner than we were told to after we got this stack of forms. Once these had been filled out, we were led to an examination room where Loraine had to remove her blouse and bra and then put on a medical smock so the doctor could perform another examination of her breasts. Of course the masses were easily felt, but the doctor asked about two other conditions of her breast that I never gave any thought. The first was in regards to an indentation in an area that used to be full, and the other question was in regards to how long her left nipple had been inverted.
Ladies, even if you do not feel a lump in your breast during a self examination, if you have an indentation in your breast that is abnormal, or if your nipple becomes inverted, please get yourself in for an examination. These are signs of breast cancer that many are not aware of. What happens is the tumor will pull these tissues inward as it grows.
Men, if you notice these conditions on your wife or girlfriend, please have them get checked out. Even if there is no pain, these conditions need to be checked out. Breast cancer is not always painful.
After Doctor Butler finished her examination of Loraine, she lead us back to her office where we discussed the diagnosis and treatment options. Is it necessary to say both our minds were swirling at this point and it was a battle to take in all that the doctor was telling us? I’m glad I had the foresight to take a notebook along in order for me to take notes. I strongly advise anyone going through this journey to do the same. With emotions flowing rapidly where you do not know if you are going to break down crying while trying to maintain your composure, you are bound to forget some of what is being said. Also, it is a good idea to write down your questions before hand in order that you do not walk away with unanswered questions.
Now, on with the diagnosis: This is a grade 2 invasive ductal carcinoma, fortunately the most common type of breast cancer. The grade is not a stage, and we will not know 100% the staging until after her surgery in a few weeks. The grade is the average Histopathological Grade of between 1 to 6 being the highest. The average is from grading Tubule formation, Nuclear pleomorphism, and Mitotic rate. Being a grade 2, despite the tumor being about the size of a golf ball means that we have likely caught this cancer in its early stages of growth.
The next part that looks promising for successful treatment is her Estrogen Receptor (ER) marker is positive, her Progesterone Receptor (PR) marker is positive and her HER2 is negative. HER2 stands for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. When a breast cancer is HER2-negative, it means that the cancerous cells do not contain high levels of the protein HER2. Thank God, there are many treatment options available for this type of breast cancer.
The treatment options we have been presented with are a mastectomy, where the entire breast and all of it’s tissue is removed. If the cancer is entirely contained and has not metastasized, the only other course of treatment will be from an aromatase inhibitor medication to inhibit the production of estrogen. No chemo or radiation will be required unless the cancer has metastasized.
The next option is a lumpectomy where only the tumor is removed in the hopes of preserving the breast, but there will be daily radiation treatments and possible chemo for 6 weeks after surgery.
Loraine was given some time to consider her options, but right now I believe we will do as the surgeon advised and have the mastectomy since the recovery will not involve painful radiation or chemo which will have her sick and losing her hair. On a positive note, we have the option of having a plastic surgeon being on the surgical team who can begin the process of breast reconstruction right away.
Ladies, here is an example of breast reconstruction after a mastectomy:
There is hope that you can retain your figure after a mastectomy.
Do your self examinations! Teach your daughters and grand daughters to do them too! Early detection saves lives!
Self examinations and early detection are critical to your survival. From literature sent home with us from COPE Library:
Some breast cancers grow rapidly, while others grow slowly. Breast cancers have been shown to double in size every 23 to 209 days. A tumor that doubles every 100 days would have been in your body approximately 8 to 10 years when it reaches one centimeter in size (3/8 inch), the size of the tip of your smallest finger The cancer begins with one damaged cell and doubles until it is detected and treated. The cancer must be surgically removed from the body, destroyed with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, or controlled with hormonal therapy. Some people believe that cancer grows in spurts and the doubling time varies at different times. However, by the time a one centimeter tumor is found, the tumor has already grown from one cell to approximately 100 billion cells.
God bless, and thank you for reading. Please, if you know someone who has been recently diagnosed, please share this with them. I pray that by sharing our journey with breast cancer we can bring awareness and education to as many people as we can around the world. If we only help one, the effort will have been worth it, I pray we help many more along the way.