Chemo Response and Next Steps

After Chemo, it's standard procedure to send you for some scans to access how well your cancer responded to the treatments. Which meant last week I went in for a few tests.

First up was another mammogram. Again, I just want to reiterate for the ladies in the back, mammograms are NO BIG DEAL, so check your boobies! My boob was smushed for 20 seconds or so and then it's over.

Next, we had another breast ultrasound and that of course, everyone knows, isn't painful or invasive. It's the same as an ultrasound you would receive while pregnant, except they are looking at your breast, not your uterus. This particular ultrasound was LONG. I'd say she was swabbing that wand thingy around on my boob for at least a half hour.

Once they were done, they were immediately sent to the radiologist that was in that day. Rather than sending me home, they had me wait for my results before I could go. I had an immediate flashback to my initial breast ultrasound back in November, I began to sweat and I knew something wasn't right. Just. Like. November.

So, I waited. For 23 LONG minutes, I waited. Then, the technician (slash nurse, I'm not 100% sure of her title) came back in and said the radiologist had reviewed the images and the official response to chemo was "very minimal".  I asked her what that meant and of course, she said my Doctors would explain further but that my tumor had not decreased in size much (seriously, hardly at all). She didn't know anything more, so off I went.

Since then, I've learned a bit more, but still not much. Apparently, some tumors simply don't respond to Chemo. Especially, hormone positive ones, like mine. Initially, when I was on my 4 rounds of AC Chemo, I felt the tumor softening and shrinking. But, it never got any smaller once I started the Taxol treatments. I remember asking my Oncologist "that doesn't mean it's not working, right?!" at an appointment. He assured me that it was still working, even if I couldn't feel it shrinking.

Now, of course, fast forward 12 weeks and I get confirmation that it really didn't shrink much. In fact, the measurements went from 4.7cm to 4.6cm!!! That's it. After 16 rounds, nearly 6 fucking months, and my tumor was still the same size. I felt extremely defeated and like I had just wasted the last few months feeling awful, missing out on countless moments with my family, all for what? Nothing?! It couldn't have all been for nothing, could it?

In all honesty, I don't know, but I do know, though, that for the first time since I was diagnosed,  I had a real fear that I actually might not beat this thing. And so I got in my car and I cried and cried. Then I put on my brave face, went home and hugged my kids.

Since then, my doctors have tried to calm my fears and assure me that they will still be able to get the tumor out of me and they will remove all the lymph nodes where the cancer may have spread. When we started this course of treatment earlier this year, the goal wasn't to be cancer free at the end of Chemo (I guess my doctors knew better but I was idealistically optimistic), it was to, hopefully, rid the cancer from the nearby node and prevent the cancer from spreading any further in my body. Which we don't know if we were successful in doing and won't know until surgery.

So, here we are. I've made my decision - double mastectomy - and we have a date. July 22nd. Let's do this shit!

My breast surgeon ordered an MRI, just to see a bigger/clearer picture of my response to chemo. The results were much more positive. It looks as though, the active cancer portion of my tumor has shrunk nearly half, the remaining portion is scar tissue. The lymph node(s) are showing as still enlarged, but not as enlarged as before (they aren't testing them for active cancer until surgery though).

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