gsbasset's Journey with Breast Cancer

Patient: Breast Cancer

Patient Info: Currently in active treatment (initial surgery, receiving chemo rounds/radiation), Diagnosed: over 5 years ago, Female, Age: 62, Stage II, HER2 Positive: Yes, ER Positive: No, PR Positive: No

  1. 1
    • gsbasset
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    over 4 years ago
    gsbasset's Avatar

    Stereocoptic Biopsy

    Procedure or Surgery

    Stereoscopic Biopsy - My first was very scary. While the procedure was well explained it was facing the unknown and the horrible time frame for waiting for results. My team was kind and informative as they did the procedure. It was painful to some extent, but not horrible. They add lidocane as they proceed with the needle biopsy and that really helps. Because I am large breasted I had issues afterwards. The stereo strips feel off within 12 hours and they are supposed to stay 3-5 days. This meant slower healing as the site expanded in size due to the weight of my breasts pulling the site more open. While I kept the area clean, I did some air travel to see my mother right after the diagnosis and ended up with a staff infection at the site. This was partially resolved with antibiotics before my partial mastectomy. When I had my partial mastectomy soon afterwards, the surgeon cut out the tissue that was infected since it was where he needed to make his incision.

    Went as Expected: Agree
    Minimal Recovery: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Agree
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  2. 2
    • gsbasset
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    over 4 years ago
    gsbasset's Avatar

    Lumpectomy

    Procedure or Surgery

    I had three, yes three partial mastectomies ( or lumpectomies ) ! I did not care if they took all of the breast but they felt a partial was the prudent way to go given I had been diagnosed Stage 0. The first one resulted in finding a second type of cancer. Not only did I have DCIS, but I also had HER2/positive. No longer stage 0, I was stage 1. The margins were not clear, so needed a second surgery. The second surgery found more DCIS and still no clear margins despite the fact that surgeon took a very generous amount of tissue. He also removed the sentinel node during that surgery and it was, thankfully,clear. In the third surgery we got clear margins, no cancer found. Sigh, wish I would have insisted that they did a mastectomy the first time. It took three weeks between each surgery and extended my healing time and caused me to go under a general anesthesia three times instead of one.

    Went as Expected: Agree
    Minimal Recovery: Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Agree
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  3. 3
    • gsbasset
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    over 4 years ago
    gsbasset's Avatar

    Chemotherapy

    Drug or Chemo Therapy

    TCH - Taxotere, Carboplatin and Herceptin Prior to beginning therapy, they did a full work-up to check my overall condition. This was blood work, Echo-cardiogram, X-rays and an ultrasound. They found a large ovarian cyst during this testing. It was decided that I would go on to Chemo since one the Carboplatin was also the drug used if for ovarian cancer and because the HER2 was aggressive and needed to be treated ASAP. Then after my treatment was over they would remove the cyst and do pathology. I must say that despite the challenges I had from treatment that staying positive kept me from falling into depression. I was not going to let this disease make me into a useless blob or monster. Kept my tiger by its tail. Treatment schedule was every three weeks. The first three treatments were not too bad. I could still do some house cleaning and take short walks after the first week after the treatment. I had a bad week, an okay week, then a good week. I was tired,tired, tired. Did not know a person could sleep that much, that often. Over time my body got sore from laying in bed. My nausea was controlled by the medications I was given. One I took every 12 hours and the other every four hours if needed. Food/drink tasted awful and it was a challenge to find something that tasted acceptable. After the first treatment everything tasted like dishwater. Another treatment it tasted like lard. Focused on eating proteins to rebuild the good cells that were being destroyed. I had a lot of issues with bowel movements. The first three to five days I battled constipation. At first I just took stool softeners but they did not work. Finally started using Miralx and it worked. When the constipation was over I would have diarrhea for 2-3 days. Pepto helped with that. Also after each treatment they gave me a Neurlasta shot the next day. This was to boost my white cell count. Unfortunately I suffered from a severe side effect...... my bones and muscles ached.... the bones from the inside - out. This pain was extreme, worse than child birth, and lasted 3-5 days. It got worse and for longer periods as time went on. Epson salt baths helped a bit, but the pain meds did not seem to make much difference. To sleep I had to take pain meds and a muscle relaxer and pray I would sleep to escape the pain. A few times I cried in the middle of the night out of frustration... having my husband run an Epson salt bath for me. He felt very helpless since there was really nothing he could do to help the pain. His support was priceless! By the third treatment my feet were swelling. This got so bad that I had edema build up all the way up into my torso and in both arms. My feet were so huge that only wide mouth slippers could be worn. So much pressure that walking became difficult. I bought a cane and by the end was using a wheelchair borrowed from a friend if we went anywhere that involved much walking. Towards the last few treatments I needed help getting in and out of the tub. Luckily, we had a handicap bar so I could get out of the shower by myself. The Taxotere (taxol) did not like me. By the third treatment, I had problems walking and using my hands. Writing was a struggle and my signature became unrecognizable. Buttons were not doable. By my fifth treatment my legs and hands were so bad it was a struggle to dress myself. I would sit on the toilet or a chair.......set out my clothes in front of me and aim my feet at the holes in my underwear and pants to put them one. Sometimes I could not get the socks on and had my hubby help me or I just did not wear them. I wore mostly lounge pants and extra sized tee shirts around the house.. On a good day I could make it out to the mailbox to pick up the mail. Other days it took all the energy I had to just go to the kitchen or bathroom. I was lucky on my blood work. Throughout treatment my white cell, red cell and platelet counts stayed acceptable as did my kidneys, heart, etc. They did an Echo every three months because of the Herceptin treatment. It was always good. I bought a load of hand sanitizers and had them all over the house including one that attached to my purse. Used them all the time and never got infection or illness from anything other than treatment side effects. Because of this there were no breaks in my treatment schedule. I was happy to be able to plow through the treatments without interruption and counted my blessings. I had a Bard Powerport installed during my second lumpectomy. My port was used for most blood draws and for all of my inter-venous treatments. Most of the time it behaved well but several times they had to use a drug to desolve a scar tissue flap that developed. The drug was no big deal other than treatment would take longer since it took a while to work. Installing the port was one of the smartest things I did. While it can only be accessed by a doctor, RN or anesthesiologist, it saved me from being pricked or having IVs many times. However, do be aware that most labs that draw blood only have technicians who can not access your port. About four weeks after my last Chemo treatment my blood work went wonky. First my white count was bad, then my red count was bad but white was normal. Then my platelet count went bad, but red and white were normal. It was like my body was trying to reset but could not get things into sync. Eventually they all came together and stayed normal. I had to continue doing infusions of Herceptin for a full calendar year. The port was so very helpful. The only side effect I had from the Herceptin (which is non-Chemo in nature) was being tired the first few days afterward and some minor swelling of the arms/hands and legs/feet. On April 11, 2013 I had my very last treatment It is now early June. After-effects from the Chemo exist for me. I still have on and off swelling of my feet and arms. I also have nerve damage still in my right arm/hand and both legs from just above the knee to my toes. Numbness and tingling. I am taking Lyrica every day to help with this so there is very little nerve pain. Some days my legs work pretty good, other days I feel like I am flipping them forward to walk. I use a cane when I have a bad day or when I know the surface I am going to walk is uneven. A few falls taught me to exercise of the side of caution. I did Physical Therapy to learn how to strengthen my legs and arms. BUT, I can walk and every day I wake up is a good day!

    Easy to Do: Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Strongly Disagree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Strongly Disagree
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  4. 4
    • gsbasset
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    over 4 years ago
    gsbasset's Avatar

    Radiation

    Radiation was a breeze compared to Chemo. I had a total of 33 treatments, five days a week with weekends off. Setting up was the only long appointment where they pin-pointed exactly where they needed to focus and how I needed to be positioned for treatment. The first treatment took about 30 minutes. No pain from it at all other than the pretzel position I had to hold. Most treatments took 10-15 minutes start to finish. Once a week they took pictures which added a few more min. Also I saw the radiologist once a week to go over any concerns or changes to the skin. From the beginning I was given a cream (Eucerine) to use generously after each treatment. I did so religiously. About treatment 22 I started to get some burning on the lower portion of my breast so used a prescription burn cream. I have large breasts so the chaffing underneath was an issue. By the end I had several blisters under my breast which healed up nicely. It is now 8 months since my last radiation treatment. My breast is still pink, the pores are enlarged and I still pack a bit of heat. I will have reconstruction surgery when I am 10-12 months from the last treatments. Right now I am exploring the options but an seriously considering doing a mastectomy on the right with reconstruction and reduction on the left. Still deciding.

    Painless Experience: Agree
    Minimal Side Effects: Strongly Agree
    Minimal Impact to Daily Life: Agree
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  5. 5
    • gsbasset
    • Experience with Breast Cancer
    over 4 years ago
    gsbasset's Avatar

    What breast surgery to have??

    Decision Point

    If I had to do my treatments all over again from the beginning, I would have chosen to have a mastectomy on my breast that had cancer. When I had my follow up mammogram after treatments they found more calcium deposits and I had to wait yet again for biopsy results. It was painful waiting. Now I have to choose what type of surgery I would like to have. I am definitely going to do a mastectomy on the right.so I do not have to go through this again. Cancer does not run in my family, but I am a DES baby. The question if whether or not I should do a double mastectomy ( the left has no issues) and what, if any reconstruction should I do. Still thinking. Right now I am leaning towards right mastectomy using the Latissimus Dorsi Flap for reconstruction. On the left doing a breast reduction (get rid of these DDD).

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