Getting ready for winter


This week was my first onco-follow up with my family doctor. She’s an amazing woman and also does one shift a week in the emergency room at the campus closest to me. It helps keep her current and well connected when it comes to referrals. It was also time for my annual flu shot, now that I’m considered an at-risk person.

Surprisingly my medical oncologist actually did send a letter of instruction. It said that I was to continue my letrozole for five years. Guess he didn’t listen to what the nurse said, or maybe he’s just covering his butt. Anyways, I explained that I’d decided to not take the letrozole, given that my research showed minimal benefit when combined with ovarian shutdown.

Then we talked about what I could miss having her follow me. She wanted me to know that she doesn’t stay current on breast cancer research, which is something that I would have with an oncologist. Right…. the man who prescribed drugs that were no longer stocked my pharmacies because they’re so old. The man who could have referred me for a trial that would have involved combining my chemo with Herceptin to minimize the horrible side effects like neuropathy, hair loss, nausea.

So I explained that I regularly read up on studies that are coming out and if I found anything I’d let her know.

Then we talked about how I was feeling. I mentioned that I’ve been feeling winded when I exercise, which I find surprising given that I cycle back and forth to work, walk around the neighbourhood a lot, and go for long hikes. It’s nothing that stops me from exercising, just something I find surprising.  So she sent me for an x-ray, which I had done later in the week.

Then it came time for the physical exam. This is the part that the oncologist only ever did once, in 15 months of following me. It was on the first visit, and he made me strip down completely, even my socks. He made my husband leave the examination room and there was no nurse present. I was incredibly uncomfortable. He barely touched my breasts and I remember thinking that there was no way he’d have found that first lump.

My family doctor looked at my reconstructed breast and again commented on how great it looked. She said I definitely heal up well after surgery. True enough for the breast, not so great on the abdomen (as Dr. G. said). She found no lumps this time, and checked the lymph node locations as well.

We also talked about the pathology results of my mole. Nothing to worry about, but I guess the lump I’d felt along the old abdominal scar was some fat necrosis. Again, nothing to worry about, but I’m glad it’s now out. The new incision is healing nicely, and I’m trying to remember to put on Bio-Oil every day to massage it and break up scar tissue.

I felt pretty good leaving the doctor’s office and decided to combine x-ray with a birthday breakfast for Hubby. If I’m going to be late for work, why not make the most of it, right? I didn’t sleep well the night before, likely because the last chest x-ray I’d had was the day of my breast biopsy. Who knew they sent you for a chest x-ray before foot surgery?

I think I was really worked up, and had a bit of a let down. The chest x-ray is so uneventful when compared to let’s say a mammogram or breast MRI. I’m hoping it’s nothing, that my slight breathlessness is just because work is interfering with my former exercise routine.

Interestingly, several newspaper articles have covered the issue of breast reconstruction. I knew Belinda Stronak had had breast cancer, but I hadn’t realized that she too had had a lumpectomy, unclear margins, followed by a mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. Hers was done in the US by a surgeon who was able to save her nipple. Lucky her. I guess it pays to be rich, even with free health care in Canada.

Then in yesterday’s Ottawa Citizen, an article discussed how long women wait for reconstruction if it isn’t done at the same time as the mastectomy. Sometimes in can be F-I-V-E years! And most times women are informed. I am so glad I pushed for immediate reconstruction. Women in Canada: fight for what you need!

And then yesterday when we visited a newly opened ECO store, I was glancing over the products, which were spread a bit haphazardly. I saw nipple cream. Not having had children I thought it was a bit odd. It wasn’t until I looked around that I realized I was in a maternity area.

Seeing the nipple cream made me remember how my right nipple had become really dry and cracked a few years ago. I was trying to remember how long ago it had happened. Of course, back then I didn’t have a cancer blog so I couldn’t go back to check. I asked Hubby and he said it was in the winter. But it did get me thinking about whether my cracked oozy nipple was an early warning sign of my breast cancer.

First, I went on line looking for what a cracked dry nipple could mean. Almost every post was breastfeeding related or teenagers going through puberty. Then I stumbled upon a blog post, where a few of the cancer bloggers I follow had comments. Seems like Paget’s disease of the breast can cause the same symptoms. So I spent my morning re-reading my pathology reports. No Paget’s disease, but I did discover something odd in my mastectomy report. It said there was a tumour 2x2x2 cm in size. But it wasn’t cancerous.

I know this post is a bit all over the map. It’s just been a bit of a weird week.

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