As most of you know, I had my first major surgery on January 6th. A double mastectomy with reconstruction.
In July of 2014, I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma/ Stage 3 Breast Cancer of the Right Breast and Lymph Nodes (Her2+, Er+,Pr+). My Lump was about the size of the palm of my hand.
We chose to aggressively attack it with 6 rounds of chemotherapy (TCHP; Taxotere, Carboplatin, Herceptin, Perjeta). We knew from various tests along the way that the lump was shrinking, but wouldn’t know how effective the chemo really was until pathology results after surgery.
Then the day came. January 6th, my surgery date. The surgery day arrived: a double mastectomy with “Hip Flap” reconstruction procedure (My personal decision to use my own tissue for reconstruction vs. implants. Seemed safest to me, personally, to avoid anything foreign in me considering my diagnosis, and remain as all natural as possible. Feel free to research it. It uses amazing advanced technology!). It was a successful 10 hour surgery. They removed all that they could and sent labs off to pathology and told us to pray for good results. They felt “very hopeful”.
We prayed. We hoped.
You hoped and you prayed.
After one week, the lab results are in and the pathology reports have been reviewed.
As of January 6th, 2014, …..I, Elise Angelette (Aka: “Buna”) am, at this point…
I met with our surgeons in our post-op appointments on Monday and knew it was good, but still needed a translation of what was said. So I called my good “pirate docta” yesterday to “break it down into kindergarten language” for me. In layman’s terms he said:
“Your chemo was 95% effective. The lump that was left was only 5mm after once being the size of your hand. Their was only a .05mm lump near the lymph nodes but that was removed with the other lump. So, it’s ALL OUT. So, my dear, you are CANCER-FREE. Not “cured”, that comes later, but for now…. CANCER-FREE.”
ME: “I’ll take it! Wooooo hooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!
PIRATE DOCTA: “Woooo hoooo is right, Girlie!!! Now go celebrate!!”
And, that I did. Not with margaritas or long islands just yet. Just finished with a round of Herceptin (my targeted chemo on Tuesday, so still feelin a little squeamish). But, was good to go for a round of ice cream sundaes with extra sprinkles with the kiddos. The relief on their faces and the private dance party that The Dude left the table to go close himself in the office, scream and yell with excitement, and make “snow angels” on the floor … was way more rewarding anyway! Seriously. Too stinkin’ cute! Partying with these guys, the family who I’m fighting for, is exactly where I want to be.
Can I get an Amen?
What does “Cancer Free Really Mean?”…. Am I Done?
Not quite. Like the good doctor said, I’m “cancer free … at this point”. He made that clear. He also made sure to say that I’m “not cured”. I will not be considered “cured” until I have been “cancer free for 5 years”. I can describe it in this very gross, kindergarten-like analogy (once a kindergarten teacher, always a kindergarten teacher). Imagine my diagnosis as my “cold”. I have taken the first few days of my antibiotics (my 6 rounds of chemo) and have had a good nose blow in a Kleenex (my Mastectomy) to remove my “snot” (any cancerous tissue my body had in it thus far). Now, I have to finish the rest of my prescribed antibiotics so that my body doesn’t go back to producing “snot” and having a cold (making more cancer cells and getting another diagnosis in another area of my body).
Ew! I know. Gross analogy. It’s the best my pain-killer-fed-brain can do right now. So, my body is free of cancerous tissue at this moment. That is absolutely cause to rejoice! WOOOO HOOOO!!!!! THANK YOU, GOD!!!!!! Now we press on to make sure we “mop up” behind us to make sure there are no cells prone to continuing to do what they were doing and making cancerous cells as they were. I consider it this way, we have saved my life thus far to keep me here now. Now, we move on to the next half of my journey to work on keeping me here for the long run.
I’m still recovering from this surgery. So, celebration is in the works with ice cream, indeed. But, keep in mind, this surgery was no small feat. Sure, when I feel good… I can’t help but boogie as best as my body lets me while I do my P.T. exercises (aka: choreographing P.T. diagnosed exercises to Bob Marley while making shakes in the kitchen!). Now I know that one day, this reconstruction thing will be a beautiful thing. But, when I woke up with all of the “too many to count stitches”, “I just got in a gang fight” bruises, and 4 long hose like drains (2 in the breasts, 2 in the hips), which I know are only temporary, I gasped. “I look like Doc Oc”, I told my Hubbie. “This too shall pass. This too shall pass.” (My constant mantra)
Gotta “keep my head in the game”. Just like any NFL team, if I want to make it to the Superbowl, I can celebrate my wins, but can’t let it get me off track and lose focus of the big picture. There’s still more games left to be played if I want to make it for the whole season. I’m in it to win it. I don’t just want to be here NOW. I want to be here for the long haul, Baby. So what do I have left?
- 6weeks of recovery from this surgery (Mastectomy & Phase 1 Reconstruction)
- Continue Herceptin (targeted chemotherapy) every 21 days until the end of the summer
- Radiation (6 weeks/5 days per week)
- Phase 2 Reconstruction Surgery (Attends to Scarring/Possible Radiation damage)
- TBA: Anything the team deems necessary to keep me here for the long haul! In other words, I continue my Belushi from Animal House motto: “Thank you, Sir. May I have another!”
Yup, it’s a lot of info. It’s a whole lot of good news! That’s for sure. And of course, it’s a whole lot left to be done. However, I’ve always seen this as a marathon. And I’ve always wanted to run one. In fact, I met my husband while training for one, although having no idea he would one day be my husband, the man I’d be now married to for over 12 years, with 5 kids, taking care of me day in day out while I battled for my life. I thought he was just some really cute guy that I should really set my friend up with! (Who knew!)
Anywho… I trained and trained for that marathon, yet at the very last moment, for health reasons, docs working with me refused care if I were to run it. So I didn’t. My hubbie loves to tell people how he ran the marathon that I trained for just to tease me! Well, guess what. I’m running the biggest marathon ever now! And I’m gonna finish with flying colors!
Until then… it’s ice cream Sundaes, dance parties with my kiddos, and all the other fun I can have to seize every moment I can when I’m feeling good, and celebrate every victory along the way! And today, we have a real victory to be thankful for!
Thank you, Team Buna. That’s YOU.
Thank you, God.
This will be my fam tonight… (click on the video below)… it’s sooo me and my kiddos!