Living with the Lump…But Only for Now

8 04 2011

This "Hop to a Cure Frog," a gift from my niece Danielle, reminds me that every day, were that much closer to finding a cure. Photo by Amy Rauch Neilson.

Last time is so different from this time.

The first time I was diagnosed with breast cancer was in March 2006. I was a Stage 1; the lump was the size of a blueberry and extensive testing, including a Sentinel Node biopsy, showed that, thank God, the lump was contained to my left breast.

I had a protocol of treatment that felt intuitive. It was through a lumpectomy on March 3, 2006 and the subsequent biopsy results that the margins around my tumor were declared “clear.”

Still, because I am BRCA 1 positive and the likelihood of a new primary was statistically quite high, I opted for a double mastectomy on April 14, 2006. Then, as “insurance” against the possibility that there was a rogue cell or two lying in wait someplace in my body, I opted for the recommended four doses of chemotherapy.

I began my protocol of Adriamycin and Cytoxan on May 31, 2006. I was done by July 28, 2006. I knew I would be. My schedule was pre-set – every third Tuesday, four chemotherapy treatments total. I could count the days, cross them off on the calendar, feel myself getting closer and closer to the end of treatment and the beginning of my new, cancer-free life. But best of all, I knew that the cancer was gone from my body and that all of the additional treatments I was undergoing were “just to make sure.”

This time around is so counter-intuitive. I’m not saying that the treatment approach I’m doing is anything but what it should be. It definitely IS as it should be and I am grateful to have it. The protocol just feels odd and takes some getting used to.

Because I was diagnosed as a Stage 4 this past January, with metastasis in my breast lymph nodes and both my lungs, chemotherapy comes first, surgery later. I understand the logic. First we treat and get rid of the metastatic breast cancer in my nodes and lungs, because that’s where the true danger lies — in its ability to continue to grow or even spread. Then we go for the lump in my breast.

This approach, I’ve learned, is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy – chemotherapy that is given before surgery to help shrink the tumor(s) before removal. Once we’re “down to the last tumor,” – which will likely and hopefully be the one in my left breast that started this whole thing – the surgeon will go in, remove my left breast implant, and get rid of that lump. Then, I’ll go through a series of radiation treatments to make sure we got every last cell.

That’s when the lump in my left breast will be gone for sure. And I’m so looking forward to that day. Because even though I understand the course of my treatment, it is psychologically difficult to walk around with a lump in your breast every day, knowing full well that this hard tumor the size of a shooter marble is cancer.

I feel it. I know it’s there. I want it gone.

All things in their time.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

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5 responses

8 04 2011
Jodie

Hang in there. When I went through treatment, we choose to do chemo first, so my lump wasn’t removed till later when I had a mastectomy. While I could feel the lump through treatment, I could also feel the lump shrink. It let me know that my chemo was working and that I was gaining on it. I started with a 4 cm tumor when I began treatment and when it was removed it was down to 2 cm. PLUS, when it was actually removed and dissected, they told me that the tumor that was left was just dead cells. I liked the reassurance. So, I guess, be reassured that your treatment is working and feel excited as your lump shrinks. 🙂

8 04 2011
Tracey

“Living with a Lump . . . .But Only for Now” you said it perfectly, only for now!!

8 04 2011
Scott Orwig

Let the tumor stay to endure the chemo as punishment for what you’re going through. Surgery’s too good for it . . . For now!

8 04 2011
Ken and Gay

To Sunshine Yellow from Sky Blue – Keep the faith so many have you in their daily prayers and God has your back so to speak!!! He has you surrounded by prayer warriors and is holding tightly to your hand every step of the way. You are right where you belong with your dear ones all around you and under the care of top notch medicial professionals and treatment!! All is as you know beyond coincidence, part of the Masters plan!! We can only see from our earthly advantage the backside of the patchwork quilt of life. The pattern is lovely, but God sees the top side and all the pieces fit perfectly into a glorious colorful menagerie of shapes and designs!! I’m certain your quilt is coming along beautifully including many patches with sunshine yellow hues !!!!! Tomorrow the sun is going to shine (literally) – it will be a glorious 60 degress, enjoy!!!!! Hugs, Sky Blue xxxooo

9 04 2011
michelle

I have been living with the lump since 03/11/11 and the fear also. Thank you for your insight-it has helped. MC

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