Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Mother Has Cancer

Those words are extremely difficult to type and as I do it feel as though I'm typing for some other person. The last few days have been a whirlwind and I know this is only the start of a very difficult journey. My mother is strong and she will win this battle. I can't even begin to tell you how lost we have felt not knowing what was really next. At first I was unsure how to talk about this. I didn't want my words to cause any additional pain to my mom. I didn't want to overstep boundaries of privacy. I wasn't sure if I should tell anyone, do I call family for her? Is it too difficult for her to talk about to others? I need to do something but WHAT DO I DO??

My mother is so strong. I am so fortunate to have her as my mom. She is my best friend. I talk to her several times a day on the phone. I often see her several times a week. She knows everything that goes on in my life, as I do hers. So, I just asked her who she wanted me to tell and her words were pretty much, "this is no secret, Elizabeth. It is what it is. Not talking about it to people isn't going to make it go away. If talking about it makes others go get their mammograms, TALK ABOUT IT!"

When I mentioned the Boobs in a Vise blog, again, she had the idea that if capturing this journey will help someone else, we need to do it. So, let's start at the beginning.

This really started in May. My mother went for her routine mammogram (she's 56 so gets them regularly). She went to one of those standard, somewhat big box imaging centers. You know the place, they x-ray knees, they do mammograms, they do ultrasounds, etc. It's a cold, sterile kind of place, everyone is really a number and rarely do you see the same tech or receptionist twice. She received a call a week or so later that her mammogram was showing some irregularity and she would need to have a second level mammogram. However, the big box imaging center was no longer a provider on her insurance so she would need to pick up her films and find another provider. This was actually a blessing.  My mother called the Women's Center for Radiology in Orlando.

I cannot sing enough praises about the Women's Center and the doctors who practice there. She went for her second level mammogram and waited for results.  That evening she told me of the center, the fancy bras they have hanging around the office, the lack of paper gowns (rather they use pink smock type shirts - sometimes it really is the little things that make things more comfortable) and how friendly the staff was. She was pleased that she had to change centers, even though initially it seemed as though it would be an inconvenience.  Soon after she received a call that there were spots showing in her left breast and she would need a biopsy. This was feeling more serious, so I went with her for the biopsy. She was nervous, of course.

The day of the biopsy we drove to the office. The conversation in the car was something like, "I'm sure this is nothing. They have to be thorough and it's probably just a cyst." At one point we had even convinced ourselves that the dog may have caused scar tissue from jumping up on her (very hard, btw) a year ago. He did nearly knock her out, so we thought perhaps it was equal to trauma to the chest and it was a little scar tissue. . .

Anyway, my mother said the actual biopsy wasn't nearly as bad as she thought it would be. She was numbed, the tech that was with her told her what was happening every step of the way and she only had some minor soreness for the next couple days. She did take a Tylenol 3 in the evening which helped her get some rest but other than that, the biopsy (as scary as it sounded) was fairly uneventful.

The biopsy was on Wednesday, June 29th. On Thursday, June 30th in the afternoon my mother's doctor's office called her to tell her that her results were in and she would need to come in to the office to discuss with the doctor. The soonest he could see her was the following Tuesday, July 5th. I found this to be a tad insensitive but was hopeful that it was just routine to discuss results. The July 4th weekend felt long and drawn out as we anticipated the news.  Tuesday finally arrived and we went in to the doctor appointment. He is a very matter of fact doctor with poor people skills. I think receiving the news from anyone other than this doctor would have been a softer blow. Basically we walked in his office, he asked why she had a biopsy, grilled her as to why she went to the Women's Center for Radiology and then very matter of fact stated, "You have cancer."

Without even pausing to allow those three words to sink in he said he would be right back, she needed a biopsy of the right breast and he would send her "next door" to the surgeon this afternoon. The next moment he was walking back in the exam room with a hand written note to a doctor in an opposing building. He didn't want her to go back to the Women's Center for Radiology.

We went to that surgeon's office. It was sterile, paper gowns, signs hanging all over the office and immediately knew she would be going back to the Women's Center for Radiology. He gave us some information but she just knew she wasn't comfortable there and asked to go back to where she knew. He wrote the script and we were on our way.

Her biopsy on the right breast was today. It was about as uneventful as the left breast biopsy and we are hoping and praying that these results come back as no cancer in that breast. It seems one cancerous breast is enough to deal with right now. The radiologist was nice enough to tell us next steps would be to seek out a surgeon.

Our plan is to go to MD Anderson Cancer Center where they have the best doctors and nurses available. We are fortunate to live in an area that has not just one but two fantastic cancer centers.

So tomorrow, my mother is calling to hopefully get on the schedule for a surgeon. She won't be able to meet the doctor until the biopsy results are in (sometime early next week) but it can't hurt to at least call and see if an appointment can be made. We've been told it can take a few weeks to get in to see the doctor, but is well worth the wait.

So, here is to waiting.


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