The Good Fight -Part 7
The Journey Begins – Appointments, Appointments, Appointments
My first appointment was with Dr. N on Valentine’s day. After she broke the news of this diagnosis, I had to meet with her to determine the next steps.
After meeting with Dr N., the floodgates of appointments began. My phone could not stop ringing off the chain the first couple of days; blood work, imaging (CT, MRI, Pet-Scans, X-Rays), pre-surgery, medical oncology, surgical oncology, onco-fertility…it was intense! At one point, I lost track. I could not keep up. To keep the insanity under control, I signed up for Dana Farber’s online patient portal. It is an online tool I could use to communicate with my providers, check for upcoming appointments, and monitor lab results. It was a one stop shop of my medical history. I did not need to keep a calendar anymore as I always got notifications in my email. Again, God bless technology!
There were days I had 4 appointments in a roll. There were weeks I had appointments 3 days in a roll. How could I have kept it together with other competing things? It was God’s grace, a strong support system and the online patient portal. The toll of appointments alone left me severely exhausted. There was a time my husband had to travel for work and I had back to back appointments. My day started at 7 am and ended at 4pm; just slugging myself between Boston and Weymouth. The information overload from the appointments is another story entirely.
On the 16th of February, I met my surgical oncologist; Dr. C. She will be responsible for the mastectomy. She explained what was happening, the severity of the metastasis, the span of the calcifications and the steps to recovery. She decided based on the MRI and receptors that chemotherapy, mastectomy, radiation therapy and a 10 year hormone therapy will be the course of treatment. There was a caveat. I needed to go for genetic testing. If the genetic testing came back positive, my risk of ovarian cancer might be high and shutting down my ovaries would have to be part of the treatment. I went for genetic testing and counselling on March 2nd. The results came back negative. Thank you Jesus!!
On the 21st, I met the medical oncologist (Dr. Chi) who would be administering and monitoring the chemotherapy phase. Dr. Chi could not wait to start chemotherapy. Based on the MRI (again), the regimen was going to be AC-T (Adriamycin, Cyclophosphamide and Taxol). AC was to attack the cancerous cells in the breast, Taxol was to shrink the ones that had travelled to the lymph nodes.
On the 22nd, I had my first MRI. The 24th was the brutal day of 4 appointments back to back. My first meeting was with the fertility oncologist, Dr. G at 7.45 am. I had heard that chemotherapy could suppress my ability to have more children in future. Ovarian function might never come back considering I was early premenopausal. I did not want cancer to have that victory. My husband and I nursed the idea of egg preservation.
Dr. G was compassionate and willing to see me though I was 30 minutes late. She explained the process, the cost, and options for funding in case we qualified as a couple. We did not qualify. She did mention that even if we went the egg preservation route, we would still have to try naturally before going in-vitro. She sent me for some labs and checked my ovarian activity. One fallopian tube alone had 11 eggs! That was the silver lining for me. I remembered Exodus 23:25. I was comforted that if I still wanted to have children after this ordeal, I could.
Next, I had two radiology consults back to back. One of them was to check if my heart could withstand the damage from chemotherapy. Finally, I met the nutritionist, Ms. Julie to discuss how to eat and what to eat throughout the course of treatment. I gave Julie my nutrition history. She concurred that an African diet was an excellent option as long as my protein intake was 90 grams a day. By the end of my nutrition consult, I was not processing anything again. I just wanted to eat and sleep.
With fertility preservation out of the way, I needed to prepare for chemotherapy. Part of that preparation was getting a port-a-cath inserted in the upper left area of my chest cavity. The port-a-cath is the medium through which the medication will enter my bloodstream. The scar below has healed but that was the point of insertion.
This outpatient surgery was performed March 3. My first chemotherapy was going to be 3 days later. On the 4th, TamBo’s Kitchen had a successful soft launch. I had just done surgery the day before. Don’t ask me how I stood for 16 hours. God in His infinite mercy took control.