I'll tell you what, guys. Every one of you go down to the end of your driveway and wait by the mailbox. I'm buying everybody a puppy! You get a puppy! You get a puppy! And you--you get a puppy! Puppies for the Internet--on me! Yay!
Well before I get carried away, I'll fill y'all in on our appointment with the surgeon yesterday. Yesterday morning was hectic: we were supposed to be there just before 9, and had to get Ava and Nate ready for school and deposited at a friend's house before that. Another good friend came over to watch Grace, which was wonderful. But as we left the house, I realized we'd be stuck in before-school traffic. Under normal circumstances, I don't like being late. In this instance, I was clawing at the windshield at the thought of being late. I felt like I was on the way to take a final exam--I was going over in my head the questions I wanted to ask, I was wondering what the surgeon would think of my case, I was worried that I wouldn't have everything I needed. It reminded me of the feeling I used to get--racing across campus to face a test that would decide my fate in a particular course.
Dramatic much? Anyway, whatever--we got there. And as worried as I was about being late, we ended up having to wait because the clinic hadn't faxed the pathology report from the biopsies yet. So when we got in to meet the doctor, he sat for awhile and read my report. That was kind of funny, just sitting there while he did that. I wondered if I could just pull out my phone and check my text messages--I could hear my phone vibrating in my purse. But I decided maybe that was a breach of etiquette?
Obviously, I had a lot of emotional investment in this appointment and its outcome. I realized as I was sitting there, that I was trying to think of ways to make sure the surgeon liked us. Without consciously deciding this, I somehow thought that it would be better to "stand out" somehow. It's like I thought that if I could appear smart enough, or charming, or young-and-full-of-life enough, that it would make him do a better job with my case? Like, I thought I should be all, "I'm not like those other, boring patients! I'm smart, yet vivacious! Cure me!"
Oy, that's embarrassing to admit. But, as I thought about it--I had waited for days to hear from this doctor and see what he was going to recommend for me. And most scenarios where you are really feeling dependent on another person's opinion of you are ones in which your performance matters. A job interview or a date or a sales presentation. Ha--even a sermon, to a degree! And so I think my brain was just transferring those same kind of instincts--wanting to posture myself in a certain way, wanting to make a good impression--to this situation, too. But don't worry--all of this whipped through my head as we sat quietly while he read my pathology report. So I didn't do a tap dance routine or anything. But still, I think he would've really enjoyed the monologue from Rebecca that I did in the 11th grade...
So, after asking me a few basic questions--general health stuff--he did a physical exam. I am already so used to whipping my shirt off for all these folks, and I'm only a week in. "Hi, nice to meet you--did you need to see my boob?" It's becoming a habit. The other day, I nearly reached up to unhook my bra when the guy at the deli counter asked if he could help me. Maybe you can, Dennis. Do you have any background in mammography?
After that, we had the discussion I'd been waiting to have. Would I need a mastectomy or would a lumpectomy be an option? He said, given what he'd seen on the films, the physical exam, and the biopsies, that it was our choice. I could opt to have a lumpectomy with radiation treatments afterward, or a mastectomy with no radiation treatments. Either way I might end up needing chemotherapy--we won't know until after the surgery when they look at my lymph nodes. He told us that chances of cancer returning elsewhere are the same with either option. We talked for awhile, he took us through the details of each procedure, we asked questions about sentinel nodes and surgical margins and axillary dissection. (I'm learning a lot already.) I asked about breast reconstruction (if I opted for the mastectomy) and its effect on treatment. It was a lot of information in a short amount of time. And then he basically left it up to us: I'm a good candidate for a lumpectomy (AKA breast conservation), but I might prefer a mastectomy if I want to avoid radiation treatments, or if I'm worried that the cancer would return in that breast. (A very slight chance, but a chance all the same.)
So, we told him we'd talk about it and get back to him. He told us to be sure to call if we had any questions. Jason and I left the office and went to a cafe next door and sent a flurry of text messages to our families. After thinking that I was going to be told a mastectomy was the only viable option, this was actually good news. Or, it feels that way to us. It's funny how your definition of "good news" can change in so short a time.
We spent the rest of the day talking through our options with each other and our families. I sent 8700 text messages to friends. I took a nap. By the end of the day, we were pretty well settled on the lumpectomy option. This morning, though, I got anxious again. Was I missing something? I worried that maybe it was better to just have the mastectomy. I read all these obscure oncological journal articles online and talked to my parents and sister. Inwardly I was freaking out a little. I think it was mostly the pressure of the last 6 days coming out. The reality of no guarantees, no absolutes.
I called and talked to the doctor again. Then we decided to stick with our decision. And just like that, surgery scheduled for next Friday. Two weeks and one day after this whole thing began, I'll have the lumpectomy. What a blur.
It's funny...I feel insecure posting this, a little. I guess it's because I know others have made different choices for themselves--friends I know that have chosen mastectomies over conservation. Part of me feels like I'll be called to defend my choice, even though I know I won't. And even if I was asked to defend it, I wouldn't. I'm just projecting my own anxiety, I guess. I think it's just that there's inherent insecurity in a decision where you can't guarantee the outcome. And that makes me uncomfortable.
But I think I'll just have to get used to not knowing what's going to happen. At any rate, I'm feeling good right now. I'm optimistic. My stomach butterflies have mostly gone away, for now. And it feels good to have a date for the surgery.
And that's where we are right now. Thanks again, everyone.