I’ll admit I don’t understand this article. Also, I didn’t read all of it. Coincidentally, I also stopped in the middle of reading the author’s (Siddhartha Mukherjee) book, The Emperor of all Maladies.
I stopped for two reasons: 1) I was bored and 2) it scared the crap out of me, because most of the examples in his story were people who were treated and then had recurrences that killed them. Originally, I thought it would be interesting to read a history of cancer. The first couple chapters were really interesting (did you know that one of the first recorded cases of breast cancer came from an ancient Egyptian papyrus, or that mustard gas played a large role in the development of chemotherapy as we know it?), but then it got really scientific and I was less able to follow. It also really brought me down to read story after story of failed courses of treatment. Not what I needed after finishing my own, seemingly “successful” treatment.
Needless to say, I am now reading mindless fiction (Neil Gaiman’s American Gods). I just thought it was important to mention Mukherjee’s article and book, because for doctors, scientists, or others who really want to read about why cancer treatment is where it is today, it’s probably a worthwhile read.
Posted in breast, Breast Cancer, breastcancer, chemotherapy, Clinical stuff, Personal musings, Research
Tagged books, breast cancer, cancer, cancer history, emperor of all maladies, fiction, reading, Research, siddartha mukherjee
One of the joys of spending time at home is exploring my childhood bedroom and finding old diaries and j0urnals I kept through middle and high school.
My diary wasn't nearly this sparkly, but it was still full of the teeny-bopper spirit. (photo credit)
The other night I was reading one from my last year of middle school and pretty much every entry was about a crush on a new boy who didn’t crush me back. OMG! The pain in my heart was palpable through my written words – and I felt a familiar twinge of the unrequited love syndrome that was all-too-familiar back in my teenage days.
Why do I write about this now? Well, after I put down the journal and laid down for bed, I thought a lot about how priorities change throughout life, especially when facing a mega-crazy situation like cancer. Back then, I
probably felt like I was going to die if Lenny* (*names have been changed to protect my innocent crushes) didn’t like me back. Today, there are times when I feel like I’m going to die because of cancer. It just puts things in perspective.
Also makes me long for the days when things were simple – though I’m sure my 13-year-old self wouldn’t have seen it that way.
I’ve heard a lot recently about this so-called SE of chemo: “Chemo brain”. People aren’t really sure what causes it, though in my opinion it’s simply related to all of the changes that happen in your life when you are going through chemo – the anxiety of a diagnosis and treatment, the stress of being on so many drugs, etc.
Still, I thought you might enjoy if I document some of my own chemo brain moments, because I have already experienced some!
Last Friday I left my glasses on my desk at work, meaning I was without them all weekend. No problem – I’ll just use my contacts. Yeah. Left my contact solution at my parent’s house over the last weekend so no luck there. I had to throw away a perfectly good pair of fresh lenses because I had no solution to clean them with. I guess I could have gone to the store to buy some new solution but… I HAVE CHEMO BRAIN!
Then yesterday I dropped my iPhone down 2 flights of stairs. Now dad, before you read this and say, “Dammit, Cara, don’t document that you dropped your iPhone because you have to present a solid, drop-free story to the Genius Bar people so that the resulting damages fall under warranty!” remember: I have chemo brain. I can’t help that I’m typing this right now! We did joke that I should wait until I lose my hair and then go to the Apple store with a sob story about my broken phone. They can’t resist feeling bad for a young, bald woman with breast cancer, muahahaha.
Again, cancer has presented me with a brilliant excuse for my own shortcomings. Late for acapella rehearsal? Blame the cancer. Didn’t get that newsletter out in time at work? Cancer. Forgot to flush the toilet? Cancer.
Ok, that last one really was the cancer. I swear.
I promised a blow-by-blow of my core biopsies, but I don’t want this post to be a bajillion paragraphs long, so I’m going to post a good video I found on YouTube that describes the process of an MRI-guided core biopsy. Of course, it’s all very clean-looking and calm and bright, making it seem like getting a core-biopsy in an MRI machine is akin to getting ice cream with your family. It’s not. But the process is explained well so you know what to expect.
A recommendation for those of you preparing for this procedure: do NOT pore over internet message boards trying to figure out if it will hurt. It is not terribly painful, and I think the women who complain that it is painful must have had really insensitive radiologists. Which brings me to another recommendation – talk to your radiologist beforehand about your pain tolerance and tell him or her that you want them to test the anesthetic to make sure you don’t feel anything.
My radiologist was WONDERFUL and did this for me. Basically, before they put the needle in, they inject your boob with local anesthesia to numb you. My radiologist injected it, and then spend some time inserting the needle slowly and asking me to tell her if I felt pain. The second I did, she stopped and gave me more and deeper anesthesia. It went on like this until I couldn’t feel anything, and from there the procedure was totally painless. Pressure, yes; sharp pain, no. If you feel sharp pain, the anesthesia is not working or deep enough. Speak up. I have to say that I hardly felt the anesthesia needle at all. Really.
On the same day, I had an ultrasound-guided core biopsy and it was very similar except that I was on my back and not in an MRI machine. The worst part really was the anxiety and the moments when the radiologist tested the anesthesia and it wasn’t quite working. But it was a very brief sharp pain at that point, and immediately when I indicated I felt it, she stopped.
All in all, not as bad as I expected.
And now, I’m waiting for my results, which I’ll hopefully get tomorrow.
Last night, I felt deeply depressed thinking about getting my results. I almost want to convince myself that I have cancer just to lessen the blow if it is actually true. My mind conjures up images of sitting in the doctor’s office, hearing “We found cancerous tissue from your biopsy” and me just breaking down into tears. How can that statement NOT change your life completely? My boyfriend was trying to talk to me last night about some plans we have next weekend, and in my head I was thinking “Plans next weekend? Don’t you realize that if I found out I have cancer on Monday, all future plans are going to be put on pause?” I might have freaking CANCER. This isn’t like finding out if I have a urinary tract infection. This is CANCER. This is serious.
The best I can do at this point is wait. But I am absolutely terrified for tomorrow and as I go through this, I wonder why I don’t just have surgery right now to minimize my risk and my need to ever go through this in the future.
Posted in cancer, Clinical stuff, Doctors
Tagged biopsy, breast cancer, cancer, fear, GWU, MRI, radiologist, results, ultrasound, waiting
This is a really cool website that, although it’s very new and doesn’t yet mention breast cancer, I think is worth checking out. It’s designed for clinicians to help them get a full picture of cancer genetics.
My Cancer Genome
Given the amount of doctors that don’t seem to know anything about the breast cancer genes (!), I think this is a great tool and I hope more hospitals and cancer centers start to offer it so our doctors can be better informed.