Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Clear margins

Today was herceptin day.  Dr. Oncologist checked out my wound et al. and gave me some helpful information regarding the drainage tubes.  She said that when they get to the point where they are draining less than 20 milliliters combined in 24 hours, then they can come out.  That gives me a threshold to shoot for to get them out before next Friday's appointment in Iowa City.  Alternatively, this information will help me be patient for next Friday's appointment because my current drainage has been holding steady between 30 and 40 milliliters.  Regardless of when and where I get them out, it will not be soon enough, and so I need to steel myself for more days with drainage tubes.

We also went over the pathology report from my mastectomy.  I'll tell you up front that it was neither the worst nor the best news, but I found it to be on the good side of medium news.  I think I already mentioned that the pathology of the six random sites biopsied from my remaining skin (still attached to me) showed no signs of cancer.  This is excellent news.  The best possible pathology of the breast, then, would have also been to show no signs of cancer.  Not true.  There were a couple of tiny signs of cancer, they showed signs of treatment (thank you, chemotherapy), and they were a small distance away from the edge of what was removed.  I think this is what they called "clear margins" in the report--the cancer was surgically removed without evidence that it spread beyond the area that was removed.  Like me, I'm sure you would have rather heard that there was no evidence of cancer in the breast, but it could have been much worse.  Worse news would have been unclear margins, or increased cancer, or different cancer.  Also examined were five lymph nodes (I was under the impression that they took much more than that, so I will inquire with my surgeon about this).  4/5 were clear, and 1/5 had a teeny tiny tumor that measured at 2 millimeters.  Glad that's gone, no matter how small.

So you see, although it might have been better to hear them say, "no signs of cancer", the signs were weak and it is tempting to imagine that all of the cancer was removed.  Besides, I will continue to use my mind to quarantine any remaining cancer, I still have 6 months of herceptin therapy, and we still have radiation in our arsenal.  I will meet my radiation oncologist next Tuesday.

I have been so matter-of-fact in my recent posts that perhaps it is difficult for you to divine how I am holding up.  I think I am holding up quite well, and I am indeed handling things with a matter-of-fact approach.  I have not yet had an emotional breakdown over the loss of the breast, or over any of the milieu of issues that I am currently confronting.  Unlike those breast cancer fighters who face surgery as treatment number one, I had 18+ weeks to learn to hate my breast.  I was eager to be rid of it by the time surgery actually happened.  My scar will be lovely.  Regarding the other issues, I am mostly just tired of being laid up, and tired period.  I am eager to be strong again.  I am eager to demonstrate my intellectual prowess again.  I am eager to play at the playground again.  But these things tend not to make me sad, because I will regain them in time.  Instead of sorrow I feel impatience, which makes me want to sleep--the speediest way I know of to get to the future healthy me.

Hey, my arm doesn't hurt as much as it usually does after a blog post.  It's exciting to finally have positive evidence of recovery.


  1. Your arm doesn't hurt as much! It's a St Patrick's Day miracle! Are you strong enough to raise a pint???

    PS - REM just came on the Boston airport radio...'Shiny Happy People,' what else? 'There's no time to cry, put in your heart where tomorrow shines....'

  2. I'm not sure why that came up as anonymous, I typed my name. I swear. Sorry to make it look creepy.

  3. well, i finally got online like a normal person living in the first quarter of the 21st century and obviously have some catching up to do! so glad to be able to finally follow what the hell is going on. i was a little apprehensive with my 5 months pregnant and off my meds emotional self to absorb as much as possible what has been going on but as i expected you are sharing with us all just exactly enough and in a way that even we in the more average intellect and spelling capacity category can understand, and it would be harder for me to divine you beating around the bush so thanks for being matter of fact. cant wait until we put into action the asman/gibson/christensen reunion we starting rumbling of at your dads wedding.

  4. 1st: Kudos to your mom & the wonderful care that only a mom like yours can give. 2nd: I'm optomistic about your news and will assist with the mental quarantine exercise. 3rd: it's time for more excerps from Heather's published journal of our 1994 family vacation to Yellowstone (Heather age 13, Holly 12, Hilary 12, Ryan 11):

    8:06 We just go back from Bonanza. Nummy. We just got back from $1.18 gas, too. There is a statue of a brontosaurus on top of the hill. This city, Rapid City, is fancy.

    12:58 Ryan has opened the window because he doesn't feel good. We think it's because he ate 2 1/2 pieces of strudel. Ha ha ha! Brrrrrrrrrrr! It's cold out there. Ha ha - Hilary just hit her head on my foot - ha ha.

    4:52 There is a green valley below us. We are/were on the ridge of a mountain. On the opposing Mt., there is a lush, dark green forest. Beautiful/spectacular.

    6:40 There is a historical (hysterical, as mom would say) sight called Fossil Butte. Mom said that that's what our butts will be like by the time we get home.

    6:49 We passed a dude standing on the edge taking a picture and Ryan, the fool, yelled "Dont't fall!"

    6:51 There is a raunchy smell!

  5. That journal is hilllllllarious.

    I'll be laughing about Fossil Butte all day.

    (And I, too, will be assisting in the mental quarantine/positive thoughts thing going on.)

    Glad you liked the cookies!!


  6. Yay for clear margins! Yay for reduced pain! Yay for Fancy Rapid City!

  7. You are "Beautiful/spectacular."

    Nice work Dad!

  8. Darn, Hilary! That's what I was going to say! Miss you, Ian, and the girls already.