Monday, September 8, 2014

Cellular torture

My daughters have a small indoor tent made out of a material that is a strange hybrid of fabric and paper.  Dora the Explorer images are printed on each of the four sides.  They've had it for several years, set up in the toy room by the window as a special reading nook.  On Labor Day weekend I wasn't feeling tip top, but despite my lack of energy I wanted to do small things to make the weekend special.  One thing I thought to do was take the Dora tent outside.  Not to be bothered by collapsing the thing, I picked up the tent by the peak, which unfortunately elicited a ripping sound.  I awkwardly maneuvered the torn tent down the stairs, at which point Azalea pointed out a large tear down the back of the tent, reaching up to the ridgeline from the back door.  I reached for some masking tape, intending to fix the tent just enough to perform this final outdoor activity before depositing it in the trash.  With tape in hand I pinched the new seam, which readily flaked off a chunk of the paper-like fabric between my fingers.  I chose a different ripped location and grabbed again, liberating another hunk of the tent into my palm.  The fabric must have weakened over time, perhaps because of sun exposure at the window.  Before my small ones could throw a fit over their disintegrating play house, I embraced the tent, tear and all, and tossed it into the yard.

My brain on taxotere is the fabric of the Dora tent.  Weak, fragmented, and orange.  Each morning I toss myself into life and hope for the best.  

Fortunately I am feeling a little better every day, and I will continue to get better in the absence of further cellular torture by chemotherapy.  At night I send my healing thoughts to my brain, taping up the pieces of my mind.  This week I have caught myself making some coherent thoughts, so I thought I'd attempt this blog post.

Tomorrow we make the drive to the other town for my pre-mastectomy procedures.  At 2pm I am having vascular pictures taken.  These are for the doctor who is going to be placing my port.  I used to have a port, but I had it removed after being cancer-free for almost 3 years.  Dr. Oncologist chose not to re-install my port for the current cancer treatment for numerous reasons.  However, now that I am looking to be infused with Herceptin and Pertuzumab every three weeks for the rest of my life, I asked if I could get another port.  I figured I could get it installed at the same time as my mastectomy.  All of doctors on my team thought that this was an excellent idea.  My port will be placed in exactly the same location as my old one:  chest wall, center-right side, just below the collarbone.  A doctor whom I have not met yet will come into the operating room after my mastectomy and hook me up.

At 3pm tomorrow I will be injected with a radioactive tracer.  This will be injected into the breast cancer.  On Wednesday the doctors will be able to follow the trail of radioactivity to see which lymph nodes to remove.  This procedure is called sentinel lymph node dissection.  I didn't have this before because it is not recommended in cases of inflammatory breast cancer.  It is recommended for ductal carcinoma in situ, which is my current diagnosis.

My surgery is scheduled for 7 am on Wednesday.  I am to report to the hospital at 6am.  My husband, parents, sister, and mascot (Calvin the Cure) will be there.  I will stay in the hospital for a night or two.

On my previous mastectomy eve, my college friends booked a room for Ian and I at a fancy, contemporary hotel.  I decided to do the same this time, for luck or something like it.  I'm not superstitious.  It just seems like an appropriate night to be a tiny bit spoiled.

I am grateful to not have any downtime between my last chemotherapy and this surgery.  It's true that the surgery will keep my healing energies busy, and that my healing energies could use a break.  However, I feel that it will be easier to maintain my healing routine than to be teased by a break from healing only to be plunged back into the fray at a later date.  Besides, I don't want the cancer to think that I've gotten complacent.  Kick it to the curb!

48 hours from now my cancer will find itself excised from its happy Heather bath.  It will be slapped onto a lab technician's benchtop, fixed in formalin, set in paraffin wax, and sliced into thin preparations for a pathologist to scrutinize under a hot, microscopic spotlight.  I am not a vindictive person, but after all of the pain that cancer has caused me, I delight in the cellular torture that is about to be inflicted on it.    


  1. Go Heather!!!! I'm thinking about you and loving you so much!!

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