The Re-excision
7 Days and Counting

Try, Try Again

About ten minutes after I published my last post, I got a call from the surgeon indicating that the re-excision was unsuccessful and I would have to undergo yet another sugery: this time, mastectomy.

Another dip in the rollercoaster. Only the dip didn't seem so low this time, the news not quite as devastating, because I knew going into it that there was a good chance it wouldn't work. And I hadn't gotten my hopes up.

I've lived with the news for a week now, and I have to say, I'm feeling ok about it. My anxiety in the past had a lot to do with all of the choices that were given to me, none of which were a sure bet and a decision that was mine alone to make. Because there is no definitive cure for this, and the doctors can't say how any individual will respond to treatment or procedures (and probably for fear of law suits), they won't tell you, "you should do this." They just provide general information about recovery times and survival rates and leave the decision  about which procedure to pursue (lumpectomy vs. mastectomy, unilateral vs. bilateral) up to you. It's incredibly stressful.

But now I know I've tried all my options and really only have one  left, so I'm booked for surgery on August 20th. That means I have three weeks to relax and enjoy Summer before going back in for a single-stage mastectomy (left-side only) with simultaneous reconstruction. It should be pretty straightforward, but with a longer hospital stay (overnight, I think) and recovery (4-6 weeks). And two of those damned surgical drains (blech).

And with it, the addition of two new doctors to my team: the plastic surgeon and radiology oncologist. The former has an intense personality and lengthy resume of accomplishments. He's sort of intimidating, but I can tell he's a perfectionist and will do beautiful work. The latter is much more soft-spoken, but equally accomplished (what else would we expect from the recently-named #1 hospital in the nation?!) and oversees a new kind of radiation treatment which I'm now eligible for. Traditional radiation uses photons, which go straight through your body and out the other side, which make it difficult to work on the left breast since you need to avoid radiating the heart and lung behind it. But this new machine - there are only about 7 of them in the country and MGH has one - uses protons instead of photons and can be controlled with much greater precision. Because of the high demand for it, it is mostly reserved for pediatric patients, but they are also using it for breast cancer patients who have mastectomy.

Six weeks of daily (Monday-Friday) radiation will begin once I've healed from the mastectomy &  reconstruction. They are anxious to get to this stage, as it's been a couple of months now since I completed chemo and I can't postpone it much longer. The challenge has been that you need to get all surgery done prior to radiation because it makes the skin less pliable and therefore you can't do reconstruction after having it. But my body has responded well to the last couple of surgeries so I'm hopeful I'll come through this one smoothly, too, and be ready to get onto the next part of treatment soon enough.

For now, I am enjoying the return of my hair (just barely!) and brows/lashes (which literally sprouted overnight and are still growing):

Before
Before Chemo

After
During Chemo

Brows
After Chemo

And I made it out to Cirque du Soleil for my company's Summer outing, and a Girls' Night Out with Kristen Wiig  and my friend Maria :)

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Comments

Eric Wholley

I love how your dealing with such a intense crisis, Stephanie. Clearly, have your mind in a place where you're dealing with the facts and are making choices in a very balanced way. I'd be freaking out [men get breast cancer, too].

It's great that you have three weeks to enjoy what has been a very sunny summer and to appreciate this moment for what it is.

Best of luck to you on the 20th. You're obviously in good hands as you've somehow managed to hire half the medical experts in Boston, lol.

I'll keep thinking good thoughts and saying some prayers for your speedy recovery. You've been a champ all along and you'll surely win this one, also!

Jane

Damn! So sorry you have to have another surgery, but I'm sure this one will get the job done. Thinking of you lots.

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