Tuesday, February 21, 2006

moving forward. slowly.

Call it hubris.

One should never post to the internet how easy one's recovery has been from surgery when one does not really know what one is talking about. One definitely should not crow about it.

Within a day or two of my cathartic crying jag, I was on much more solid ground emotionally but finding the fallout from surgery a little harder to handle. There was more pain. A buildup of fluid at the site of the surgery that had to be drained. Twice. Scar tissue has developed under my arm and near my shoulder (my surgeon calls it a "web", looks more like rope, to me) which should go away over time but has greatly impeded mobility in my right arm.

Several people who've had surgery as adults have told me that this kind of back-sliding is normal. I did find it discouraging. Especially as I was trying to work last week, in a context that was particularly stressful (I'll write more on my reasons for this in a future post. Suffice it to say that this was not as insane as it sounds, since I have the best co-workers in the world and that they made sure I took care of myself when I appeared to be forgetting).

I do seem to be on the mend again.

I got my pathologist's report yesterday. My tumour is smaller than I had thought (4cm) and had spread to 4 of the 13 lymph nodes sampled. They also found another kind of cancer (ductal carcinoma in situ) in another part of my breast - but it does look like they got it all (the advantage of mastectomy over lumpectomy). The cancer was graded 3/3, which means that it is very agressive (my surgeon says that is to be expected, given my youth). So...good news and bad news, as they say, but generally speaking, things could be worse. My surgeon stages my cancer at a 2b (with stage 1 being small and with no nodes affected and 4 being cancer that has spread beyond the lymph nodes).

I am now on the waiting list to see an oncologist. Next step - chemotherapy.

I messed with my own head a bit last night by looking up the survival stats for those with my stage of breast cancer. I then re-read a wonderful article by Stephen Jay Gould on cancer statistics, called The Median isn't the Message ( http://cancerguide.org/median_not_msg.html ).

One thing the author writes about is the documented evidence that a positive attitude and belief in one's own survival contribute greatly to battling cancer succesfully.

I should be fine.

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

Dear Laurie,
You're right that attitude is a major key to recovery. And you sound like you've got the right attitude. You're also right that statistics need to be taken with a whole salt shaker. That being said, survival rates with breast cancer are encouraging, although the road there can be unpleasant. Even there, side effects can be alleviated.
Major surgery hurts. And healing takes time. Don't be impatient -- it won't do you any good and will just exasperate you.

Take a friend and some music with you to chemo; it can be pretty boring otherwise.

Just remember, you are in the process of taking control back over your body, although paradoxically, it's going to require the help of a lot of others to get there.

Marty and Moses send love,
We're all cheering for you.