I’m Positive….Triple Positive, To Be Exact

by Sarah

I had a great weekend.  Friday I went for a 50 mile bike ride with Jana and Jill.  Being on the High Trestle Trail with hundreds of other people may have not been prudent but as I’m want to say, I’m free to make my own bad decisions.  It was like being in a parade where everyone else was drunk and on bikes which may not be the best place for someone with a compromised femur.  We stopped to assist a woman who was face down and unconscious by the side of the trail.  Jill provided emergency care, Jana got the ambulance to the right spot and I barked orders….imagine that.  I think she’ll be just fine.  Other than Jill smacking me in my biopsy site, all fun and no pain for me.  That evening brought an impromptu grill out at my place and enough fireworks to ensure my neighbors hate me for a very long time.  Saturday was connecting with a few folks one-on-one and letting them make me incredible food.  I’m definitely not going to waste away anytime soon.

Sunday I talked with my parents about what had transpired in the last week or so but left out the word incurable.  I cannot do that to them yet.  They have been through so much in their lifetime.  When I dealt with cancer 10 years ago, my father had just finished treatment for it three months prior.  He was diagnosed this March with lung cancer (lifetime non-smoker) at age 83 and had half a lung removed at the end of April.  He’s recovering well but it’s been a lot for them/us to manage and the surgery itself is quite traumatic for someone his age.  *Public Service Announcement – get your house checked for radon.*  My mom’s only sibling, her brother, died from colon cancer at the beginning of June.  This doesn’t even touch the daily struggles of assisting their handicapped, adult son, my brother.  So, I told them of my scans and that I had cancer in my bones and that surgery on my femur was imminent.  They’d been concerned about my yard getting mowed since it was causing me pain to do it.  They were trying to figure out how they were going to get here to do it for me.  They were incredibly relieved to hear how my friends had rallied and stepped in to help me and that I have a network of people to assist in whatever I need.   But, it did not stop their eyes from getting watery, some tears being shed and the look of grimness on both of their faces as our family deals with the current blow.  They are tough, they’ve had to be, but to say it pains me to know they have to be tough because of me is a gross understatement.  The thought of them witnessing my demise is the hardest part of this whole situation for me.

After I made sure they were in decent spirits, considering, I hung with a large portion of the Kelderman clan.  If you know them you know that it was an entertaining, exhausting and very real time.  Jill and her family had flown in so the timing of her visit was good considering the circumstances.  She and I think quite similarly so it was nice to be able to laugh at the morbidity of this with her in addition to reminiscing about our long, and um, colorful history as friends.  Even though she’s a neuropsychologist, it was not the kind of therapy you get in an office.

Monday brought results from the bone biopsy…confirmation of breast cancer and markers of ER+, PR+ and Her2+.  This is good news.  There are treatment options for all of those.  None will cure me but they have the potential to buy me time if the cancer is willing to respond to them.  I’m familiar with several of the options and a few are new to me.  Digging into the research and understanding the drugs as best I can, deciding which ones are a good fit and that I’m willing to endure now starts in earnest.  I’ve already taken one of the chemo drugs before, taxotere, and the mention of it’s name gives me a dreadful feeling in the pit of my stomach.  It was probably the toughest part of my treatment last time.  Some of the other drugs are not typical chemo and don’t have the standard side effects…not that they don’t have their own kind of fun that comes with them but they won’t render me bald and scorched on the inside like taxotere.  I had a preliminary discussion with my oncologist about all of this yesterday and now we’ll see what Mayo says.

What’s next?  One more scan, a brain MRI, rounding up all scans and correlating reports and taking them to Mayo where I’ll see a medical oncologist and an orthopedic surgical oncologist.  I don’t have bone cancer but I want a consult with someone who performs surgeries on cancerous bones on a regular basis.  Once I discuss with them, I’ll determine a plan of action and it will start quickly whether it’s at Mayo or in Des Moines.  My concern for my leg is growing and it needs to be addressed, tout suite.  It probably didn’t help that a bar stool collapsed underneath me on Sunday and further tweaked my leg but luckily didn’t snap it.  Note to those buying new chairs: you may want to ensure all of the screws are in before you have a person with a leg bone ready to break in half sit on it.

How am I doing?  That’s the most common question right now.  I’m OK.  I’m as good as I can be. I have people to laugh with and lean on.  I’d be a lot better if I didn’t have incurable cancer eating away at my bones and looking for vacation spots in my lungs but I can’t change that.  As my dad says, do the best you can and let the rest go.  Easier said than done but I have access to great doctors, brilliant minds, options for treatment and friends that have made all the difference in how I deal with and manage this so I know I’m fortunate.  Many do not.  I have to adjust expectations….for everything.  My life, especially in the short term, is going to have a shift in focus.  Beyond that, I don’t know.  I think the odds of me dying in a fiery, sudden deceleration are still neck and neck with dying a slow, painful death from cancer.  Anyone who’s experienced my driving of a car or motorcycle might put their money on the fiery crash beating cancer to the punch.  In the meantime, I need to study for my advanced degree in cancer while balancing that out with work, loved ones, attempts at sleep and an ever-growing to-do list.  Thanks for checking in.