Alicia in Ojai

Friday, March 02, 2007

Ouch !

As some of you may know, I have been on leave of absence from my wonderful software engineering job since October of last year. I have no qualms about letting anyone know that the leave was for stress and depression, with a possible diagnosis of class II bipolar syndrome. All of this stuff runs rampant in my family, as well as alcoholism, class I bipolar syndrome, attention deficit, and a host of other more physical maladies, such as osteoarthritis, hypothyroidism, etc.

However, I had always considered myself fortunate to have been very healthy most of my life, except for some problems with my left ear which required a couple of surgeries, and hypothyroidism, which thankfully requires only one dose of synthetic thyroid hormone a day (they used to have to grind up animals' thyroids -- yuck!).

But it seems that stress at work, possibly exacerbated by menopause, caused me to not be able to function properly and further investigation led to the discoveries mentioned above, with a recommendation for time off from work until February 14. Quite the ironic date, wouldn't you say?

Those of you who work with me may have noticed that it is now March 2, and I am still not back. Where is Alicia?

Well, in preparation for my return to work, I was getting all those nasty medical appointments out of the way. You know the ones: teeth cleaning twice a year, annual gynecological, the old turning-50 colonoscopy, and those brutal annual mammograms, where they twist and squish your boobies and then bombard them with radiation.

I'm looking back at my calendar, and I see that my mammogram took place on January 3 at the Women's Center in Ventura. They called me back and said that they had found "a density", and would I please come back in for a rescreening and ultrasound "just to make sure". After this, they said they still saw "something" and they recommended a "needle aspiration biopsy" to take a sample and make sure it wasn't malignant.

Believe it or not, my gynocologist would not order the biopsy (this calls for a whole separate rant), and for a surgeon to order the biopsy, I would have to make an appointment. On January 22, I finally got in to see Dr. Davis, just so he could order the biopsy. The biopsy happened on January 31, and on Friday, February 2, Dr. Davis called me into his office to tell me that the biopsy was positive for malignant breast cancer.

The tumor is very small (500 cm, which is less than .5"), but they say they think the lymphatic system may be involved. They won't know for sure whether the lymphatic system is involved until they do the surgery. At that time, they will do a lumpectomy for the tumor and then they will take what they call a "sentinel" lymph node from under my left arm. This would be the first node which drains the area where the tumor resides. If they find cancer in lymph node, I will have to have chemotherapy; otherwise not. Regardless, I will have to have hormone therapy, and possibly radiation therapy too.

Well, I thought Dr. Davis could just schedule the surgery and get that stuff out of there, and then an oncologist could take over. But no. First I had to go see the oncologist, whose first opening was on February 13. Apparently they are "having a spate of pathologies", which means they are seeing much more of all kinds of cancer out there than normal.

When I did get in to see Dr. Chang (the oncologist), he recommended a CT Scan from my neck down to my knees, and a total body bone scan. It seems that if breast cancer mestasticizes, it is most likely to go into the bones, and I had been having some trouble with my left leg ever since I sprained my ankle very badly last year.

Fortunately, all the other tests came out OK, so I could finally get Dr. Davis to schedule the surgery, which should happen next Friday, on March 9. Who ever would have thought it would take so long to get all this scheduled? I certainly didn't, and so scheduled a tentative return-to-work date of March 14. Of course, this will now have to be extended.

Anyway, for all you that have taken an interest, I intend to post all activity on this blog. This will help me by not having to repeat myself to everyone I know, and will also give people a chance to comment, without having to telephone, write or e-mail. Know that I appreciate your interest, and love you all.

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  • At 11:22 PM, Blogger Tom Chappell said…

    Aw, geez. I am truly sorry to hear that, Alicia. Yes, please do let us know how it's going; we'll all be rooting for you. And what's this about your regular gyno refusing to write the Rx for the biopsy? Is this some sort of Kaiser nonsense?

  • At 2:58 PM, Blogger Alicia Coral said…

    Thanks, Tom, for your kind words. No, the gyno thing wasn't Kaiser (I have high PPO, thank God -- the insurance and disability have been outstanding, you'll be happy to hear). That is her own personal practice, and I would encourage every woman out there to find out what their gyno's is. If she had not been so stubborn (she even refused the radiologist's recommendation when he called) we would have saved two weeks and a needless visit to the surgeon's office. Needless to say, I am changing gyno's ... for anyone who's interested, she is Dr. Patricia Lanter in Camarillo (there, Dr. Lanter, you have been officially blog smeared!). Gee, that made me feel better! ;-)

  • At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Alicia - Ali-Sun and I will be thinking nothing but good thoughts for you now, on the 9th and beyond. I trust you will come through this with flying colors. Let me know if I can help out in any way. Best, Tyler


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