I should start by saying my boobs and I have always had a tumultuous relationship. They made their appearance at an embarrassingly early age, then failed to grow adequately enough to secure the CEO position I always wanted. During my pregnancy they became my dream tatas; but again, they went unnoticed due to the distraction of my protruding belly. Then finally, after breast feeding, they were featured in Playboy Natty’G (aka National Geographic) – which wasn’t quite the recognition I was looking for.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I never heard anyone complainin about my titties. They’re a’ight. But they sure never lived up to my expectations. Stuck with a “B” cup, I always felt I was destined for greater things like a “K” cup for Katie! Sadly, that dream was never realized – mostly because the doctors refused and I wasn’t keen on getting them done in a back alley sheltered by a homeless man’s cardboard box.
So we got along just fine au naturel. We invested in push-up bras and called it a day. I accepted them for who they were and appreciated their efforts in providing nourishment to my four year old . . . when he was a baby of course! And let’s not forget their willingness to accommodate the occasional motorboat and the handfuls of joy they brought to many across the world!
It was a surprise then when, one day, when I was randomly feeling myself up, I stumbled upon an implant I had no recollection of ever getting! I quickly confirmed my findings in the mirror – my left boob was looking pretty fly. Surely my right boob would follow suit!
In the meantime, I anxiously waited to see my doctor. And once I did, I walked out with a prescription for Xanax and a recommendation to seek counseling. I was also immediately sent to the lab for a fun-filled day of ultrasounds, mammograms, a cyst aspiration, and a biopsy of my extra lady lump.
Whatcha gonna do with all that junk inside your lump? Take it out!
It was just two days later, on my husband’s 40th birthday, that I was notified of my diagnosis: triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma. My tumor was approximately 2.7 cm – which isn’t very big unless you’re burrowed in my boob. Remember, B cup. Right.
What a day I will never forget. My life path had changed indefinitely. I mourned for my past and reluctantly embraced the future. Some things would never be the same, but there was still a possibility that Katie K could be getting an upgrade if you know what I mean!
However, after consulting with my doctors at Stanford University, I opted for a lumpectomy with sentinel node dissection. The tumor was removed with clear margins; and, after biopsy, one lymph node tested positive for the cancer shit. Fortunately, no additional surgeries were required, and a treatment plan of chemotherapy (16 cycles) and radiation (one hour, five days per week, four-five weeks) was set. I was sentenced to approximately six and a half months of aggressive treatment for Stage 2 Breast Cancer.
In addition, I was accepted into a study to test the effectiveness of an established drug called Herceptin on triple negative patients (me). Having this type of cancer means that the cancer does not express the genes for the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor or the Her2/neu receptor. Because I am negative for each of these receptors, targeted therapy used successfully for other types of breast cancers does not provide any additional benefit to me.
This is where the study comes in - some recent test results have found that Herceptin has been inadvertently given to Her2/neu negative patients with positive outcomes. If the study I am participating in confirms this benefit to triple negative patients, it will become the standard of care for this type of breast cancer. And, although there are additional health risks (as with all of my traditional medical treatment), I believe the potential benefits outweigh the risks.
To assist in my treatment, I also acquired a “new best friend” named Port. Port is a small catheter installed under the skin of my upper chest which connects to an artery for easy blood access. Port is cool because it could be featured on True Blood and it also makes me half cyborg.
On February 6, 2012 I began treatment. First stop was the lab where my Port was accessed to collect blood samples. Of most concern are my white/red blood cells and platelet counts. Then I met with my medical oncologist for a standard physical/feel up – and, in subsequent appointments we woud also discuss any side effects and how to alleviate them.
Finally it’s off to the Infusion Center where I receive my chemotherapy. There I am welcomed by a harpist and a nurse dressed in a hazmat suit. I shake my fists into air, bust out a couple of reps of Kid ’n Play followed by a few seconds of head banging then I’m all pumped up for treatment! Time to kill this cancer scum! Rahhhh!
My chemotherapy consists of a wonderful cocktail called AC (Cyclophosphamide and Doxorubicin). The Cyclophosphamide is slowly injected into my Port over a 30 minute period by my hazmat nurse. Then I am hooked up to Doxorubicin which is administered by a drip for one hour. It doesn’t hurt. It makes me pee red. The thought of it makes me want to vomit.
So moving right along.
After my infusion, we stop at the pharmacy to pick up a shot called Neulasta which I will administer the following day to boost my white blood cell count and reduce my risk of infection. This drug makes my bones hurt. But, if I accidentally cut off my arm it ups my survival rate. It’s a good trade off.
I have to admit, the days following are rough. I’m fatigued and struggle with nausea, food aversions and with the dreaded Hershey squirts. And now that I’ve admitted going number three, I feel a little awkward. Maybe we should talk about my
HemorRhoid Rage instead. Steroids fools – to boost my appetite!
Anyways, this diagnosis and treatment has been physically and emotionally challenging. Not surprisingly, when confronted with your mortality you tend to look at each day a bit differently. My cancer has been a catalyst for positive self growth. I choose to live every day to the fullest and keep a happy fucking smile on my face! And you should too! :O)