Thursday, March 10, 2011

C is for Cancer

Two weeks after Rick died, my mom and I were sitting in the back yard on the patio.  It was a beautiful day.  Our backyard was the perfect hideaway.  Our six foot privacy fence kept the world around out of view.  We had two huge maple trees that made a canopy shelter over most of the yard.  When summer rolled around, I would frequently take my paper outside with a cup of tea and read in the solitude.   This particular morning my mom was outside with me and Michael was climbing on the fort showing off the great daring feats of a three year old.

The phone in the kitchen rang and I hopped up to answer it and then walked back outside.  It was my sister.  She sounded calm but something was wrong I could tell from the sound in her voice. The first surprise was that she had breast cancer.  I was totally flipped out.  I know it wasn’t all about me but it sure did feel like people around me were beginning to fall to pieces.  My dad’s cousin had died two weeks before Rick and I was worried for my sister.   She really sounded quite calm; she had a plan and she was going to make best of this.

She went to Columbia University Hospital in Manhattan and was going to be completely rearranged.  The doctors would do a bilateral mastectomy and then a tram flap.  This is a procedure where a plastic surgeon removes muscle, fat, tissue and skin from the patient’s abdomen but keeps the blood supply intact.  Then the flap is burrowed into the breast area and attached to the chest, making a breast mound.  The surgery requires a breast surgeon, a plastic surgeon and a micro-vascular surgeon.  Patricia was looking forward to a firmer, uplifted future with a flat stomach to boot.

Patty sounded pretty excited about the procedure when I spoke to her on the phone.  My head was reeling from the news but she sounded like she had it under control.  A few days later she called back to tell us about the second surprise, that she was pregnant.  We were excited and worried at the same time.  Patty was very calm about the whole situation. It never crossed her mind to terminate; this baby had saved her life.  She would not have known the cancer was there if she hadn’t been pregnant.  She still says today that Romy saved her life.

Pregnancy and breast cancer do not really mix, particularly if the lesion is estrogen positive as levels sky rocket during pregnancy.  High levels of estrogen can feed the lesions, not good.  Gone were the plans for a flat stomach and firmer upper regions.  The game plan was to wait out the first and second trimesters and in the third trimester do a lumpectomy under local anesthesia.  It was a long wait, but she was ready when the day arrived.  The pathology showed DCIS (ductile carcinoma in situ) which meant non-invasive cancer.  Patty delivered beautiful baby by C-section on December 22, 1999, Romy Jane.  Her doctor put Patty on Tamoxifin an estrogen beta-blocker following the surgery and is fine now eleven years later.

Patty’s ordeal caused me to freak, yet again.  I had just had a mammogram seven months prior to this but I wanted another one and made an appointment with Dr. Passan, my short surgeon who had treated both Rick and me.  I had the mammogram done and of course, they called to say that it wasn’t normal.  Next they did a sonogram to check it and then later in the summer the doctor recommended a needle-core biopsy.

I was not too happy with God at this point.  To be honest my fun meter had been completely tapped. It really felt like a sick joke to throw me into yet another drama of cancer.  All I could think was that my boys need a parent and I needed to get through this quickly and quietly; they didn’t need to be worrying about me.  What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  I was so tired of being strong!

1 comment:

  1. Here we go again ... another hole in the ceiling. God must really want to make you the strongest woman on the planet.