Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Guess What I Just Found Out??!!

     A lot has happened since my last blog post. I did get a job in Los Angeles  Unified School District. I spent a god-awful year teaching 7th grade English Learners at Markham Middle School. If you followed my Facebook, you already know how awful it was. It was emotionally scarring and it took most of the summer to recover.
     I got a new job teaching 7th and 8th grade English at Immaculate Heart Middle School in Los Feliz. It is absolutely a dream come true. The campus is gorgeous. My boss is warm and wonderful. My coworkers are fabulous. It's everything I always dreamed of.
     But that's not what I want to post about. I found out on December 11 that I have breast cancer. I guess I will make this blog about my cancer journey -- I do want to document everything. This way if people want to know what's up with me, this will be the easiest way to find out. I am not so good on the phone, and I don't really want to make a big Facebook announcement. I don't need distant friends offering me unsolicited medical advice!
     I guess I will start from the beginning. I went in on Monday, November 30 for my annual well-woman checkup, and I mentioned to the doctor that I was overdue for a mammogram. I have Kaiser health insurance now, so everything is in house, which is nice. The doc mentioned that I could just walk in for a mammogram, so that's what I did. I had the mammogram and then went home and took a nap.
     I got a phone call at work the next day from Radiology, telling me that I needed to come in for a diagnostic mammogram. The tech said that maybe it was just because I had not had a mammogram at Kaiser before, so they don't have any other films to compare this one to. I scheduled the follow up for Friday, December 4.
     I was pretty calm all week, trying not to think about what might happen on the 4th. I didn't tell anyone other than Suzanne at work, because she was there when Radiology called in the first place, and Todd, of course. I sat patiently outside in the waiting room, but as soon as I got into the exam room, I burst into tears. I was completely terrified. The mammogram tech had no idea why I was so hysterical. I finally calmed down enough to explain that my mother had died of metastatic breast cancer, so this experience was bringing back lots of difficult memories. She was super sweet once she realized that I was not just a crazy person.
     The diagnostic mammogram focuses on one spot that is worrisome. Mine focused on my right breast. The tech finished the mammogram, and then I was led back to the waiting room. Next the ultrasound tech fetched me and took me into another exam room. She did an ultrasound, and said that there is definitely a mass in my right breast. She was kind of strange. I was not hysterical anymore, but still teary. She asked me if I had a cold. I told her that I was crying. I explained to her my mother's breast cancer. She said, "If there is a God, why would he make us suffer like this?" I did not find that question all that helpful. But she also told me that my pale skin was gorgeous. She's Iranian and apparently really admires pale skin. That was also weird.
     After the ultrasound, I met with the breast imaging nurse manager, Florence, who said that I needed to have biopsies on the mass in my breast and on my lymph node. I actually thought she said my lymph node was clear, but perhaps I was confused. She gave me a whole speech about how this was caught early, and that I was going to be ok. That she had done this for many years, and I was not going to die of cancer, should this be cancer. She went on to say that people will tell her, "I'm a survivor. I survived cancer." She responds, "So! I survived migraines. Cancer doesn't make you special." This was also not that helpful. She finished by saying that I will die of something, maybe of some other cancer, but I was not going to die of breast cancer. I kept wishing she would stop talking.
     My biopsies were scheduled for Tuesday, December 8. I went into work on Monday and told my boss Gina what was going on. I tried to keep myself together, but I cried a little bit. She was so sweet and kind and understanding.
     I went in Tuesday for the biopsies. As I was lying on the exam table and the doctor was using the ultrasound wand to find the mass, she found a second mass in my right breast. So she asked if she could biopsy that one, too. I'm like -- biopsy whatever you come across! She injected me with lidocaine to numb my breast. I was watching the whole thing on the ultrasound screen. It was kind of fascinating watching the needle go into my breast. It would have been more fun had it been someone else's breast. Anyway, she did the biopsies and it hurt a little, but not too bad.
     Then I just had to wait. Florence the chatty nurse explained that they would call me with the results, and that they should have them by Friday.
     I had to go to work the next day and act like everything was fine. I told my old lady teacher squad, and they have been so sweet and supportive. I told Gina that I was expecting the phone call on Friday, so we came up with a plan. She said when I get the call, to call her and she will cover my class so I can get the message and call Florence the nurse.
     Finally Friday, December 11 came, and I was a wreck. I tried to act like I had a cold and that was why my eyes were red. Luckily, middle school girls are pretty oblivious. I was at the end of 5th period when my phone rang. I froze, and the girls were all asking whose phone was that? One girl said that it was my phone, and I should answer it because it might be important. I said I would check it at lunch. Finally the class ended and I went to the yearbook office to check my message. Florence was delivering the bad news, and told me that I had an appointment with Dr. Haigh, the surgeon, for December 16. I called Todd and told him, and then I called my sister.
     I went upstairs and told Gina the news. She gave me a big hug. Then I went back to my room and Mary Rose, the music and art teacher, was there. So I told her. I tried not to cry, and I tried to eat my lunch. I managed fairly well.
     I got through the weekend and through Monday and Tuesday of the following week - the last week before Christmas break. I left work early on Wednesday for my appointment with Dr. Haigh. I got to Kaiser (which is right down the street from work, thankfully) and got into the exam room.
     Dr. Haigh came in and examined me, and showed me the pathology report about my cancer. I have the most common cancer -- the one that is progesterone and estrogen receptive. So it responds well to treatment. The doctor said that we could probably do a lumpectomy, but with my being so young, and Mom being so young when she was diagnosed, he feels like there must be a genetic component. So he scheduled me for an MRI, in order to make sure we have found all the cancer, and he wanted me to schedule an appointment with medical genetics. Apparently they had been trying to get in touch with me.
     I called genetics when I got home -- no one answered when the receptionist tried calling from Kaiser. The earliest appointment they had was January 21st. That was way too long to wait -- I told them I would have to call back after talking to Dr. Haigh. I emailed him and he said to go ahead and schedule, but he would try to get the appointment expedited. The next day I called genetics to schedule. They had an appointment for Jan 9. Still too long to wait, but I took it.
     When I got to work on Thursday, Gina and Carolyn -- the 6th grade history and science teacher who I love -- were waiting for me in Gina's office. Suzanne was outside, so she came in, too, and I told them what I had found out. Carolyn said that I should not be going to these appointments by myself. I said I don't have anyone to go with me. She said she would go with me next time. I don't know if I really want to inconvenience her like that, but it is very kind of her to offer.
     After talking to the ladies, I went to my classroom, and I got a call from genetics. They had a cancelation for the next day, if I wanted it. Of course I wanted it! I took the appointment, and asked Gina if I could leave early. The appointment was for 10:30. Friday the 18th was a half day. We had the Christmas liturgy, and then the Christmas concert. So I wasn't missing class time. I was sad to miss the Christmas concert, though. Stupid cancer! I had to miss the work Christmas party on the 16th due to my appointment with Dr. Haigh.
     On the 18th, I was sitting in the office chatting, so I told Sarah, Gina's secretary. I figured she might wonder why I kept going into Gina's office and closing the door. She was so sweet. And I told Michelle, the 6th grade counselor. Monique, the 7th grade counselor, already knew. So most of my coworkers know at this point. I have five teachers I need to tell.
     My section had their Christmas party. I cleaned up a bit and then snuck out to my appointment with genetics. It was no big deal -- had to fill out paperwork, and discuss my family history, and then I had the blood draw. It takes about three weeks for the results, so I'm anxious to see what they discover. I had testing for BRCA 1 and 2 two years ago, but now they can test for 20 different genes, so I was happy to get tested again. I didn't test positive for BRCA last time. I actually just read those results -- I had called Hoag Hospital in Orange County to request the results, for Kaiser wanted to see them. The paperwork implies that I didn't really need this testing and makes it sound like I was wasting their time. Well now I have cancer. So there!
     This week is Christmas break! I've been calling and emailing and messaging friends who I know will want to know. That is not fun. I called my dad after meeting with Dr. Haigh. That was awful, but my dad was not freaked out. He said that it was going to be ok. I wish he would come visit me. I talked to Kyle and Barb.
     I had the MRI this afternoon. Dr. Haigh won't get the results until the end of next week, so the waiting continues. I do not have any appointments scheduled with him at the moment. I guess it will be January before I can see him and schedule surgery. I'm ready to get this over with!
     I have an elementary school friend, Leslie, who went through breast cancer a couple of years ago. I Facebook messaged her last night, and she immediately called me to talk about it. It was super helpful to have a sense of what I have ahead of me. It's going to be awful, but I will get through it. She had a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. She had a blog, so I read all about her journey. And she texted me pics and talked talked talked about everything.
     So welcome to my breast cancer blog! Hooray!



cpolchow said...

Old lady teacher squad! I resemble that remark:)

AMY said...

I love my old lady teacher squad the most!!!