Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: breast cancer treatment (page 1 of 2)

Surgery Follow-Up Visit

This entry is part 44 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

On the tenth, I had my surgical follow-up appointment with Dr. Rose. To recap, she performed my salpingo-oophorectomy surgery on the fifth of May.

I arrived at the women’s clinic an hour or so early, like I usually do for my VA appointments. The waiting room was vacant, and quiet but for the receptionist talking on the phone with someone about an appointment which had to be rescheduled. I read for a bit while waiting.

The nurse came and fetched me, then took me to be weighed. I forgot to ask when we got to the consultation room—the same one I had one of my pre-surgery meetings with Dr. Rose in—if I’d lost or gained weight since the last time I’d been weighed. All my other vitals were good, and I was left alone in the room.

After about fifteen minutes, a resident came in. He went over the basics of my surgery and then asked to see my wounds from the surgery. This necessitated me rising to move to the exam bed in the corner, and I unfastened my shorts so he could look. He judged them to be healing well and invited me to sit in the chair again while he went to see Dr. Rose.

He wasn’t gone long, and he returned with Dr. Rose. She sat down and checked the records of my vitals, and discussed with me my healing. When she was satisfied with my report, she asked me to get on the exam bed so she could look at my wounds, and gave them a more thorough examination. They all were pinkish-to-purplish, she said, which was good, and that none of them showed any signs of infection. When she finished, she told me to button up, then asked if I had any questions.

And I had one question. On either side of my belly button (where the camera wound is), there were two perfectly circular scars on my belly, and I’d been wondering about these since first seeing them. I pointed them out to Dr. Rose, and she explained they were from a string or cord or something they use to hold the abdomen up away from the interior organs, so she’d be less likely to accidentally injure an internal organ. Apparently, the string is passed through from one spot to the other; I’m not sure how they suspended the ends, and now I wished I’d asked; it would have been interesting to know.

After that, I covered my belly with my underwear and buttoned up my shorts, then moved back to the chair and we finished up our meeting in short order.

Visit with the Substitute Oncologist

This entry is part 43 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

Well, I think I described the scheduling issues that happened before I finally got last Friday’s Oncology appointment scheduled. All this is because my regular Oncologist, Dr. Colonna, is out on maternity leave.

This past Friday, I arrived early like usual and got checked in and my vitals done like usual. They didn’t need blood taken or anything, so I didn’t need to visit the lab.

I was drowsy because I hadn’t slept well the night before, due to worrying about being up in time for the appointment, because it was at 11:00AM, a time I don’t usually go in for appointments. I’d gotten myself a caffeinated beverage at the coffee shop near the elevators I took to the floor where Oncology is, and I drank that while I waited, dozing between swallows. It helped; I was more alert and felt refreshed when I was finally visited.

That visitor was a Physician’s Assistant who works with the Oncology docs, Nancy Fong. The designation after her name is PA-C, and I’m left to assume the C stands for cancer given she’s working in the Oncology department. I’ll try to remember to ask her what it stands for if I see her again. Anyway, she did a breast exam and we discussed my vitamin regimen; I’d been taking 1 Calcium and 1 D3 vitamin a day with my meds and the Senior vitamins I started taking this month, but she wanted me to up the Calcium and D3 t0 2 pills a day, which I’m happy to obey. I don’t want my bones to deteriorate either.

After she finished with me, she left to go fetch the substitute Oncologist I was to see, Dr. Charles Parker. I was not expecting the doctor who came in. Not because he had an unusual appearance; he was tall, slender, wore glasses, and white-haired, so pretty normal that way. No, he couldn’t seem to say a single sentence without two or three umm pauses. Between that and his soft voice, I had difficulty following what he was saying.

Essentially, however, I no longer need the Leuprolide injection since I’ve had my ovaries and tubes removed. I’m still on the Anastrozole because there are some other organs which create a teeny-tiny amount of female hormones, and there’s concern my fat might also produce some. The Anastrozole is to prevent it creating another cancer.

He couldn’t speak on the possibility of having my breasts removed because he’s not my primary Oncologist, so I didn’t bother asking about that. It’s something I think Nancy may have known about, but I didn’t want to confuse Dr. Parker.

After Dr. Parker’s visit, I spoke briefly with Nancy again. She filled out a form that tells me when my next appointment is due (September) and wrote notes regarding the additional vitamins I’m to take and continuation of Anastrozole. They’re also going to arrange for me to get my next mammogram at about that time as well—and I asked about that, since I wasn’t sure if my primary care doc would have to put the order in, but Nancy explained it would be the Oncology department.

Salpingo-Oophorectomy

This entry is part 42 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

That. That title right there is the official name of the type of surgery I had last Tuesday. I had a double-case of it—both my fallopian tubes and ovaries were removed. I’d like to say I have exceedingly clear memories of events leading up to the surgery and following, but the truth is, I don’t.

I do recall arriving at the hospital at about 6:45 AM for my 7 o’clock surgery prep time, and was taken back to my little prep “room” early. Here, I do recall some things. Mom was with me, for one; they allowed her to come back with me. The little prep “rooms” are rooms only in name. In the ward, they line up against an outer wall of the hospital, so they all have windows. I’m not sure what the view is, but Mom noticed a tall building and made a jokey comment about people spying people undressing for surgical prep, and I told her all the hospital’s windows are reflective on the outside; she didn’t close the blinds, so I guess she believed me.

I got dressed in the hospital gown and the funky socks with grip treads on top and bottom they provide for keeping feet warm. I don’t know about anyone else who goes into surgery at the VA, but I’m always very glad for those socks, ’cause my feet get cold easily. Nurses hooked me up to an IV, checked my vitals, went over my allergies (none). I was starving by this time, but I couldn’t eat because they didn’t want me choking in case stuff came up, and the last time I’d had anything to drink was a small sip of water around 5:30 or so, to take the morning meds that had been approved by Dr. Rose. I should mention here that I hadn’t been taking my multivitamin for about a week because it has a high dose of Vitamin E and that’s a blood thinner, but I did take my Calcium and D3 as well as my morning antacid, bladder pill, and levothyroxine. I didn’t take my morning Ziprasidone because I need to take it with food, or it won’t work like it should; it’s a booster dose, anyway, so missing it one morning wasn’t so bad.

After they finished prepping me for surgery, they wheeled me into the surgical room. I didn’t get much chance to notice things, so I don’t want to say too much about it. I wiggled onto the surgical bed and was out before they even got the things they put on my lower legs to keep circulation going on me. They were not messing around.

I came to in recovery a few hours later. My lower abdomen hurt, an internal kind of pain that felt like an incredible stitch in my side that would not go away. Once they saw I was awake, they discussed with me the possibility of sending me home, and I explained (again) that Mom couldn’t stay with me because she had to go home to her dog, and I couldn’t stay at her place because she has nowhere to put me. No way in hell was I going to try to wrangle myself into and out of a low bed consisting primarily of an inflatable double-high mattress. They said they’d have to keep me overnight, to monitor my condition because of my CPAP machine, and asked if I’d brought it, and I explained Mom had it. Then they had to see if they could find me a room to stay the night in, and I suspect they were extremely relieved when they could.

They wheeled me down a hall, and we picked Mom up on the way. She explained to the nurses about everything again, because they asked her as well, and they got me into the room I would spend the night in. Mom half-folded her little aluminum-and-fabric grocery cart, taking my CPAP (in its carry case) out to set in the bottom front of the narrow locker where the nurses told her to put it, then hung out a bit to make sure I was comfortable. When lunch came, Mom took her leave so I could concentrate on eating and resting.

Now, getting up and laying down were challenges, but I had to shuffle my butt to the little bathroom (not shared with any other rooms, yay!) to try to void my bladder, which was another thing they were monitoring, to make sure the anesthesia didn’t have any severe side effects. Getting up (still) includes rolling onto one side or the other so I can dangle my legs over the edge of the bed. Then I push myself up with my arm, until I’m seated upright. Next is actually rising and that was actually about the most pleasant part of the entire experience, even though I felt (and still feel) a bit of a burn in the right side of my abdomen. Laying down, I sit within two feet of my pillow and tip to the side where the pillow is while swinging my legs onto the bed. All this effort really does help avoid a lot more pain.

Dr. Rose came in to see me after I’d eaten lunch and checked up on me, then explained she’d be in the next day to discharge me. After that, I was left mostly to myself. On a number of different excursions to the little bathroom, I fetched first my mp3 player, then books and the sandwich I’d brought out of the closet. At bedtime, I got my CPAP out, but couldn’t find the Smart Water bottle I’d filled with distilled water. I ate supper, and the nurses brought me snacks to have with my medications.

One thing I’ll say here: Dr. Rose listened. I explained that I likely wouldn’t take any narcotics prescribed, and she asked what I would take, then prescribed me ibuprofen from that list.

They had someone from Pulmonary come up to set up my CPAP, and he brought sterile water for my machine, which was good. I’ve still got the bottle of sterile water; they let me bring the remainder home. I actually slept better than I thought I would. I was the only one in the room, and I shut off the other side’s light, but left mine on (but turned up to face the ceiling), and a nurse apparently came in at some point because when I woke up at 5:00AM the next day, my bed’s light was off, and the one for the vacant space on the other side of the room was on. I had breakfast (it had been so long since I last had bacon, it actually tasted good), then while I waited for Mom to arrive, I put my CPAP back in its case and took everything I pulled from the little closet (I’d eaten the sandwich sometime around midnight because I woke up with an empty stomach—I can’t get to sleep deeply if I don’t have something in my tummy) into Mom’s folding cart (it’s very lightweight).

The nurses were pretty pleased I was moving around so much. Dr. Rose came to discharge me, then Mom arrived and I got dressed. Apparently, Dr. Rose doesn’t do a lot of discharges, because there was some difficulty with the paperwork, but the nurses let us go with the promise they’d get her to finish it up; they said they had her verbal go-ahead for me to depart, so I was free to go. I suspect Mom would have tried to march me right out of the hospital whether or not I had permission to leave, though. LOL

Now, as for my wounds. I have three small incisions. One on each side, on the lower curve of my belly (I’m rather fat), and one in my belly button. The wounds themselves don’t hurt that much (unless I lean against the edge of my kitchen counter too hard on my belly-button one), but what really hurts me is the right interior. Dr. Rose said she had no complications from the surgery, so I doubt the pain comes from any difficulties she had removing my right ovary and fallopian tube; it just hurts more because it just does. It’s a kind of burning sensation, and if I”m not careful, it’ll flare up. It doesn’t like me using the toilet, or getting into bed, or out of bed. Coughs for the first couple days after the surgery were hell, but now sneezes are killer if I don’t have a chance to curl up around my abdomen so the muscles aren’t strained. No, I don’t have a cold; my throat was phlegmmy after the surgery because of the breathing tube they put to my lungs, and I have pollen allergies and my windows here at home open, so I’m sneezing when the wind kicks up. All in all, though, the pain isn’t so bad; it’s only intermittent, and it decreases a little more each day.

Wow, I guess I remembered more than I thought I did. LOL

Before the Surgery

This entry is part 41 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I keep forgetting I had surgery for my breast cancer just a couple years ago in 2013 and thinking back to when I had my gall bladder out some few years more ago. The preliminary procedure was pretty much the same as those other two times this time around. I was much less anxious about getting around the hospital to the various places, primarily because I didn’t have to have any sort of heart testing done, so I didn’t have to hunt out the place where they do the EKG or whatever. Apparently, the test had been done recently enough that my doc didn’t feel it was necessary.

First, I saw Dr. Rose again. We discussed the surgery, and I asked a few questions. I’m not actually having a hysterectomy of any sort—that refers only to the removal of the uterus, from what I now understand, though I’ll probably continue calling it a partial hysterectomy. What I’m actually having done is the removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Dr. Rose gave these ectomies names particular to each of them, but—and I’m kicking myself now—I didn’t think to write them down. I’ll see if I can get the info from someone later on. I spent about half an hour or so with Dr. Rose, signed a permission form for the surgery to take place, and received an Advance Directive form to bring home and fill out. I’ll be taking that in tomorrow, to sign in front of the Women’s Clinic’s LCSW and another, non-medical witness.

After my visit with Dr. Rose, she sent me on my way to the lab to have blood drawn. It was around lunch time, so I expected it to be a little busy, but it wasn’t at all. I pulled a number, sat waiting for less than five minutes, and went in to have my blood taken. According to what the lab person who saw me said, Dr. Rose had ordered a CBC (Complete Blood Count), and she loaded two vials with my blood and sent me on my way.

Next stop was a chat with a nurse in the Same-Day Surgery ward. For this, I had about a 20-30 min wait, and I ended up going to the restroom while doing so, and came out to the announcement the nurse was ready to see me. When I got in, the Nurse went over a form with me—and discovered Dr. Rose hadn’t ordered a Chem test, which was apparently also required prior to surgery. I asked the nurse if I’d be kept overnight to be monitored, and that got us on a discussion about the likelihood of Mom staying with me. In the end, the nurse made a note that it might be a good idea to keep me overnight. That completed my interview with her, and I went back to the lab.

When I entered, the phlebotomist who’d drawn my blood before was at the computer checking people in, and she looked at me and said, “Weren’t you just here?” I joked that I liked the lab so much I had to stop by to give more blood then explained that the doctor had neglected to order Chem labs. Someone else drew blood this time, a lab guy who I’ve gotten familiar enough with that I didn’t bother asking if he’d use a butterfly needle like I usually do; if his hands weren’t so steady and he wasn’t so good at preventing the standard needle from moving in my arm, I’d demand a butterfly needle, but he’s very good, so I kept my mouth shut and let him get to work. As he bandaged me up, he asked if this was my last stop, and I said it was, so he wished me a good afternoon.

Having had two surgeries the past ten years has definitely helped me this time around. I’m not as nervous or scared as I was even for the lumpectomy back in 2013. LOL—I feel like I’m actually getting to know the staff in the Same-Day Surgery ward, too. LOL

Hysterectomy Consult

This entry is part 40 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

On the 2nd of March I had my appointment with Dr. Rose. From what I understand—I could be wrong about this—she’s the one who performs hysterectomy surgeries for the VA Women’s Clinic. That’s why I saw her yesterday; this was my initial consult regarding me getting a hysterectomy of some sort as part of my ongoing cancer care.

The Women’s Clinic was redesigned a few years ago. Now when a patient arrives, there’s a little organized children’s play area to the right, surrounded in part by waiting chairs. We’re to check in at an electronic kiosk, and I was invited to do so upon my arrival about an hour before my appointment yesterday. I did explain I was so early because I was on transit and like to start early in case there’s some sort of delay, but the receptionist insisted I check in with a promise to explain things to Dr. Rose. So I checked in and sat down next to a table covered in women’s health care information; most of it seemed to regard heart disease.

For most of the next forty-five minutes, I read a book I checked out from the library. Just before a nurse came to call me back, I put the book away and tried to start up my Nook, but discovered it wouldn’t operate because power was too low, so I put it back. LOL Right after I got done putting my Nook back in my satchel, the nurse came out to fetch me.

We went to the far end of the main hall of the women’s clinic section and into a room there. Vitals were taken, and the nurse left me with assurances Dr. Rose would join me as soon as she was finished with her other patient. My mind suitably encouraged by the book I’d been reading, I thought on one of my own stories for the duration so I wouldn’t be too distracted when the doctor arrived.

I hadn’t long to wait. Maybe fifteen minutes later, Dr. Rose showed up. We shook hands, and she sat at the computer to access my files. For the next twenty mintues, we went over my medical history—the cancer, the medications I’m on and why, everything. Including my gender dysphoria. I was completely honest with her, explaining that though I’d probably not have any chance at all of getting the surgeries I need for my transition any other way, I was far more concerned with my cancer coming back.

She seemed to agree with my concerns about the cancer, and didn’t try to contradict me. We went over my current medication regimen for cancer care, and she agreed with my oncologist’s assessment that my lack of dramatic emotional reaction to being on the hormone suppressants was a good indication I’d deal with having a hysterectomy well.

Then she said I’d get a partial hysterectomy—my ovaries and fallopian tubes would be removed. I asked why, when I certainly wouldn’t be using my uterus after that—and wasn’t it another cancer risk to leave my uterus behind? Dr. Rose patiently explained to me that since I hadn’t shown to have either of the known breast cancer genes, taking out my ovaries would most likely prevent any sort of uterine cancer. She went on to tell me that the partial hysterectomy surgery was much less invasive; it’ll be done through small incisions on either side of my abdomen and in my navel. According to her, to take out my uterus as well would likely require at least one large incision that would require more recovery time and be much more uncomfortable for me when taking out my ovaries would do the job just as well.

Dr. Rose went over a general itinerary for my surgery as well, explaining that they have one day of surgeries for hysterectomies a month, but that April’s was canceled. Basically, I’m to fast the morning of the surgery like I did for my lumpectomy, I expect to have to shower with specially-provided soap, and I’ll likely be going into surgery sometime in the morning. I’ll also have to stay overnight for observation due to my CPAP machine, so they can ensure I don’t suffocate to death due to the surgical sedatives; I can’t say I’m disappointed about this and will make sure I have plenty of material to read while I’m stuck in a bed at the hospital until checkout.

My partial hysterectomy is scheduled for May 5th. I’m to go in on April 27th for another consult and to have blood tests and everything done. Dr. Rose told me if I had any questions about things to go ahead and give her a call. On the way out of the clinic, Dr. Rose led me to a wall of pamphlets and passed me ones on Preparing for Surgery and Laparoscopy. I grabbed an additional one, about Hysterectomy. Still haven’t read them, will probably get to them later on this month.

Oncology Appt. #3

This entry is part 39 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

On 16 Jan 15, I had my third check in with my Oncologist. It began like pretty much all the others have since beginning hormone suppressant therapy last April. I lingered in bed until I absolutely had to get out, then I went to the VA, had a meal, and then picked up my Leuprolide injection before going to see my Oncologist. As happened in previous check-ins, a resident saw me first. I have no idea what his name is now, mostly because what Dr. Colonna and I discussed following his initial visit with me blasted pretty much everything out of my head, and his name was apparently blasted out for good.

Well, the visit progressed as usual. Dr. Colonna came to talk with me, and since it had been about six months, she did another breast exam. She also had the resident perform one, and he was extremely thorough. While he performed his exam, she explained what to look for, commented that eventually breast density may be listed as an indicator to propensity for cancer, since denser breasts tend to get cancer more often, and basically went over things for the resident to remember in later exams. I don’t mind this at all. I like hearing what she tells them, because it’s just as informative for me as it is for them, even if she repeats things—after six or so months, I kind of need to hear it all again anyway. LOL

After she gave me a briefer exam, they let me put my top clothes back on and Dr. Colonna and I discussed my treatment. This time, she was able to explain that there’s research backing up her prescriptions of Anastrozole and Leuprolide with me, as opposed to something like Tamoxifen. Basically, it’s advised to prescribe these medications based on the “scariness” of the cancer—whether it was hormone receptive and spread to lymph nodes. Since my cancer had done both things, Dr. Colonna essentially pulled out what might be termed as “the Big Guns” with regards to my hormone suppressant therapy. The medications I’m on are much better at suppressing hormones than Tamoxifen is.

After that, Dr. Colonna went on to explain that she’d been considering what further treatments she could give for my cancer. According to her, she has concerns about the possibility of a recurrence of cancer, so she suggested she could see about having me meet with Dr. Rose at the Women’s Clinic to see about having a partial or full hysterectomy done. She suggested this now because she was testing how well I’d do on hormone suppressant therapy, and I’m apparently doing well (no emotional breakdowns, no craziness) before she considered offering a hysterectomy. Needless to say, I was excited to hear this, though my Oncologist made it clear she was willing to arrange this primarily as part of my cancer treatment only. I of course agreed to this.

Then, surprising me even more, my Oncologist suggested she has concerns about my breasts—even with the hysterectomy. Apparently, there is some possibility I may develop cancer again, even if there aren’t any hormones fueling the disease. Dr. Colonna discussed the fact she’d be happy to see about arranging for me to have a double-mastectomy—by Dr. Savarise, who did my lumpectomy—if I agreed to it. Of course, I was all for this, and not just because I’m trans and want rid of my breasts for that reason alone. One of my biggest fears is a relapse of the cancer, no matter what we do to prevent it, and having a double-mast would ease my fears a great deal.

After that appointment, I practically floated home. The following week, the Women’s Clinic called to make my appointment with Dr. Rose; I’m to see her on the second of March.

*Note: I may not post to this blog on Tues and Fri of the first week of February (1-7) as I have been summoned to Jury duty and may have to go in at some point that week; I won’t know if I’m going in until the evening of the weekday before. If I am able to post, Yay! If not, I’ll be back to it the following week. Unless I’m required to attend a trial as a juror; if that happens, I’ll make an announcement to that effect and guesstimate a time frame my blog will be on hiatus.

Oncology Check-In

This entry is part 38 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

This past Friday, I had another Oncology visit. This time, instead of getting my Neulasta injection after the appointment with my Oncologist, I picked it up prior to the appointment. This is so I wouldn’t be stuck waiting at the hospital to have it injected; a nurse has to do it, and the medication is refrigerated to keep it fresh because it is a powder-gel combination so it works over a long period of time. There are three-month and six-month doses, and I have the three-month dose.

Nothing’s changed with regards to my medication regimen. My doc said what I’m on now is better than the Tamoxifen, though I forgot to ask precisely how. Before my appointment with her, I went for blood draw, for tests for both her and my primary care doc, but the hormone results take 24-48 hours to return. I think the VA either has to send the tests out to another lab, or it just might be because something about the test requires more time. Next time I go to the lab and see I’m getting a hormone test done, I’ll ask the process it goes through and why it takes so long.

I may contact my Oncologist tomorrow to see if she’s had the results in, and if I do, I’ll try to remember to update this post with the news.

One thing my Oncologist did say was that if this medication regimen isn’t suppressing my hormones adequately, we may have to look into surgery to remove my ovaries. I’m sort of half-hoping it has to be done, and half-hoping it doesn’t, and the latter is because it won’t be a full hysterectomy, and I don’t really fancy going in for the remainder of the procedure at a later date. Still, if it’s required, I’ll do it. The last thing I want is to put myself at risk for more cancer.

ETA:

During my Oncology visit, I also received a breast exam, which I’m apparently to have done every six months now. I wanted to mention this in particular because I learned a couple things which are troubling to me. One thing, which I’ve noticed in my breast self-exams, is that it’s impossible to press deep enough to the front of my chest wall. This is desirable because it enables the examiner, whether it be the woman herself or her physician, to feel through the entire breast. The main issue preventing this complete examination is the density of my breasts, which my doc places at a level of three or four on a scale docs apparently use to indicate difficulty/ease of breast examination.

When I asked if this was bad, she said that breast density—the denser the breast is—was an indication of the propensity of cancer (higher density = higher likelihood of breast cancer). My Oncologist went on to add that right now, there are no decided recommendations on how else to examine breasts. What I got from her explanation is that though there are possible other methods, besides mammograms (which she noted may not work as well because of my breasts’ density), which may work for discovering breast tumors, there’s a great deal of uncertainty about whether or not they’re actually even as helpful as a mammogram, never mind any more helpful.

Also:

My Estrodiol is apparently suppressed to a level which pleases my Oncologist, so it looks like my current medication regimen is working. Yay.

Cancer Anniversary

This entry is part 37 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

August 6th marked the first anniversary of my discovery of the cancerous tumor I underwent treatment for this past year. Not surprisingly, I remember the discovery of the lump down to the half hour: between one and one thirty in the morning while I was in bed.

I have mixed feelings on the past year. To be honest, after I learned it was cancer, I was kind of meh. Shocked. Throughout most of my treatment, to be honest. I just did what I needed to. Not sure exactly where on the “Oh, no, it’s cancer!” spectrum I am now. Parts of it seem a little surreal now when I think about them. Other things I remember with sharp clarity.

Today after my shower, I looked at my scars. The one under my arm is a nice healthy color, just a bit pink, and well-healed. I was worried about it for a while. It didn’t seem to heal completely until after the radiation treatments and had a bruised/purplish look to it until a couple months ago. I didn’t start putting my antiperspirant on my right underarm until May because I was afraid it would somehow affect the scar. I experience no pain from this scar now, though occasionally I’ll have phantom sensations in the numb area beneath my arm, and I have to be careful when I shave so I don’t cause abrasions since I can’t tell if I’m giving myself razor burn, never mind an injury.

My breast scar has been in good condition for about six months or so. It healed up very well, I think because air wasn’t restricted from it. It’s very faintly pink/purplish, and I can’t feel scar tissue beneath it any more, which is probably an indication that the stitches there have been absorbed. This scar has no pain either, and my right nipple seems to have recovered, though the areola is light brown instead of the same rosy pink as the nipple and areola on my left breast.

The portacath scar is the best looking of the lot. It’s visible when I wear my tank tops for square dancing and isn’t even vaguely pinkish any more. Aside from a little pockmark-like spot at one end, it’s almost completely gone. I’m no longer afraid of the weight of my right breast pulling this scar open, and I was really afraid of that for a few months.

A portion of my right upper arm is still numb from the nerve cut the doctor made to reach my lymph nodes in the surgery to remove the cancer. I’m not getting as many phantom sensations from the location as I used to. Every so often, I’ll itch around the edges of the numb area, but in a spot where scratching actually gets rid of the annoyance.

My hair has all grown back. It’s about 1-2 inches long now and curlier than it was before, though this is evident only after a fresh washing. Day after wash, it’s unruly and won’t do what I want it to, so I’ve resigned myself to near-constant bad hair days. LOL

Oncology Checkup

This entry is part 36 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

Last Friday, I had an Oncology checkup. This is part of routine post-cancer care for breast cancer. I believe I mentioned here previously my Oncologist called to briefly discuss the possibility of putting me on Tamoxifen instead. Well, this visit was sort of a follow-up on that call.

Like usual, I first saw an intern who was working with my doc. She and I went over the past few months regarding my experiences with the medication regimen I’d been originally placed on, and I mentioned to her my hands had begun intermittently itching. She checked my heart and listened to my lungs, ensured I didn’t have edema in the legs, and went to give her report to my Oncologist. I remember her first name was Amy (’cause it’s very familiar to me), but not her last name.

When she returned, she had my Oncologist, Dr. Colonna with her. My lungs and heart were checked again, then Dr. Colonna sat and we got into the main topic of my visit: what medications would be best for my post-cancer care.

We once again went over the benefits and side effects of Tamoxifen and my Anastrazole-Leuprolide regimen. My main concern with the Tamoxifen is the possible stroke side effect. I know thousands of women have been on Tamoxifen for years without such a side effect, but it’s a main worry for me. I’m concerned about the osteoporosis which the Anastrazole-Leuprolide regimen can cause, but not as much as I am about the stroke issue.

Dr. Colonna wasn’t strongly determined I should switch to the Tamoxifen, and she listened to my concerns about the side effects issues, then suggested I remain on my current regimen for about five years and possibly stop all hormone suppressants. I disliked that idea, mainly because I know that at 45, my body will still be producing hormones; my mother’s menopause didn’t end until she was in her fifties, and I told Dr. Colonna I was expecting my natural menopause to last that long—so I thought I should be on some sort of hormone suppressant therapy until at least my fifties.

She agreed with this, and we eventually worked out I’d remain on the Anastrazole-Leuprolide therapy for five years, then I’d switch to Tamoxifen. I’m to go in annually for DEXA scans of my bones to ensure I’m not losing too much density in them. I suspect if I do, I’ll be switched to the Tamoxifen sooner, but Dr. Colonna said my initial scan showed I had excellent bone density, so she felt confident I could remain on my current regimen for at least five years.

I told her about the itching in my hands, how it’s intermittent, and she explained it may have something to do with the early menopause my body is going through. So, it’s hormones and nothing can be done about it. LOL It’s not that bothersome, so I was just glad to have an answer for why it started up.

I also told Dr. Colonna I’m trans. I probably should have long ago, but I didn’t want Mom present to try to downplay it. It is important for all my caregivers to know, even if I’m not going to be able to do much—if anything—toward transitioning anytime soon.

While I was up at the VA (actually, during the waiting period for my medication refills, including the Leuprolide injection which needs to be administered by a nurse), I made an appointment with my primary care doc to have a regular checkup. My last one was a female exam, and I need to tell Dr. Milne (pron. mil-nee) I’m trans and what my projected plans are. Now that I’m finished with the intensive cancer care, I can better focus on my trans issues, and I’m looking forward to doing so.

Radiation Follow-Up

This entry is part 35 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

This won’t be a very long post. Honestly, my radiation follow-up was rather anticlimactic, which is what any cancer patient wants, I imagine. I certainly did. Dr. Poppe was pleased with my breast’s condition, as it has made a complete recovery from the burns it had developed.

Over the course of the visit, I saw a resident as well as my doctor. Resident happened to be going through his second residency—he used to be an OB/GYN doc, taught a little, and decided to care for cancer patients. He did not look old enough to have had teaching experience.

Both the resident and Dr. Poppe gave me breast exams, and my doc discussed with me my hormone suppressant therapy regimen. There was some slight confusion, as Dr. Colonna had put in my notes she wants to put me on Tamoxifen instead of the combo therapy I’m on now (she called me about this some few days ago). Once all that was straightened out, Dr. Poppe and the nurse chaperone filled out a form for me to give to the receptionists regarding my next visit for radiation follow-up. It’s to happen a couple days before my birthday in November. LOL

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