Monday, May 18, 2009

Update: It's a tumor!

So I received the biopsy results last Thursday. The doctor confirmed that it was cancer.

I'm still doing fine mentally and emotionally... but I will admit that some small part of me was hoping it was a piece of errant bubblegum or something. (Isn't that what they used to say when we were kids... "Don't swallow your gum! It'll take seven years to digest!!!" I was kind of pushing for the highly improbable possibility that a piece from the late 90's had somehow migrated from my intestine to my flabby man-tit. A guy can hope, right?)

So Michelle and I went to the surgical oncologist's office on Friday and spent a couple hours discussing next steps.

Per the doctor, I have non-invasive ductal in situ carcinoma. At least that's what the doctor thinks. They won't know eactly what's going on until I get into surgery and they can look at it. But the doctor is confident that I've caught this early enough that it's totally curable.

Which is great.

So, what's next?

Well, on May 27th, I'm going in for a double mastectomy. The doctor and I decided that we'd take care of both my moobs at once as it's so rare that someone as young as me has male breast cancer. My doctor's of the opinion that it's better safe than sorry. And, if I have a double, I may not need to do chemo because we'll remove all the tissue that has cancer, or may have the potential to get cancer.

As for my lymph nodes, the doctor reiterated that they look good, but she'll still pull a few of them. This whole process sounds like a ball of suck, but it's better this way and will reduce complications later on.

Here's the deal... back in the day, they used to do the mastectomy and take 30 - 40 lymph nodes on the affected side. The problem with that is that it caused a condition called lymphedema, which was a painful swelling of the arm because the lymph nodes that used to pump fluid and toxins out of the arm were gone. Now, they take what are called sentinal nodes, and usually only have to take a half dozen at most. This reduces, but doesn't eliminate, the risk of lymphedema

What they do is, before my surgery, the doctor injects me with a radioactive serum called technetium-99c. It's the same nuclear medicine they usen to detect bone cancer with. They will take the serum and inject it into my nipple and aeroeola prior to the surgery. When they get me on the table, the doctor will use a small Geiger counter-like wand to trace the serum's path and use it to find the lymph nodes that drain my chest. She'll remove a handful of them, and immediately send them to pathology while I'm still in surgery. They'll dissect the lymph nodes, scan them for cancer, and then let my surgeon know whether they're clean or not. (I have visions of some messenger running back and forth from the OR to Pathology and back to the OR like a WWI courier carrying top-secret documents in a diplomatic pouch).

If they sentinal nodes look good and cancer-free, she'll be done with the lymph nodes. If there's cancer present, she'll start digging out lymph nodes like she's digging for gold.

I'll spend the night in the hospital, and then end up back home for three weeks or so of healing. There will be drains in my chest, by the way. Yuck.

So... what are possible complications?

Oh, there's a whole bunch!

For instance, there are nerves in the same area as my lymph nodes. There's a rare possibility they may get cut and that I may have decreased mobility in my right arm. I may also lose feeling in my upper arm. And - this is the part that really chaps my ass - I'll need to watch for lymphedema for the rest of my life. Which means I can't give blood or get shots in my right arm. I can't expose that arm to the sun because a mild sunburn can cause lymphedema. AND IT MEANS NO TATTOOS.

Jesus-Titty-Fucking-Christ! I wanted to get a half sleeve tattoo. I was within a few weeks of getting one, in fact, before all of this shit started. Mrs. Zombie and I argued some over the weekend because I was of the mind that I should go get one - RIGHT NOW! - before the surgery. She nixed that because we should be spending our money on other things... but dammit!

Fucking cancer.

Anyway... I'm happy because we have a plan of action, and some of the veil been lifted on what our next steps are. I'm feverishly trying to get things squared away because I won't be able to work or do any strenous lifting for three weeks or so. Yesterday, I spent the day doing stuff around the house that I'd planned on procrastinating about for at least MOST of the summer.

I pulled down the kids old swing set and took the Sawz-All to it (Dear, dark Pagan Gods... thank you for bestowing upon us the total kickassedness that is the craftsman Sawz-All reciprocating saw. It is the greatest tool EVER!). I then rototilled our new garden (Sorry, kids! You're too big for the swing set and so that area is now a garden. Ooops!) and put up rabbit-fencing. I wired a new floodlight on the back of the house in an effort to give me a better view of the back yard at night and somehow prevent the yearly dousing of my idiot dogs because they STILL HAVE NOT FIGURED OUT THAT CATS DON'T HAVE WHITE STRIPES.

Finally, I spend a couple hours building a rain barrel on the side of the house. We're trying to teach the kids to be more environmentally conscious and Zombie Boy helped me build it and attach it to the downspout. He's excited for the first rain to see how much water we get and Wolf Girl can't wait to use the recycled rainwater to water the garden... although it's now where she used to spend EVERY DAY playing on her old... ... swingset. (Punctuate that with a typical nine year old's dramatic sighs and over-acted shows of 'being strong' and you can get a picture of what dinner was like last night).

Anyway... I'll try to update as info comes available.

Thanks again to all who've expressed sympathy and offered to help. I really do appreciate the incredible outpouring and it was wholly unexpected. Everyone's been so wonderful.


Jeff said...

I wanted to say-- thanks for this blog. I like to be able to know what's going on, but I don't want to ask you every time I talk to you (causing you to feel like all anyone ever talks to you about anymore is cancer, cancer, cancer), so this is a way to have both.

So be advised, if I don't ask it's because I'm getting the scoop here.

Dr. Zombie said...

That's cool, Jeff... I appreciate that you find it useful. You, more so than a lot of others, can understand the cathartic quality of writing it out. Hopefully others will find it of equaly value...

Thanks again, bro...