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Medical Travails part 1

June 9, 2018

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

bouquet of white and purple roses

You may have noticed a paucity of posts over the last year, or so. There is a reason for that. We have both been involved in medical concerns.

We had a rough spring and summer, then in August,  DaddyBird complained of having a sore throat that wouldn’t go away. Then he noticed that when he was physically active the pain would spread down to his chest. Uh oh, angina. He saw a doctor who referred him to a cardiologist who referred him to a hospital for an angiogram. November and early December involved two angioplasty procedures to clear his blocked arteries.

My part in the medical drama of 2017 actually started in October 2016 when I went in for a routine check-up and a lump was identified in my right breast. Several years ago when we were still in the USA, I found my first breast lump. I freaked and assumed the worst because I have a significant family history of cancer. It took a while to get a doctor appointment, and then due to the joys of HMO medical care, it took another two weeks before I could have a diagnostic mammogram. That lump turned out to be a liquid filled cyst, nothing to worry about, although the delay of medical care gave me plenty of time to think the worst.

This time, the OB/GYN looked at a same day mammogram and said we need an MRI. So I did the MRI. After the MRI, she referred me to the surgeon. I looked at the written reports of both the mammogram and the MRI. They were both vague. “It might be something or nothing.” (That’s not a direct quote.) When I got to the appointment with the surgeon, he had no idea why I was there. The OB/GYN had not communicated anything. #*%($)#*%*! He scrambled around and finally found the written report for one of the tests and said “It’s probably nothing. Come back in 6 months.” I went away quite displeased. The clinic sent me an automated survey asking about my visit. I let them have it with both barrels. I named both doctors and explained how they had dropped the ball and I was not pleased. (I haven’t received one of these survey requests since. Probably threw their customer satisfaction statistics off.)

So … six months later, I go back to this surgeon. He is much more attentive and prepared this time. He gives me three options – Wait and see, Biopsy, and Lumpectomy. I cannot think why I would want to keep this lump and have to be periodically checking on it to see if it has turned against me. So, lumpectomy it is. Let’s just get rid of it. So, May of 2017 the first lump is removed, easy peasy. The procedure is so minimal that I am back at work the next day. The pathology report came quickly and the surgeon said “nothing to worry about.”

Yes, you read right. I said “first lump.” By the end of August I had a second. This time it hurt. Constant pain. Back to the surgeon. They do an ultrasound. I had seen the first lump and the second on the ultrasound screen and they look very different. The first was like a walnut, the second looks like an ominous black cloud. The lump is close to the suture for the first lumpectomy. The surgeon says “not to worry, what has probably happened is that the space where the lump was has filled with liquid, come back in one month.” He gives me ibuprofen for the pain, completely ineffective for pain relief.

So … back in one month, now the surgeon has changed his tune. He consulted with someone who actually understood the ultrasound and it is not fluid. Now he says that the first surgery may have triggered other tissue to grow into a lump.  Once again, my options are – Wait and see, Biopsy, and Lumpectomy. This time I opted for biopsy, thinking it could be done quickly. HA! At this clinic it could only be done once a week on Saturdays, so it was scheduled for 2 weeks hence. Then I got a call postponing it for another week. 3 weeks. After 2 weeks I was laying in bed with my boob hurting so bad that I couldn’t sleep and knowing that it was getting bigger. It seemed clear to me that the surgeon was guessing. I decided a second opinion was needed.

Right before the first lumpectomy, the insurance company had recommended a different clinic with surgeons who specialize in breast health. I had brushed off that suggestion because I didn’t want to delay. I wanted that lump out and it seemed straightforward. Now that things are more complex, I attempted to make an appointment at that clinic. The person who answered the phone spoke only Chinese. So, I tried the website “make an appointment” form, which did not work. So, I contacted the insurance case nurse who had suggested the clinic in the first place by email and asked her to help me make an appointment. She did. (Our insurance company is freaking fantastic.)

In late October, I switched doctors and went in for a biopsy. Since it was supposed to be a simple collection of a bit of tissue, I was awake for this procedure. Once she opened it up, she just took the whole thing out. I don’t recommend vivisection. Not fun.

At the beginning of September the second lump was 2.5 cm. By the end of October when it was removed it was 5 cm. Doubled in size.

It was supposed to take 5-7 working days for the pathology report, but it actually took 3 weeks. A very long difficult 3 weeks. I went back to the original clinic and got copies of all the reports. Now that I had the original pathology report I could see that it said “borderline” not “benign.” The second pathology report finally came and this time it was “malignant.” The report took 3 weeks, but by 2 weeks I already had a third lump.

A third lump.

Turns out I have a rare type of breast cancer. The good news is that it rarely spreads beyond the breast. The bad news is that it tends to reoccur, as I can attest after a third lump.

I found this out only by research on the internet. The main obstacle all along has been language barrier. If one speaks NO Chinese (to my shame) and  the doctor speaks only enough English to get by, it can be impossible to have the kind of in depth conversations that are necessary with major illness.

So, next step, another surgical procedure to collect tissue that had been around the second lump for on-the-spot testing. If it was malignant, the surgery would turn into a mastectomy. If not, I would get to keep my mangled breast. It was a big week for us as DaddyBird was to be in another hospital for his second angioplasty. He got me settled into my hospital and was there when I came out of surgery, but then was off to his own hospital experience. Different hospitals, so we communicated via chat and video call. We were both released on Friday.

The results of the third surgery – removal of the third lump and the test of the neighboring tissue was not malignant. Two boobs enter, two boobs leave.

With exactly one week between release from the hospital (for both DaddyBird and I ) and our flight to Prague for Christmas with BabyBird, we tried to leave the stress behind and enjoy the holiday.

In late January, I had a post surgery ultrasound in search of lump number four.

Surprisingly and happily, there is no lump number four. So far, so good.

So, now you know why I have posted so little of our adventures over 2017.

Medical adventures continue …

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