Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Breast Biopsy

I had my guided MRI breast biopsy on Friday. It was a rare super rainy day here...and my sister had been in labor with my new niece since the night before. So luckily lots of distraction meant a lot less stress and anxiety leading up to the appointment.

The hardest part was inside the MRI. Being moved in and out without being able to see anything always makes me a little dizzy. Then I was getting a bit anxious about the enormity of everything and wanted to take some deep breaths to calm myself down. But then you aren't allowed to move at all, so I'm trying to take breaths that don't feel deep enough which feels a lot like the beginning of a panic attack. I imagined myself freaking out and squeezing the emergency button in my hand. But I calmed myself well enough. 

It's also a little weird being 30+ years younger than most other women around, but I'm special like that...

Results should take 2-4 business days so I'll know a lot more next week...meh.

I'm pretty resigned to the realty of it, although I'm definitely hoping for a clear path to not super aggressive treatment. And I want to speak with the experts about this whole mastectomy thing. :/

Oh and literally, my sister had very serious complications during her c section and she's fine now, but it took two hours and extra doctors. Geesh. But my new niece is perfect.

The day after, I was a little worried that I had an infection because I had pinkness over a lot of my breast and it was warm, I also continued to bleed just a tiny bit throughout the day. But I woke up today and everything looked much better.

The pain was not bad at all! I took Ibuprofen the day of before bed, but just one time and that was it. It feels kind of bruised if my breast is pushed or kicked (toddlers are fun...I told him about my boo boo and he kissed it a few times then promptly forgot).

Mr. GG has been traveling a ton and will be out of town when I find out the results this week, but I imagine we'll have a sit down appointment next week if the results are positive which he will be here for. I'm not freaking out, but I'm ready for more information.

Here's the detailed biopsy write-up:
I got there early (it's a little disconcerting walking into a "Cancer Center." Very real.)  and had time to get a smoothie. They told me just to eat a light lunch in case I got nauseous. 

After they brought me back, I changed in the little locker room. I planned ahead this time, so I wore comfy leggings and I brought a nice pair of grippy socks. Both of those things made me feel a little bit more comfortable (and warm). First the nurse explained everything. Then I got my IV. Then one doc came in and explained everything and then another doc did the same! So I definitely had the all of the necessary info.

Here's the process: first I went go in the MRI for about 7 minutes with the breast compressed between two plates. It wasn't super tight though. Then they check the images and pull you out (you stay lying down the whole time, in or out). Best case scenario is they don't see the lesion. But for me, immediately they said, okay I'm going to numb the area because the actual biopsy comes next and in my case was done by hand by a doctor. Some are done by machine. He numbed my breast with lidocaine. One of the numbing needles pinched more than the others and I flinched...and they reminded me not to move, thanks.

Then I went back in for another few minutes, then out again, then the did the biopsy. They took 5 samples with a core needle. I could feel three of them. They felt like needle pricks. Then they place a stainless steel "clip" in the incision to mark the spot of the lesion so it shows up on mammogram. It will not set of airport sensors or interfere with future MRIs. Then they hold pressure on the wound for 5 minutes. Literally. Last, steri-strips were placed to close the wound. which will fall off in about 5 days.

Of course that's not it. Lastly, you have to get a mammogram to make sure the clip shows up. 

Then you get dressed and leave! (I was given small circular ice packs to put in my bra to reduce swelling and bruising and antibiotic ointment and band-aids to cover everything with which I change every day.)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Library Haul Review #1

*A lighter post for today I think. : )

I first went to the local public library with Dylan when he was about 18 months old. didn't go very well. Since then, I bought tons and tons of books for him, most good, some so so. We needed an activity one evening, so I decided it was time to go back.

And I also think it's going to become a new series since I've enjoyed writing other book reviews: Our Favorite Books Toddler Version.


(I'm going to go on a 4 star rating system. 4 = Love it! 3 = Like it. 2 = Meh. 1 = Dislike.

1 - Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Mo Willems ***

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I'd heard a lot about Mo Willems since becoming a parent and I knew that Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus was one of his top titles. It's cute that the bus driver talks to the reader so Dylan can answer back, and it's funny listening to all of the ways Pigeon tries to convince you to let him drive, but I just don't love it. Maybe when Dylan is a bit older (and more manipulative) it will hit closer to home.

2 - Knuffle Bunny, Mo Willems ****FAVORITE****

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This is definitely my favorite kids book of the moment. In this book Willems draws cartoon characters on top of real black and white photos. It's really nicely done. And there are quite a few reasons it connected with our little family: a laundromat...Dylan loves to go to the laundromat with his Dad. So at the laundromat, the Dad accidentally puts Knuffle Bunny in the washer and he and his daughter leave without it...and she freaks out. She tries to tell him, "Aggle, Flaggle, Klabble!" But she can't talk yet. Dad respond, "Yes, we are going home!" Then she goes into a full on tantrum, at one point "She went boneless." Dylan doesn't get that one yet, but I'm sure all of you parents do! In the end, Knuffle Bunny and the little girl are reunited and she says her first words, "Knuffle Bunny!"

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We really enjoy reading this book together, but the funniest part is when Dylan is just doing his thing and then he looks over at me and says "Snurp" with the cutest smile on his face. Or "Aggle, Flaggle Klabble." I'm pretty sure he knows they aren't real words which is pretty fascinating and he knows that it's funny when he says them.

3 - That is Not a Good Idea, Mo Willems ***

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This one is a little dark. It's written like a "talky" movie with white letters on black pages after images. A fox seems to court a duck so that he can take her home and cook her in a soup. After each fox and duck page, a little chick says "That is NOT a good idea," "That is REALLY NOT a good idea." "That is REALLY, REALLY NOT a good idea" and so on. But in the end, the duck pushes the fox in the pot and she and her chicks eat the soup. Like I said, a little dark and probably suited for older kids. Definitely good to show irony and/or a reversal of expectations. I think Dylan just likes the "That is REALLY NOT a good idea" pages.

4 - Lemons are Not Red, Laura Vaccaro Seeger ***

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This one is great for young kids who are just learning colors. Each page has a cut out of an object that is the wrong color. "Carrots are not purple." And then you turn the page and the cut out is over the correct color. "Carrots are orange." It's cute and clever and simple also with beautiful painted images. Perfect for a toddler mastering colors.

Image result for lemons are not red seeger

5 - Storm Whale, Benji Davies  ****

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This is a newer book and it's really sweet, but Dylan didn't love it (probably suited for older kids). A little boy, Noi,  lives with his dad on the ocean and one day during a storm, a small whale washes ashore. The little boy puts the whale in the bathtub. Eventually he shows his dad and his dad says they have to take it back to the ocean. His dad realizes that Noi is lonely and gives him a big hug. Sweet, somewhat sad story, with beautiful images.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What it's like to wonder whether you have cancer...

In a nutshell, it's a mixture of feeling sick to your stomach, mixed with moments of shortness of breath, following by long deep breaths. I think that's the basic feeling.

During the first week I did a lot of research. Maybe too much, maybe not. I learned about the stages of Breast Cancer (I'd be somewhere between IA and IIA depending on lymph nodes) and looked up False Positive rates on Breast MRI ("high" but less high for someone like me who repeats it every year). I read a really terrible study that said survival rates were lower for young women than older women, ostensibly because there are different mechanisms behind cancers that appear that early and most research has been targeted toward older women. Luckily I got a really great blog comment from a survivor at that point and I stopped researching (for the most part).

My anxiety seems to peak as I get closer to appointment times. During the rest of the week, I go between forgetting about it and vague worry.

The hardest part is waiting.

One weird thing is that I haven't really told anyone. Just my husband, mom, sister, and my best friend (whom I almost didn't tell). With IVF and all that ensued, I shared left and right. This feels different. Also, I don't really know anything yet.

Here's my timeline so far:

  • April 24 - Breast MRI (at Hospital B)
    • This freaking appointment was at 6:15am! And DH was out of town so the nanny had to come super early. Then they weren't ready for me and I was sitting and fuming. I had also warned them that I can be a hard stick so I was extremely upset to learn the tech would be starting my IV and I even asked him if he was good and said if he wasn't, I wanted to reschedule (it's unlike me to speak up that much). He did a really good job of joking with me and relieving the tension. AND he got my vein quickly and easily. Bonus points. I chose to listen to "Pitch Perfect" on Pandora during the breaks in the MRI where you can actually hear the music. I call the rest a mix between being inside of a washing machine and an electric dance party. It's really weird and loud, but the only part that really bothers me is laying on my face for that long. Sometimes it begins to really hurt, but you can't move. It's also really cold in there. (Wear yoga pants if you ever need to have one because you can keep on any bottoms that don't have metal. I forgot at this appointment.)
    • Later that day I got a follow-up call from my Breast Specialist saying they found a "suspicious" lesion in my left breast at 6 o'clock. She explained the rest of the process and I scheduled follow-up appointments that day.
  • April 30 - Diagnostic Mammogram and Ultrasound
    • Because my lesion was detected on a Breast MRI, the most sensitive type of imaging, I definitely needed a biopsy. Ultrasound is the simplest method of biopsy, they see it, they biopsy it right there. Mammogram is next easiest. They image it, they mark the coordinates, you go (later) to get a biopsy of those coordinates.
But of course neither of these methods worked for me. There is a bright side. The lesion is very small. That is better no matter what. And I can still slightly hope that it just doesn't show up when I go back to MRI. But no matter what, I had the major anxiety leading up to this appointment and then no answers and more waiting.
  • May 1 - Call back from my Breast Specialist
    • She ordered my MRI Guided Biopsy (requires referral to different hospital).
    • I call the Referral Coordinator at my hospital who says to call the other hospital on Monday and to call her back if they don't have the referral by Tuesday.
  • May 3 - Schedule MRI with Hospital B
    • I was very pleasantly surprised to get a call from Hospital B on a Sunday to schedule my biopsy.
  • May 8 - Guided MRI Biopsy
This step hasn't happened yet, but I know somewhat what to expect. IV for contrast like a normal Breast MRI. I'll be laying still for 30-40 minutes both in and out of the tube. I still can't picture how they actually do the biopsy. Is someone on their hands and knees below me? Can they raise the table up high like a car shop? I guess they insert a small stainless steel marker at the site of the lesion to mark it for potential extraction later. That seems pretty weird to me too.

I imagine I'll have results early the next week. That's when the conversations will get much more interesting...

Monday, April 27, 2015

#MicroblogMondays - Breast Cancer? Updated 4/30

What a title right? I've posted before about my BRCA2+ status (the breast cancer gene) and how I go through yearly screening, both mammogram and breast MRI. For years, I've tentatively planned to do the prophylactic double mastecomy, but it's stayed in the future...because I really don't want to do it.

I had my yearly breast MRI last Friday, and I got a call back that same day. Shit. I have a "suspicious" .8 cm lesion at 6 o'clock in my left breast. The call came from my Breast Specialist who manages all of my care and screenings. I'm pretty calm when I hear bad news. I'm getting more used to what it's like, so I knew that I didn't and wouldn't have any questions then, but I would soon after. I needed some processing time.

I immediately called my mom (who survived breast cancer at age 44 and gave me my lovely genes). I had already done a quick google search on the reliability of breast MRI and saw that it's notorious for false positives. I also texted my sister who is also BRCA2+ and talked to my husband.

Then the Breast Specialist called back which was perfect because I was ready with some questions. What is a biopsy like? (It's just done with a needle.) So they didn't see this on my mammogram the week before? (No.) I understand there is a high rate of false positives, but since this wasn't on detected a year ago, that's probably bad, right? (Yeah, it's worrisome.).

I also quickly posted on my BRCA Surveillance FB group to see if anyone else had a false positive. And I got quite a few. I was feeling pretty relieved. In my head, there was a 50/50 chance that everything was okay.

That night I was pretty numb, a little snappy at DH. But finally after Dylan was asleep I sat there stewing because he was just watching TV and I didn't want to bring it up myself. Luckily he did and saved himself from my wrath - although I did explain to him how he was almost about to get a huge diatribe. I couldn't stop myself. But he came through.

I went about my life this weekend. On Saturday, I thought about it almost not at all, but yesterday it started creeping back in.

So last night I did some new (better) research. I'm not in the category of just any person getting a breast MRI, I'm BRCA2+ and I have yearly screenings. Lo and behold, there is a study comparing those exact two groups of people (yearly and one time). In that study, the false positive rate for yearly screenings was just 5.6%. Fuck. A different study placed the percentage at 13%, but still, it's extremely likely that I'm in the big group and have...nope can't say it.

So I continued to research. What are the stages of cancer? I'd be anywhere from Stage 1A to 2A depending on whether lymph nodes are involved. That's based on the size of the lesion (under 2 cm). So that's good. But still Stage 1 sometimes uses chemo and Stage 2 commonly does. Although my survival rate would be very high (high 90's) and I truly don't believe for a second that I will not be cured, my mom and aunt are both survivors and my mom's was not caught this early, I really don't want to do chemo.  I've already wondered if I can have my own (long) hair cut and made into a wig for myself. Then I figured that wouldn't work, so maybe if I donate my hair, I can get similar hair? Damn.

And that also means I'm probably going to have to decide very soon whether or not to do the double mastectomy. And I probably will. I mean if my genes are starting to turn at age 34, do I really want to go through this over and over? And that means that I will lose my nipples and have a cut all the way from my nipple to my ribs on the outer side of my chest. Will it affect my marriage? How will it affect me? Not to mention, it's major surgery and I have a 2 year old.

So on Thursday, I go in for a biopsy. If they can find the lesion on ultrasound, the biopsy will be quick and done right there. If they can't, they try mammogram. If they find it on mammo only, I'll have to go to the main hospital to be biopsied. And if they can't find it on either, I'll have to go back for a MRI guided biopsy at a different hospital. I have heard stories where what they see just isn't there the next time...but I'm not very hopeful for that kind of outcome.

I'm tired just thinking about it.

UPDATE - they couldn't see it on the mammogram or ultrasound so I'll have to go in for an MRI guided biopsy. I guess it's good its so small, but MRIs are no fun and now there's more waiting.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

NIAW - Why I Never Felt Alone

I really didn't ever feel alone. I mean I felt like I was a member of a somewhat small unlucky minority, but I never felt alone.

The biggest reason is that a close friend of ours went through the exact process we did about a year prior to me. She shared every step of her process. And at the point she was going through it, I was already thinking/worrying we might have to too since I had already been trying for a year.

I also knew of multiple people, including my sister, who went through miscarriages while I was TTC. Multiple people talked about them so I knew just how prevalent they are.

I also had a very close friend who had been TTC about the same amount of time as me. She never did interventions and was never planning to (and we both conceived within two weeks of eachother), but I knew she was in the same boat.

I wrote a post years ago detailing how many people I knew in real life that were going through infertility. The numbers are astounding...but the only reason I didn't feel alone is because people were talking.

I started this blog and found the infertility community pretty early in my journey and that really brought everything together. I had support on a daily basis from people who were in the exact same shoes. I never felt comfortable in mom's groups with "regular moms" and now I call many of those IF bloggers friends and many of our children are around the same age.

After I got pregnant, I did post about our struggle in my FB announcement and I immediately got a response from a childhood friend that I wasn't very close to. She was going through IF right was our newborn child photographer (tough job for IF!), and a coworker. I always tell people, they can ask me anything...medicines, doctors, procedures..., but I think the most important part is that I told them I had been there too. That they are not alone.

If you haven't told anyone about your infertility, I encourage you to do so this week. On FB, in person, whatever works for you, because I promise, you will make at least one person feel that they are not alone.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Our Favorite Books - Toddler Version

Full disclosure: I was an English major. I am an English teacher. I have always loved to read and I will do my darnedest to develop the same love in my son.

So far, it's going pretty well!

I started regularly reading to Dylan sometime in his first year and it became the backbone of our bedtime routine sometime during that first year. Now it's always (always) "one more," but I pretty much limit it to three.

Here are our current favorites. And it's amazing how fast they change! Dylan can be pretty fickle with his books!

A Ball for Daisy

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This is a book with no words. It's kind of annoying to read a book with no words when you are tired, but it's actually great practice. Talking about the pictures and asking questions about a book is a fantastic reading strategy. The lessons in this book came in handy when we recently went to a kid's birthday party and got toy balloon swords. Of course they all popped eventually. But we talked about how Daisy's ball popped too and she was so sad, but then she was okay later.

The Little Blue Truck/Little Blue Truck Leads the Way

Little Blue Truck Board Book -  Houghton Mifflin Com - Toys"R"Us

SUCH a cute book! I prefer the original to its successor, but just because they're so similar. The first has more animals and the second vehicles, but otherwise they have very similar language and sounds, and of course and nice lesson at the end. Dylan knows these books well and will fill in the words when I stop in the middle of a sentence. My favorite: Me: "Help! Help! Help! Cried the Little Blue Truck." Dylan: "Beep! Beep! Beep! I'm stuck! I'm stuck!" Now lots of things seem to be "stuck" around the house. Daddy squeezes Dylan, "I'm stuck! I'm stuck!"

Shiny Drivers: Fire Engine Freddie/Ted the Tractor

This are tiny little books that we've been reading forever, but they are still a favorite. And mommy never complains when he picks a 3 page book for me to read before bed! Ted the Tractor makes an appearance in Fire Engine Freddie which is a fun lesson in making connections.

Quiet Loud

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We bought a boxed set of Leslie Patricelli books at Costco when Dylan was very small and I keep adding more when I see them on sale. They are simple and cute, but with lots of fun pictures and situations to talk about. Dylan absolutely knows what quiet means. At night when I start to count (meaning I'm about to walk outside) he says "mommy quiet!" I just added Yummy, Yucky although I wish it included pooping in the tub as one of the yuckies! Fa la la is also really cute for Christmas-time. No, No, Yes, Yes has also provided us with a great way to talk about do's and don'ts around the house. When he had just started talking, I could often hear him rambling, "no, no, yes, yes" in his crib, over and over. Oh...and Potty lives in our bathroom right next to the potty that Dylan occasionally sits on. We've been taking the slow road to potty town. Hoping it'll start to click soon!

Good Night Gorilla

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This is another book without words, parents beware! I didn't know just how great Dylan's obsession with keys and locks would become, but since Gorilla unlocks all of the animals cages throughout this book, I don't think Dylan will ever tire of it. The best part is when the Zookeeper's wife realizes all the animals are sleeping in her bedroom. I don't think I can accurately type the exclamation of surprise Dylan and I make, but it always makes both of us laugh. Then we say "No, no animals, you need to sleep in the zoo!"

Harry the Dirty Dog
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This was one of my childhood favorites and it's exciting that Dylan likes it to. Basically Harry runs away from home because he doesn't want a bath and gets very dirty playing around the city before he decides to come home. Who doesn't like to explore a bunch of ways to get dirty?

I wish I could get him to let me read Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site and I Love you Through and Through, but those are currently out of favor.