A Mother and her Two Daughters

23 August 2010

Super Docs and more medical updates

Yes, it’s been a week since making a new blog post, but the past ten days have been unusually busy for me.  Activities were many - preparing for my company’s leadership retreat, Anna-Lee’s first week at the U of A, and THREE half-days spent at UAMS meeting with the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker.   Seriously, here is my most recent health update and what I learned last week from my Super Doc medical team. 

On Tuesday my appointment was with the great Dr. Makhoul, my oncologist.  This was our first official appointment since the news of my pathology report, so we spent the first ten minutes just hugging and crying and celebrating.  Isn’t it wonderful to have a brilliant physician who can cure you AND is also capable of making merry!  I will continue to be under his care for the next five years, and it’s comforting to know that he maintains a hand in all that is decided about upcoming cancer prevention procedures.  (click here for another great UAMS story about Dr. Issam Makhoul).  

The medical reality for me, at this time, is this – curing cancer is one thing.  Now the job is to keep it from recurring.  IBC has a high recurrence rate so the next several months, ongoing care is still on the radar screen and will be for the next five years. 

To that point, my appointment Wednesday was with Dr. Kenneth Gardner, my new radiation oncologist.  Dr. Gardner joined the CARTI/UAMS team three years ago and comes highly recommended by Dr. Klimberg.  His clinical interests include breast cancer and he seems to be very much up-to-date on the most recent studies regarding IBC and how radiation therapy treatment can reduce the chances of recurrence.  He has a lovely approach to patient care and was very informative about the radiation therapy regime that lies ahead.  Once again, the UAMS team, along with the CARTI staff, continues to amaze me with their passion for healing the whole patient.  As I stated earlier in this blog, the radiation regime will mean 5 treatments each week for five to six weeks – a total of 25 to 30 treatments.  Dr. Gardner explained that his target will be my chest and the lymphatic system (i.e. neck and under my arms, too).  Between now and then, I can only dream about my beautiful radiation markers. 

And finally, on Thursday I met with my reconstructive surgeon, Dr. James Yuen.  He has been at UAMS since 1993 and has performed hundreds of surgeries, most of them involving cancer patients.  Along with his very kind demeanor and a gaggle of students who are always following to learn his specialty, he is also a wound specialist, and has been a godsend to me treating the infection I developed.  This Thursday will be the first of two surgeries by Dr. Yuen to recreate my body back to the way it used to be.  The first procedure will include placing an expander, a hollow sack, in front of my chest muscle.  The expander is equipped with a valve, through which saline can be pumped. Over the course of a several weeks, more and more saline will be pumped into the sack, gradually stretching the skin back to shape. When the skin has been stretched enough to accept a permanent implant, the sack is then surgically removed, and the permanent implant put in its place. Dr. Yuen is truly brilliant about this specialty.  I only wish I could transcribe all the details he has provided, but I'm simply not smart enough.  I will just say this - his descriptions about the various procedures ahead make me in awe of modern medicine.  

The big advantage of doing reconstructive surgery before radiation treatment is this . . . the presence of radiation is like a bad sunburn, making it very difficult to stretch the very dry and sore skin after treatment.  The down side of doing this surgery at all – the process of expanders is fairly uncomfortable, and it involves additional surgery, to replace the expander with the permanent implant.  However, I’ve made the decision to return by body back to normal, and that’s the end of the story. 

With all of that said, my new timeline looks to be:
  • Reconstructive surgery #1 – this Friday
  • Reconstructive surgery #2 – mid- or end of October
  • Radiation treatment – to begin mid-November or early December

 All in all, my cancer journey looks to be a yearlong adventure.  But when I hear the many stories about others who have battled these vicious cancer cells for years, I plan on being among the fortunate ones.  Today my personal goal is to park cancer on the 2010 shelf and begin 2011 with a new life, a new attitude, and enormous appreciation for those who have blessed me with this gift.  I continue to wake up every morning, look out my bedroom window, and give thanks to God and my UAMS medical team for the new day. 

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

I know there are plans ahead for me.  And I promise to live up to those expectations. 

1 comment:

  1. Hey Stacy - you always inspire me . . . when you led the Education session for LGLR Class XX - you made me want to change the world. Now, after getting turned on to your blog while reading the wonderful High Profile in Sunday's AR DemGaz - you've done it again! Your passion is contagious and I'm drinking your KoolAid. Go Girl!


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