Thursday, December 31, 2009

Health update ....

I am grateful to at least have some clarity around one of my health concerns. I met with my surgeon yesterday afternoon to discuss the results of the pathology report from the removal of the lump in my breast. Her nurse had called me last week to let me know that "no invasive carcinoma was identified." My diagnosis was the same as what I had back in May when they removed the first lump - "atypical ductal hyperplasia" ... essentially cells that are pre-cancer and are showing signs of going haywire! My surgeon was a little more concerned this time, however, and wanted to confirm with the pathologist if we had now crossed over the line to cancer with atypia/pre cancer cells showing up twice in the same site. Essentially I am again in that very gray area ...she said some pathologists may say it's cancer, however, she trusts these pathologists and according to them there wasn't sufficient evidence yet. Their report reads "the changes are quantitatively insufficient for but borderline on low grade ductal carcinoma in situ..." This go around, I also have two versus one site where atypical cells have been found. The options given were the same as what I was given back in May: 1) close surveillance, 2) hormone therapy/tamoxifen or 3) double mastectomy. The risks associated with option 2 (with not great odds of a positive benefit) are too great so option 2 is not even an option. My surgeon understands that and supports it. At this point, I have chosen to remain on option 1 - "close surveillance". In addition I will be seeing an oncologist for a second opinion and to discuss alternative options. I will also be seeing a holistic doctor (in addition to my acupuncturist).

My partner asked my surgeon if atypical cells always form lumps and if that's why I had another lump ... she said no. Unfortunately she said there is no way to know where these atypical cells are and they can be seen only at a microscopic level. I have truly been blessed to have had these lumps appear and to notice them because most often atypical cells go unnoticed until it's too late and they cross that frightening line over to cancer. I know the truth is that i'm in that very gray area ... an area where my surgeon says some may consider it low grade DCIS. I guess i'm not ready to choose option 3 (double mastetcomy) unless I know for sure that I have cancer. I have, and I will continue, to do everything I can to take care of myself and create an internal environment (through acupuncture, meditation, nutrition, etc.) where cancer cells will not have an opportunity to grow or thrive. I will continue to be proactive about my health in pursuing alternative treatments.

My second health concern -- my digestive issues -- is not so clear cut. Yesterday I woke up with stomach pains. My body continues to not be able to digest fats. Most of the time I don't have pain but maybe 1-2 times a week they hit me and literally suck the life and energy out of me. My blood work for the pancreatic enzymes came back. Lipase levels dropped from 79 to 58 (the "normal" range being 0 - 59). Amylase levels were in the normal range but on the high end of the spectrum. I have an appt to see my gastroenterologist on Jan. 14th. On the phone he had indicated a possible next step would be an endoscopic ultrasound of the pancreas. Part of me says, I can live with these symptoms .... the other part of me knows better. I hear a voice inside of me, and I think it's my Papa talking to me, "Marilou, listen to your body ... don't ignore the signs. Don't wait till it's too late." Maybe if Papa had listened to the early symptoms he would still be alive? I made a chart of my weight loss. I didn't realize that I was still losing weight. Since August, 2008 I have lost 35 pounds. In the past 7 months I have lost 8 pounds. My acupuncturist tells me that 8 pounds is a lot ... that's 7% of my body weight.

Over the holidays, my partner and I took a picture of ourselves .... it's a great photo of us but I remember looking at my face and saying to my partner, "I have bags under my eyes. I look gaunt." My partner said to me, "you've had bags under your eyes for about 8 months now," and as if she could read my mind she said, "but you still look great!" In my mind, I was thinking I look sick. In my mind I was thinking, I look so tired. Truth is, I am fatigued a lot. I have come to adapt my life to what my body is physically capable of ... i guess that's not so bad as I'm listening to my body.

As 2009 comes to a close, I reflect on all that this year has brought to me. Yes, I have had health challenges .... but more than anything, I am grateful ... truly grateful for my life. I am ready for 2010 and whatever that may entail ... I have always found comfort in the 23rd Psalm and will continue to believe in God and in some higher power/being to watch over me:

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name' sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: For thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.

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