So, I was very happy with the outcome of my appointment with my surgeon. He said that most women when they learn of the presence of any lesion that has abnormal cells they want it removed immediately. After discussing it, Dr. Lutfi and I agreed to proceed with active surveillance, a wait and watch approach.
So, I had yearly mammograms and in August 2015, during one of my check-ups a tumour was discovered in my right breast. A follow up biopsy was done; I received a phone call very early one morning from the doctor’s office with an appointment for that week. I remember arriving to Dr. Lutfi’s office and there being a nurse with him – that when I knew we were in for some serious news. Dr Lutfi explained this was not DCIS; it was Stage 2, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Estrogen +. He explained that I would need surgery -- what he called a partial mastectomy, although he said some people refer to it as a lumpectomy. More tests were being done on the tissue to find out about the HER2 status, whether it was + or - . I would have surgery to remove the tumour and some lymph nodes; more tests would be done on what was removed and the tumour board would decide on the post surgery adjuvant treatments – radiation, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.
The nurse, Elizabeth, took us into her office where she pulled lots of booklets from her shelves and gave them to us. When I asked her for my pathology report; she hesitated briefly but then went to ask the doctor for it. I was so happy to have the report in my hands as we left the clinic. Having it let me turn to one of the resources I regularly recommend to women. Breast Cancer.org. where they had a section devoted to reading and understanding your pathology report.
My surgery went very well with no complications and I soon found myself at home with coloring books, delicious meals, exercise regimes and painkillers. I am one of the lucky ones that has a great support circle and I know how important it was. Rehab was quick and at the follow up with Dr. Lutfi, he referred me to an oncologist. I am not sure now who that was, but I asked if I could see Dr. Thirlwell instead; he had been my sister’s doctor – she had gone through breast cancer two years before – and I thought that made sense for me to see him, as well as Deena’s one of the Board members of BCAQc. Both had great things to say about him. No problem, Dr Lutfi just changed the name on the referral.
Having my pathology report was also very useful when I decided to ask for a second opinion about Dr. Thirlwell’s treatment plan. I was worried about my health beyond my breasts. Living with Type 1 diabetes for most of my life, I have always been aware of heart health and I wondered about the effects of chemo and radiation on it. Were there choices for the chemo drugs that would be better than others on my heart? Dr Thirlwell was aware and seemed confident in his plan. The late Abby Lippman asked her brother, Marc Lippman, a renowned breast cancer researcher and oncologist if I could contact him. He asked me for my pathology report and what Dr Thirlwell was prescribing. He was 100% behind the plan and I felt my worry dissipate.
I was given the name of the radiologist I would be seeing and googled Christine Lambert’s name. One piece of research that she had co-authored caught my eye: DEVELOPMENTS IN PARTIAL BREAST IRRADIATION, so on first meeting her I asked if this could be a good thing for me. She of course explained that no, it was not for patients like myself whose cancer had spread into the lymph nodes and that we would be proceeding with 25 sessions of external beam radiation.
I have had great care at the MUHC and I wish all women with breast cancer the same. Remember it is a woman’s right to know – so ask all the questions you want, ask for reports, ask for the doctors you want, ask for a second opinion if that is something you want, it is your right.