The last few weeks have been a nice respite from intensive medical treatment, although it hasn't been completely devoid of hospital visits. The Friday of Christmas week Beth was delighted to get out her port-a-cath tube that had been inserted into a larger vein by her heart for the chemotherapy. This had allowed the drugs to be given without irritating the veins in her arm. However she did find the port-a-cath itself to be kind of irritating too, though just skin discomfort.
This past Monday Beth had to go the the Grand River Cancer Centre to receive her infusion of herceptin. She will continue to get it every three weeks until September. This is a drug that is used because the breast cancer was determined to be HER2+ (that stands for Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2-positive, for those that just need to know). Actually how this treatment works is fairly complicated so I'll just use a couple of internet quotes to say that it is "a targeted therapy that is designed to work on a specific area of the cancer cell to reduce it's ability to spread". It also "alerts the immune system to destroy cancer cells to which it is attached." At any rate they recommend continuing this treatment for a full year. The side effects of herceptin are much less than the other chemotherapy drugs, although it can result in heart problems, so Beth is having regular echocardiograms (every 3 months).
On the weekend Beth went up to emerg early Sunday morning as she was concerned about a possible infection in a fingernail. The doctor there prescribed an antibiotic but she went to our family doctor on Tuesday as an abscess needed to be drained and since then it's been healing up fine. Beth was wanting to be extra careful not to have any complications that might delay next Monday's surgery.
Beth has also been calling around trying to arrange to have her parathyroid surgery before the radiation begins. This would hopefully stabilize her calcium level so that she would not need to receive any more of the drug used to bring it down. We meet with the surgeon in Toronto at Princess Margaret Hospital the last week of January to determine a suitable date for that surgery.
Tuesday was the presurgery appointment at St. Mary's, which involved some tests and a meeting with the anesthetist. So Monday (January 20th) is the big day - Beth is scheduled for a double mastectomy at 8:00 and apparently the surgery takes about 2 and 1/2 hours. Most people are shocked when they find out that this procedure is considered day surgery (that is, she won't stay in overnight) but apparently that's been the common practice for the last year or two. She will come home with 3 drains - one for where each breast has been removed, plus one along her right side as they will be removing lymph nodes under her arm. These stay in for 7 to 10 days and a community nurse will come in regularly to change the dressings, etc.
Beth says that although it has taken her some time, she now feels that she is ready to face this next stage in the journey. We realize that there will be an adjustment period getting used to this new reality. At this point she has not made any decisions about reconstructive surgery.
We certainly are grateful for everyone's thoughts and prayers at this time. We are thankful for skillful doctors and nurses and continue to trust in God to guide them. Your ongoing support has been so important and appreciated.