“Here We Go Again”

“Oh, just when you think, you’re in control
Just when you think, you’ve got a hold
Just when you get on a roll

Oh, here it goes
Here it goes
Here it goes again”. -OK Go

Cancer strikes again!

I got the call today from the radiologist. “The biopsy did come back as cancer.”

*record scratch*

Wait, what? How did we get here? (Warning: Loooooong post ahead)

It all started back in April……

*******

I had gotten my second COVID shot, in my left arm, on April 10th, and about a week later, noticed a rash spreading across my chest. It started on the outside of my left breast, and was spreading across my upper chest. Super red, super itchy. I assumed it was a reaction to the vaccine – no big deal. After a week and a half of it just getting worse, not better, I went to my primary care doctor. She prescribed a steroid cream and said if it didn’t improve, to see a dermatologist.

Two weeks later, with no improvement, I scheduled a dermatology appointment. I saw a physician’s assistant, who prescribed a different steroid cream and to come back in a couple weeks. No change, kept the next appointment. She did a shave biopsy from my upper right shoulder – numbed me up and scraped off a layer of skin. She also prescribed a third steroid cream, which ended up being a lower strength version of the first cream, so of course it did nothing.

At the followup, I saw the actual dermatologist and they had biopsy results. The results were “consistent with an autoimmune connective tissue disorder” – but no official diagnosis. The term ordered a slate of lab work.

Around the same time, I discovered a lump at my left breast – sort of in the armpit area. I scheduled an appointment with my gynecologist.

I went to the Maldives for a week. It was awesome.

When I came back, I had my gynecologist visit, and she confirmed the lump and scheduled me for a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound. I also had my next dermatology appointment, and he had no real answers from the lab work. He started me on Plaquenil and said I should see a rheumatologist, as I had also developed significant joint and muscle pain.

So, if you’re keeping track – that’s four doctors, a slew of appointments and tests, and that takes us through late August.

I had my mammogram and ultrasound in mid September. The results were abnormal, and the radiologist expressed concern for inflammatory breast cancer. She referred me to a breast surgeon for followup. I went to see her, and after an exam, she said she didn’t think it looked like inflammatory, and that the lump felt like a lymph node, but she ordered a needle biopsy of the lump and an MRI.

The scheduling of these tests proved to be … let’s call it a challenge. First it was scheduled for a day I was going to be out of town. When I called to reschedule, there was suddenly talk of a second biopsy, and over the course of the two weeks that followed, it didn’t get any less confusing. Even up until the day before the MRI and second biopsy were scheduled, there were questions about whether the surgeon actually wanted the second biopsy. Everyone ended up deciding that the radiologist had talked the surgeon into it, and so we went ahead with it.

The needle biopsy went fine – smooth, easy – I got to watch, which was cool. No pain. The second, a stereotactic biopsy, not so great. I’m not sure if they didn’t wait long enough for anesthesia, but the initial placement of the biopsy tool hurt like hell. The actual sampling went fine – but that first inject? Yowza. The MRI? No can do – I’m a fat girl and my ass wouldn’t fit in the machine (literally). Then… we wait.

Today, I was supposed to see the surgeon for follow up, but as of yesterday morning, we had no biopsy results yet. No biopsy results = nothing to follow up on, so we cancelled. That was around 10 AM. Fast forward to 2ish, and I got the call from the needle biopsy radiologist. That one was clear – benign, normal lymph node. Wahoo.

Immediately after hanging up with her, I got the call from the second radiologist with the stereotactic biopsy. Not so lucky with this one – this one is cancer.

That set off a chain of events. I got rescheduled to see the surgeon tomorrow at 8:30 AM. I also got rescheduled for an MRI at a different place for tomorrow afternoon.

All of this, and there’s still something autoimmune happening. For a handful of reasons, I couldn’t see the dermatologist or rheumatologist until October. I saw the rheumatologist last week, and he, too, ordered a slew of lab work. I don’t have those results back yet. I see them both on Monday.

So here we are,

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