radiation oncology

On Friday, September 28th, I had a radiation oncologist appointment with Dr. Ashish Patel, MD at Holy Redeemer’s Cancer Center. He was warm and had a wonderful sense of humor. The purpose of the appointment was to educate me about the different types of radiation therapy that would most likely be available to me. The options were 6 weeks of radiation Monday through Friday, a more intensive span of 3 weeks of therapy Monday through Friday, or a balloon catheter device which would involve 1 week of therapy twice daily Monday through Friday.

At this point I seem to be a candidate for the balloon catheter device which delivers intensive therapy directly to the site where the tumor was located. It is a relatively new procedure, and research only spans about 5 to 8 years. Dr. Patel says that definitive assumptions are not made until a procedure has been utilized for at least 10-20 years. However, all early research is showing that there is no marked difference in recurrence of cancer when using the balloon catheter compared to a 3 week course of therapy. Because the catheter delivers the radiation to a specific site, it is less invasive and side effects are frequently decreased. This will be my choice of therapy as long as surgical pathology does not indicate I need to take a different approach.

Dr. Patel was concerned about a positive ANA test in my blood work. ANA is indicative of conditions involving connective tissue such as arthritis or lupus. Since I am asymptomatic for any connective tissue diseases, it has proven to be a puzzle. Several doctors have recommended that I pursue further testing with a rheumatologist. I have been ANA positive for about 5-6 years, and I am still alive and healthy! My primary care physician keeps tabs on it but has not pushed me to go for further diagnostics. Apparently patients who are ANA positive and have connective tissue issues, are are not good candidates for radiation. Hence the concern.

This visit, along with other concerns about bloodwork results, and constant scrutiny and recommendations began to make me feel like I didn’t own my own body anymore. It was an odd mixture of frustration and sadness. So much advice was being thrown at me by the medical community and loving friends, it was overload and left me feeling a sense of a loss of control.

. . . and so it is

beginning the journey

On September 11, 2012 I learned that I had breast cancer. The diagnosis came in the form of a text from the doctor at Doylestown Hospital’s Women’s Diagnostic Center. I had been so certain that the suspicious nodule was benign. My first reaction was shock, and then I cried. But then my innate resolve took over. The first thing I did was text my three friends who had invested much of themselves over the past 6 months as I went through repeated mammograms, ultrasounds, doctor visits, and biopsy.

After three visits to Dr. Dahlia Sataloff, MD at the Rena Rowan Breast Center of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, I opted to pursue my surgery and treatment with Dr. Beth DuPree, MD a highly regarded breast specialist here in Bucks County. I had been given a copy of Beth’s book titled THE HEALING CONSCIOUSNESS about six years ago by my friend Nina Biller. Knowing my fascination with and passion for holistic healing modalities, Nina knew I would love the book. I did. Little did I think that one day I would be seeking Dr. DuPree’s guidance and professional expertise to guide me on my own journey with breast cancer.

I am very fortunate that my cancer was caught early. It is classified a Grade 1 cancer, and Dr. DuPree told me I would be fine! I am optimistic, ready to embrace the journey, and learn from the experience.

Among the literature I received from Dr. DuPree was an article about a patient who started a blog as a way to keep her family and friends updated on what was happening. She spoke of exhaustion not permitting her to expend the energy in answering telephone calls, emails, and texts from all the persons who care. I am already experiencing this. While it is very important for me to hear from you, I know that I will not be able to respond to each expression of love and concern. That is why I decided to start a new blog, hoping that you will put the link in your “favorites,” and check in for my updates. I promise to be open and honest about my feelings and encourage you to leave responses/comments if you wish. Along with notes about my journey, I also plan to share my photography.

I am blessed to have so many friends and such a wonderful support system. At this time I want to express my deepest gratitude to my friends Fran Lucas, Nan Muska, and Wendi Huttner who have been supporting me through the earliest stages of this journey. Fran, friend and RN, has accompanied me to doctor appointments and offered medical guidance. Nan Muska, friend and reflexologist, took me to the hospital for my biopsy and came to the house immediately after I received my diagnosis. Wendi Huttner, friend and Nor’wester Readers partner, has also offered wonderful suggestions in pursuing medical advice and pulled extra Nor’wester Readers’ responsibilities. All three of them have given me huge emotional support as I’ve navigated my way through the earliest stages of this journey.

The closing words in Beth’s book are . . .and so it is — hence the name of my blog. She offers “The Lessons” for all of us to embrace.
Be present in the moment.
The only constant in life is change
Fear paralyzes — Knowledge empowers
Life is about your journey, not the destination
Although it may be that medicine treats the symptom, it is the physician’s love that heals
Lead by example

. . .and so it is.