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Posts Tagged ‘breast cancer’


Mowing the lawn.

September 17, 2010

I apologize for this delayed posting.  The verdict: the mass in my left breast was not malignant and did not warrant a biopsy. Whew! Another bullet dodged.

Let me repeat the good news, the test result was negative for malignant tumor. Woohoo!

The doctor said I should continue to be observant for any change in my body.  Cancer has me very aware of any subtle changes.  I observe any discoloration in my nails, pattern changes in my stool movement, any abnormal lumps, and pain in my abdomen.  They always remind you that early detection is key to fighting cancer.  Now, I know how to do breast self-examination.

It is like mowing the lawn.” Nurse Michelle explains.

She was tasked with educating me on how to do a breast self-examination.  This is embarrassing for me.  I feel like being let in on a dirty secret.

Use the flat pads of your three middle finger, in a bowing position, as you move up and down your chest. Like mowing the lawn.” She demonstrates the action for me.

“Now you do it.”

Breast exam

Oh..oh.  But I don’t do lawns, it is taken cared of by the condo association. I comply nonetheless. Using three levels of pressure (light, medium, and deep) I make small circles in a small area then move to the next area going up and down, up and down. So this is how women do it. This cancer has taken me to place I never thought I would experience. Okay, ladies, we have something in common now. I know how to do breast exams. Hehe…

My wife met me at the hospital’s waiting area and was very happy about the results of my exams. Thank you, Lord.  We survive another challenge.

Cheers.

P.S. What’s next? The last long run before tapering off, a 20 miler, this Sunday, September 19.  Then, my monthly chemo maintenance before the race.  What a life.

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Is it fibroadenoma or breast cancer?

September 10, 2010

(NOTE: Yesterday, September 9, I went to visit my oncologist unannounced for a consult.)

ell, you know breast cancer is better than colon cancer.” Dr. M, my oncologist, tells me with his usual directness but means well.  He tells me this as checks the lump around my left nipple.

For the past couple of weeks I felt this lump in my left nipple. At first I thought it was due to an irritation caused by nipple rash from running long miles. Since then I have protected my nipples with Body Glide (anti-chafe balm) and Bandaid. The irritation subsided but the lump stayed.

Let me feel your left armpit.” He instructed.

I feel a small lymph node in there.” He adds.

Oh shit, I thought. Not again. I saw the anxiety coming across the face of my wife. For a moment, I saw her spirit deflate then she tried to recover. I just came back from my trip, dropped my bags at home, and asked her to accompany me to Dr. M.

Don’t worry. We can treat this. Breast cancer in men are rare; about 2 in a million. In all my experience, you maybe just the second one. Let’s do an ultra-sound guided biopsy procedure done to rule this out. We need to schedule it as soon a possible.”

I am tired, doc. I need some peace.” I blurted out.

I know, Bo. It is in your genes.  Don’t lose hope.  We can treat this.” He said.

I love this guy. His is blunt but his warmth grows on you. I remember meeting him the first time in March 2008 and he used the C-word on me right away, not knowing I didn’t know that I had cancer. Ooops.

My mind is again trying to absorb the shock or the potential shock of this new finding. When will it stop? When? I try to minimize the risk of it coming back by eating healthy, run and exercise, and once a month chemo maintenance program.  How could this nightmare happen again?  Now, I am looking at a biopsy and perhaps more surgery to remove the lump in my left breast. Then what? More chemo? Radiation? Ugh. What the F@#$!

One at a time. One mile marker at a time, Bo.

Dr. M asks me if it is ok if his medical students come and checks me. I suppose this is their chance to diagnose a man with potential breast cancer. A rare specimen in front of them. Anything to help educate people on cancer. Two medical students feel my breast and armpits. Then they check my stomach with all my incisions. Now, I know how a cadaver feels.

Then I imagining myself should they remove my left breast. I would have so many scars; one from colon resection, another from liver resection, and maybe left breast removal. Now, I will really look like Frankenstein when bare-chested next summer. I also will have something in common with my friend LisaK, a breast cancer survivor.  Only, she had implants done when they removed her breast…hmm, I wonder if I can. Wow, strike that thought.

So what’s next? Right now, an ultra-sound guided biopsy this Tuesday, September 14. Another Tuesday date. Then the verdict. Fibroadenoma (benign) or breast cancer.  I am not taking bets.

Tomorrow is my group run, 14 miles. Quality time with my wife.  Peace and solitude.  Pain bonding time.  My happy place where nobody can touch me.  I just got to make sure my nipples are protected until Tuesday.

Cheers.

P.S.  Today, I watched Standup2cancer show.  I watch this every year and support it.  It brings home the message for those of us living with cancer.  Thanks.

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It’s complicated*

April 12, 2010

(*Footnote: The title of this post reminded me of the 2009 movie ‘It’s Complicated‘ starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Most often, it is also used as common American expression to describe a difficult predicament/situation.)

As if saying why does life have to be complicated?

————————————-

ast week Monday (April 5), my wife and I found ourselves in the patient room waiting for Dr. A, the liver surgeon (see related post ‘Meeting Dr. A‘). This appointment was already set several weeks ago to assess the resectability of my liver. The previouls week (March 31 and April 1), I had a series of scans of my liver, chest, and whole body (PET).  The PET scan came out negative with no cancer cells detected, soI was curious to find out what Dr. A would recommend.

“Wow. You look burnt, Dr. A. I hope you had fun!” I jokingly said upon seeing him walk through the door.

He smiled and said “I took in too much sun while on vacation in Arizona.” I suppose you forgot to put sunblock. 🙂 We exchanged further pleasantries and then he got down to business.

“As I had previously mentioned in our last meeting, we have a surgical review team that go through all our cases every Friday, and your case was among those reviewed.  For your case, it was reviewed by the radiologist, oncologist, and surgeon. They reviewed the results of your scans and medical background, and came to the conclusion of surgery to resect the tumors in your liver.”

There it is again. Reality looking me in the eyes. I could not reconcile in my mind why these learned doctors would recommend resection of my liver when my scans were negative. Why? Seeing my apprehension, Dr A. continued.

“I understand that the PET scan shows negative presence of cancer cells. To me this is the litmus test of the resectability of your liver.  The negative PET scan, tells me you have responded to your chemo treatments. If you did not respond to your treatments or your PET still showed positive presence of cancer, it is useless to resect your liver. No point in opening you up when you don’t respond to chemo.  It does not buy you anything.”

Ok. That make sense.

“Also, the negative PET scan results does not mean that your cancer is not going to come back.  For now, nothing can be detected or identified.  A resection of your liver would increase your chances of remission or the cancer not coming back. I know this is a lot to absorb, so you might like to think this over before deciding.”

He gave me other details of how long is the recovery period and if it will be partial or full resection. Right now he is looking at an open surgery to take out the right lobe of my liver. Gulp! Recovery is about four weeks in order for the left lobe to grow and take over. I would have to give up drinking or drink in moderation since I am left with one lobe.

This is complicated, but if you think about it I am being given an opportunity to increase my chances of remission. My right lobe for a better life. It is no different from the choices given up by other cancer patients, like LisaK, a breast cancer survivor of 11 years. Lisa is my yoga-mate and I recently got to know her more.

She is a graphic artist and entrepreneur with her own company (Pisa Design).  Eleven years ago, she was in the same predicament I am in now.  To increase her chance of remission she had a double mastectomy; moreover,  she even went further to have her ovaries removed. Now, how does that compare to me giving up drinking and her giving up up the chance to have kids of her own?  Cancer makes give up things for a sliver of hope of remission.

You have to give up something in order to get something of value. Sounds familiar. It happens everyday, like paying for goods and services; but put this into perspective of something of real value.  It is like giving up something for a chance to smell the roses for many more years, hold hands with your wife or love ones, a chance to see one more sunrise, or a chance to stand at the starting line of the NYC marathon or London marathon. Would I give up a liver for that?

Yes, I would.  It is not complicated.

Cheers.

PS: I would know in the coming days when my liver surgery will be. For now, I being weaned out of chemo toxins in my body. To help in getting rid of the toxins, I am running, cycling, cross-training, and doing more yoga.  Hopefully, I will have an easy recovery from surgery, as well.  I will keep you posted.

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