More than two years after my diagnosis, I found myself re-reading my old posts in this blog. I realized I never shared in detail what happened to me after my diagnosis. Maybe it was me trying to move on after all the drama so I stayed away from retelling my Phyllodes battle further. I probably just couldn't admit it then - and was just using motherhood as an excuse to not blog anymore about it - but I was in fact actually trying to bury the memory in the hopes that I can finally have peace of mind (as if that would really do the trick). So what's changing all that now?
Last Saturday, I received this email from a lady named Shaoie, also a Filipina, saying she was recently diagnosed with Benign Phyllodes Tumor. She apparently came across this blog when she was researching on Phyllodes. Why do I have to mention her being a Filipina? Well, this is the first time for me to meet somebody who was diagnosed with the same type of tumor as mine. I have been in touch with a support group for sometime now but I have never come across somebody from this region. It was a mix of emotions for me. But then I had to snap out of it and help her because I think that's the reason why she emailed me. She needs some support of sorts. She was having trouble understanding her condition and from her email it seemed like she was her doctor's first phyllodes patient. She was in this cloud of uncertainty and I can definitely relate. Our difference probably is how our respective doctors handled our case. So let me summarize what took place the last two years and share what I know of this tumor.
From the onset, my doctor - Dra Felina Cruz - already suspected that what I had was Phyllodes having seen and handled a few cases in the past. She did not conclude immediately but she prepared me emotionally for it. When the frozen section results came in and confirmed that it was indeed Phyllodes, I was ready. And since my tumor was really large (it ate up my entire left breast) we went for the conservative path and decided for mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy. That somehow saved me from ever worrying if I got good margins or not because when you are diagnosed with Phyllodes getting wide, clean margins is important. It does not guarantee that the cancer will not recur but somehow it widens your chances of actually not getting a recurrence.
So I had the mastectomy and surprisingly, recovery wasn't as hard as I'd imagined it to be. Apart from me being saddened that I wasn't lactating anymore (I still aimed to breastfeed my 3 month old daughter then), it was easy for me to accept that the left side of my chest is totally flattened. It grossed us out at first seeing my heart throbbing from my chest wall but that eventually turned out to be entertaining (finding light out of a tragedy really). Life was almost normal at home for 2 weeks after my surgery.
The next stage was dealing with the pathology results. It came out malignant. That's when things got really depressing. I think with me somehow losing hope, my husband felt hopeless too. We struggled a bit. But I had to move on and deal with the succeeding tests that I had to take in order to make sure the cancer has not spread. I was immediately scheduled for a mammogram and breast ultrasound. My doctor also ordered for a CT Scan with IV contrast of my abdomen to make sure my lungs and liver are still okay. Thankfully everything came back as normal as it could go (I had 4 benign nodules on my right breast which had to be monitored every 6 months and I have a fatty liver).
Then lastly came the management plan for my cancer. My surgeon did not want me to undergo anymore radical treatments - radiation or chemo - because there aren't enough studies proving these two can actually prevent the cancer from coming back. What we agreed then was for me to be closely monitored for the next 2-3 years. Check ups every 3 months then breast ultrasound every 6 months. Annually, I needed to have a mammogram and CT Scan of my abdomen. I've been religious with all these. Even if I go through an annual bout of Scanxiety (I will talk about that on a separate post), I gather all the courage I can pull and complete these tests. At least once a year, I also make an appointment with my oncologist and a neurosurgeon to make sure all areas are covered (thank God for health cards).
Everyday we all deal with uncertainties. Mine is this battle with Phyllodes. Sarcoma is an aggressive form of cancer and Phyllodes is that type. Each time I feel an ache, the thought would nag me for days. My life doesn't stop there though. And you know when you meet people who have gone through far worst than you and yet are fighting strong, God seemed to be talking back and telling you "Hey Kid! You're still alive. So learn to live!" So I try to do that. I get obsessive with my diet, sleep and exercise on some days but I'd rather do that than let myself be engulfed with morbid thoughts. We are all given choices on how to live our lives. I'm done living mine in fear. I choose to enjoy life with my family and loved ones from this day forward.
|About to be discharged from the hospital after my mastectomy. |
Bye bye Phyllodes!