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Archive for June, 1997

Yesterday Ken and I had the follow-up visit with my surgeon. They removed the drains, and I’m healing just fine from the surgery. I even went to my creative movement class this morning, and really danced!

The pathology report was disappointing. 11 of 16 lymph nodes were involved. It’s invasive lobular cancer. They couldn’t give a size to the tumor, because it’s lobular (as I understand this, it means it tends to be in lots of little strings rather than one big lump). They did slides all around, and found evidence of cancer in all four quadrants of my breast. The pathologists are continuing to study the tissue and we’ll have a fuller report on Monday.

I’m meeting with the oncologist, Dr. Martin Oster at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, tomorrow morning.
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D*mn! It would have been such good news to have heard you had a “clean” path report. Even so, a clean report is only a way of shoring up our denial system; not a bad thing, but it CAN be self-deceiving. What this WILL mean is that your treatment will be more aggressive, even MUCH more aggressive than it might have been. The BMT adds risks, but mostly it means they’ll give you stronger poison to kill the cancer. You have excellent medical advice and have been brilliant at using it; I’m sure you’ll continue doing it.

The “punch in the stomach” is cruel, but this is the second time for you and you came through the first one. Now it’s a matter of stepping up to the treatment and getting on with fighting the disease. . . .

Anyway, I’ll keep praying for you as you go into battle; it IS winnable. Good Shabbas, too.

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D*mn! It would have been such good news to have heard you had a “clean” path report. Even so, a clean report is only a way of shoring up our denial system; not a bad thing, but it CAN be self-deceiving. What this WILL mean is that your treatment will be more aggressive, even MUCH more aggressive than it might have been. The BMT adds risks, but mostly it means they’ll give you stronger poison to kill the cancer. You have excellent medical advice and have been brilliant at using it; I’m sure you’ll continue doing it.

The “punch in the stomach” is cruel, but this is the second time for you and you came through the first one. Now it’s a matter of stepping up to the treatment and getting on with fighting the disease. . . .

Anyway, I’ll keep praying for you as you go into battle; it IS winnable. Good Shabbas, too.

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Feeling Fine

We all continue to be amazed at my recovery. I’m really glad we chose not to do reconstruction – this surgery was much simpler and, so far, nearly pain-free.
It is a bit of a challenge to regain the full use of my arm, and it’s important to do this. I’ve found Diana Stumm’s book, “Recovering from Breat Surgery, Exercises to Strengthen your Body and Relieve Pain,” enormously helpful (I got it from http://www.amazon.com, on recommendation from the book list on http://www.mediconsult.com). With the help of her exercises, I’m already brushing my hair and emptying the dishwasher with my left arm. I’d recommend this book as a gift to anyone having lymph node dissection (which usually comes with a mastectomy or lumpectomy).

I even walked a couple of blocks to our nearby synagogue for the tail-end of Shabbat morning services this morning, where I got a royal welcome. The rabbi stopped in the middle of his sermon to express his delight and amazement that I was there so soon after surgery. I felt really joyous to be able to be there.

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Back Home

I’m back home after surgery! I need to get more sleep right now, since my private duty nurse woke me at 6 a.m. so she could do her job properly. But otherwise I’m feeling surprisingly well. I haven’t even needed any pain medication so far – I just took two Tylenol before I rode home from the hospital, to cushion any bumps on the road. More news later.

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Surgery Today

6:20pm: Harriet is now resting comfortably after surgery. She is awake, alert, and in very good spirits. Ken spoke to the surgeon, who said that the surgery went very smoothly and it looks to her like the lymph nodes were normal, but that will need to be confirmed. The prognosis looks good.
4:15pm: Ken reports that surgery is over and everything went well. The lymph nodes were not swollen, which is a good sign. In 10-15 minutes, Harriet will go to the recovery room.

3:30pm: Ken reports that he was with Harriet until 2:00. At that point, anesthesia began, and all went well. So far everything is fine, and he won’t hear anything about the surgery for another few hours.

These updates were prepared by Harriet’s niece, Joyce.

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Before Surgery

My mastectomy is scheduled for Thursday, June 19 – the tentative time is 1:15 p.m. My sister, Naomi, and niece, Joyce have agreed to post notices on this Web site to keep relatives and friends informed of how it goes. We’re not sure whether this is silly or not, but planning for updating the Web site is a pleasant distraction. My Mother is usually “information central” in family crises, but this time she wants to be with Ken at the hospital during the surgery. We are grateful to Steven Sickles, the creator of http://www.breastcancer.net (a terrific resource), for his help in providing the space and posting the updates.

My family and I continue to be in good spirits. Tonight we’ve been hosting two simultaneous parties – a backyard picnic for the residents of our apartment house (I’m the chair of the new social committee), and a party in our apartment for Margie’s high school friends to celebrate her graduation

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