And we’re back! Whew, it’s been a crazy season of travel and despite the amazing times that we have had, I am relieved to be home. Just one more local center visit (well, 2 hours local) and then we are done – hopefully for a while!
So after talking with my oncologist, I attempted to take an extra week off from Xeloda to help heal a little better from radiation but also allow my blood counts and other side effects to calm down a bit. My skin started to heal a little faster from radiation, which is super exciting. My feet started peeling like crazy during my time off but thankfully aren’t painful just yet.
Unfortunately, during my bath last Tuesday night I noticed what appears to be breast cancer coming back on my skin. It is on my left and center belly, under the radiated area. I chatted with the doctor Wednesday morning and after a few pictures and discussion of healing for 2 extra days versus starting Xeloda a little sooner than discussed, we decided to start Xeloda on Wednesday. We did not do a biopsy but we are pretty confident that it is cancer. Hopefully it was just a few days too long that the Xeloda took a break and it is actually still working. We are praying hard for that!! We know the CT scan before showed awesome progress! The radiation oncologist (RO) said today that it likely would not be gone by now. The Xeloda attacks the tumor directly, which absorbs the Xeloda, turns it bright red, inflamed and quite angry. That is pretty much what’s happening now so I am optimistic!
My radiation burns are still there. Some parts are quite itchy where there isn’t raw skin. I do have lots of raw skin still but it’s healing…slowly but surely. I’m just sick of bandages and 3 times a day changes. But it’s a small price to pay!
And on that note, because I like to keep things interesting, I have been having some pretty intense pain in an area that was double radiated on my left side. It’s on the end / center of my chest, by the my expander. It’s not rib pain but expander or scar pain. I’ve had it for 2 or 3 weeks now and it’s more painful than the radiation burns, if you can believe that. My RO thought it was odd for sure and last Thursday, my scar opened up. It’s been opening a little more over the last week and she wanted me to see my plastic surgeon (PS) to check it out immediately, since she had never seen it happen before. Especially given my age and how well I am healing, it’s surprising that it would open suddenly. We are thinking it may have opened as a result of starting the Xeloda again (rad-intensifier). So I also headed to the PS today and after checking it out, he was relieved that it appears to be a superficial skin opening. Everything is healing really well around it, the new skin growth is there and thankfully the expander is not coming through! The skin underneath looks great and intact. I know what to look for and the pain will hopefully get better with time.
We also discussed my next surgery. It was originally slated for 5 – 6 months after stopping radiation and depending on my healing. After chatting about this in more detail, it’s decided that my reconstruction attempt should be as soon as possible. I cannot have MRIs currently because of the tissue expanders and that in itself is concerning. They show a lot more than CT scans, especially in my brain, so it is incredibly important to have those sooner rather than later. Typically, the PS waits to help eliminate scar tissue and allow more time for healing. In my case, the MRI outweighs the risks of waiting.
So then comes the question of expansion. We reduced my left for radiation down to 300 (my right is still at 620). I cannot express my relief that he didn’t want to remove fluid to assist my scar today! There is a lot of concern around whether or not I will even be able to expand on the left side. Basically, my skin healed too well around the expander. It tightened up nicely and allowed the scar tissue to form around the expander. The risk is that when we go to expand, I may – quite literally – expand inward. We will start much lower than before and see how it goes. There is the potential risk that instead of expanding outward, I expand inward towards my ribs. We don’t want that. If that happens, we obviously stop and stay as is. We will cross that bridge when it comes. Frankly, I am fine with anything there at this point. I’d just like my chest bigger than my belly! 😉
We are optimistic that I will heal without difficulty but there is the possibility of a second surgery to remove my implants if I do not heal properly. Again, we will cross that bridge when it comes and hope for the best. I’ll be glad to be rid of these annoying and tight tissue expanders!
In terms of timing, my skin will hopefully be healed completely from radiation within a month. We will then attempt expansion and almost immediately after expansion attempts then we will have surgery. Much sooner than expected!
So those are my updates for today. As a random side note, I am so blessed with my doctors. At every single visit, they sit down and chat with me. They pull up a chair or offer a hug and they want to know about…life. Not just cancer but the wedding we were just in or how Jacob is doing in school. They genuinely care about us – and I am just so grateful for that!
Happy Wednesday, friends! Continue to spread that love around! 💚