Steve Schappell-My Blog

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Surgery was the easy part....Cancer story continues.

Yesterday was the first step on the Cancer journey for my wife.  The biopsy and diagnosis.  Our camping weekend and our new reality.

We got back from the beach Sunday night.  I emailed my work and asked to meet with my boss and our HR person. I was not sure what was going to happen and wanted my workplace to know.  As soon as I got in Monday, I met with them first thing.  I remember, they thought I had found another job, or something else.  I explained the situation and they were very understanding and would work with me.  I told them I wanted a day off to go with my wife to the meeting with the surgeon to discuss the results.

Things began to move quickly after that.  I started to read anything I could about breast cancer, and chemo information.  Terms I was not familiar with.  In Situ, Ductal, Carcinoma.  For me to make sense of things, I need information.  So, I got what I could going into our meeting.  For the record, Shari made a great choice.  We went to Pinnacle Health and their cancer center on the East Shore outside of Harrisburg.  Her surgeon was Dr. Brynn Woolf, who was compassionate, smart and bonded with my wife almost instantly.  I went along to her appointment, and remember that I did not see one man anywhere.  We met with several women during the appointment.  One for initial paperwork and background information.  One for the Healthy Women's program, the surgeon, and one for the genetic test information.

When her surgeon went over the biopsy results, my wife was quiet, taking it all in.  I was writing notes  (those who know me, know that I take lots of notes.) We learned it was considered a Stage 1 Carcinoma.  The Cancer was basically one mass, about 15 cm.  It had started to break through the ductal wall, and was no longer considered In Situ.  It was all very clinical, but delivered by someone who understood all too well.  We talked about the next steps--surgery and chemotherapy.

Our last part of the meeting was to discuss genetic testing.  Shari's mom and grandmother both died of cancer.  In their cases, it was a stage 4 by the time it was addressed.  My wife wanted to see if she had some of the same markers that could affect her children.  They asked lots of questions, took a sample and said we would know results in about a week.

When we were done we went to lunch, and while there, got a call that insurance was going to cover the genetic test.  This was the first of many provisions that God provided for us.  The Healthy Women's program for the state of PA was a blessing and helped with most of the costs through this process.

So, about a month later, here we were, going back to the beach for the weekend and camping.  Only this time, it was the weekend before her surgery.  Things were more hopeful.  There was a game plan, we had information, and we had faith that this was going to be used for a purpose.  My wife has an amazing testimony, and a gift for working with women.  This was going to be used for God's glory, were were sure of that.

The next Tuesday was surgery.  Shari had a good friend come and stay with us for a week, to help my wife after surgery--to drain the fluid, make meals, and provide support.  Thank you Mickie!!!

Surgery was supposed to only take about 2 hours if all went well.   The hospital had a video screen and a patient number.  You could follow on the screen to see the progress.  You could even have people go to their website and follow the progress at home.  I started to get a little worried when it was almost 3 hours later until the surgeon came out.  We took a deep breath and got some good news.  She was able to remove the mass completely with good margins.  They removed 18 lymph nodes on her left arm and body to test for cancer.  All was clear, except for (1) lymph node that was closest to the Cancer.  ( I learned that Cancer progresses like a chain from the mass up the lymph nodes and to the body.)  There were going to do tests on that.  If it was in the lymph nodes, then chemo would be recommended.  I asked why it took so long.  The surgeon described the surgery and how she was able to only have (2) small incisions.  One under the arm for the lymph nodes, and the other one at the center of the left breast.  She was able to save all of the skin around the breast, so that during reconstruction later on, the existing skin could be used to maintain a more natural look.  Doing that took a longer time in surgery.

To wrap up, the post surgery went well.   Shari was taken care of at home and the follow up appointments began.  We next learned about Lymphademia, about sleeves for her hand and arm.  And the next changes in preparation for Chemo treatments.

More on that in the next post.

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