Monday, March 26, 2012

The Big Psychological Game

I was so prepared for the worst today. I was mentally ready to hear that they had found cancer in all of the lymph nodes and they'd need me in for more testing because there were signs that cancer had spread to other body parts.

So when Dr. Cooper came in and told us that the nodes that he hadn't checked before were all negative, Paul and I just about held a victory party in his office. (Okay, not quite, but it was a relief to hear that we were not living our worst nightmare.) Somewhere in there, when he was verbally telling us about the pathology report, he mentioned 3 out of 3 nodes being positive, but 0 out of 8 others being negative. Quick addition led me to believe that there was the 1 sentinel node, plus the 2 others he mentioned to Paul after surgery. 1+2=3 positive nodes, right? Then he told us that the tumor from my breast was measured at 2.5 centimeters, so my cancer was classified as "T2, N2" (T for tumor, N for nodes).

I texted Lisa, who was babysitting the girls, that it's still the Best Breast Cancer, and Paul and I started preparing for tomorrow's visit to the oncologist to find out about how this chemo will get rid of this once and for all.

After putting the girls to bed, we've finally had a chance to read the paper Dr. Cooper gave us and put it together with the books and pamphlets we've collected about breast cancer. Turns out, Dr. Cooper's a lying liar.

The report we're reading lists 1 out of 1 sentinel nodes positive; 3 out of 3 other nodes positive; 0 out of 8 additional nodes positive. So that makes a total of 4 positive nodes, right? 1+3=4. So we looked up "T2, N2". According to our books, that means the Tumor size was 2-5cm and there are 4-9 positive Nodes (!). Which again confirms that his original mention of 3 nodes wasn't telling the whole story.

The books are telling me that my tumor with 1-3 positive nodes would be classified as Stage IIb. But with 4-9 positive nodes, it's Stage IIIa. Here I am, harping on a label over one little lymph node. I let my guard down for a few hours, and it backfired. It's all a big psychological game. 

So did Dr. Cooper really lie? Probably not. Just gave a different impression that, to our untrained ears, sounded nicer. I don't really hold it against him. He was just putting some spin on the results because in his mind, what's the difference between 3 and 4 nodes?

The difference is the label. Just like I don't know whether I should count myself as being diagnosed with breast cancer in my 30's or 40's (remember, my 40th birthday was between my mammogram and my biopsy), I was prepared for the label of Stage III, then Dr. Cooper made me think it might be II, and now it's III.

But back to the stuff I can control: I want the chemo regardless of IIb or IIIa, because there are cancer cells in my body and they need to go away. (By the way, there's also an M score which I don't have yet which determines if there's cancer anywhere else in my body. The oncologist will tell us how to figure that one out.) Let's just find out what the plan is there and get it started.

Okay, sorry this has been a babbly post. It's just where my brain is tonight: I have very little new information (one new node), but feel like I've been handed so much more. I think I'll be better after the meeting with Dr. Kirshner tomorrow because we'll have that wonderful, comforting path to follow again.

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