No nerves to get on

The tape holding my wounds together was finally, permanently, taken off last week.

Underneath lay fully healed, quite red, scars. Some small, some long, some lumpy. Some hidden under new flesh. Each scar has its own character. The two circular nipple ones form the border between my old breast skin and new replacement tummy skin. There’s a drop off shelf between the two, like the indent in a saucer where the cup sits. Instead of my new breasts moving outwards to a point, they give the reverse effect. My new boobs look inward.

Scarface body

They are a work in progress of course. The surgeons expect me to have new nipples made by pulling the inside flesh, out. Then a tattoo would be added to create the effect of an areola. The thought of such things makes me shiver right now. But maybe my brain will do the childbirth trick and make me forget that surgery means pain. Not that I’ve forgotten childbirth pain, so I don’t rate the chances.

There’s a straight line scar down from both ‘nipples’ to the under-boob, like the dead body outline of murdered lollipops. These connect to the hidden scars. The second largest ones on my body. They run the length of the underside of both breasts, almost meeting in the middle where they form lumpy ends. When I’m upright, they disappear.

Moving downwards, my newly cut belly button is encircled by hard, red flesh. The belly button is basically made of scar tissue, a product of birth. So scar tissue upon scar tissue means a wiry, unyielding piece of flesh. When they moved my belly button further up, they chopped off the forest of hairy skin that it was nestled in. My ‘garden path’ to more fun areas. But yesterday I spotted a small black hair growing back. It made me smile. My hairy genes overcoming the perceived perfections that surgery imposed on my body.

Then we reach the longest scar. It runs from just above my pubic area, all the way across my body. From hip to hip. For better or worse my tummy is flat but oddly so. Not the flat of the healthy body with a curve here or an indent where a muscle lies. A constricted flat with discomfort as though the organs inside are groping outwards to search for more room.

My body is an unrecognisable configuration marked by an angry map.

This was accomplished in one day.

While I was asleep.

Of course I’m grateful. I made an informed decision to reconstruct my breasts. Time normally allows us to become used to our changing bodies. The very speed of this change brings its own unique challenges. It exists as a duality. A trauma done to my body to save my life.

And as the tape came off new opportunities to heal that trauma became possible. Now I can touch and massage my new, scarred flesh. The surgeons suggest massage as a way to break down the lumpiness you feel in new scars. You can rub away the necrotic (dead) fat cells that were left behind. There’s not that much evidence this works but it does force you to touch your new skin, to reconnect with the painful and the numb.

When I first did the massage, I felt repulsed. All the sensations were being felt through my fingers and my digits didn’t recognise my new breasts as mine. Or as breasts at all. The neural pathways laid down in my brain for ‘breasts’ still expected to find old, huge, floppy boobs. Not these muscle-firm, small, numb things with no nipples. And all my brain was thinking about was that word “necrosis“. Dead. There was no positive spin on this from my sensation-less boobs.

There is one form of sensation still real to my poor befuddled brain. It occasionally thinks I DO have nipples. At random moments I get the feeling that my non-existent nipples and areolae are contracting, fast and hard as if it’s freezing out or someone is flicking them playfully. Except there are no nipples to flick or freeze. This is a common thing. Phantom nipple affects a third of women after surgery.

So I have phantom nipples on breasts that don’t exist.

When the surgeons took the breast tissue, they removed the network of nerves that run through it. I do have a better chance of that sensation returning because my own flesh was used in the reconstruction. But with the return of nerve function could be the arrival of new pain. So it’s a mixed blessing. The breasts as a source of pleasure is most likely gone forever and the way my brain was aware of my body is a hump it’s struggling to get over.

Quality of life surveys find that women who have reconstructions are happier. It’s hard to know how happy you are when you haven’t experienced what might make you unhappy. I predicted I would struggle with going flat and I hedged against that by opting for a reconstruction. But when I read how happy I was supposed to be from reading those surveys, I felt ungrateful and dissatisfied.

Until I found this study. It broadened the definition of ‘happy’ to include; the cosmetic body, the sensed and touched body, the body in action, the sexual body, awareness and sense of self. Standard surveys only explore vaguer notions of satisfaction, quality of life and then focus in on pathological responses such as depression or anxiety. An all or nothing approach to new boobs.

What I found in this study was the acknowledgement that women will have a varied and wide set of responses to the same surgery. Especially so for those who have their own flesh used to reconstruct their bodies. Quotes from the women range from “I feel complete again” to “A breast without a nipple just isn’t a breast I guess..” The individuality of experience as unique to us as our own personalities.

When I read the survey, I let out tension I wasn’t aware I’d been holding. Like stepping into a hot bath after a bad, cold day. It’s an unknowable relief to find I’m not the only one. Not alone in my mixed feelings, my confused neurons, my struggle to accept.

Time may heal all.

For now, I’ll keep touching the nerve that isn’t there.

Move like a mollusc

snail

Almost every day I try to go for a walk. I say walk, but it mostly resembles a cross between a distracted toddler and a snail who’s lost its slime. I shuffle along, overtaken by the most elderly of human beings. Because I look pretty hale and hearty, passersby don’t quite know what to make of me. I often get looks of confused pity mixed with impatient skepticism. As though my youthful shuffling gait and non-rattling deep breathing is an affront to their box of visible disabilities.

On these ‘walks’ the thing I dread most is the kind motorist.

I have to cross at least five roads on my challenge to get to the next cafe in my mobility challenge. As I approach the borders of the pedestrian lands and enter vehicular territory, my control over the pace I can handle shifts. The car slows down and an anonymous hand waves, flicks or sometimes merely a finger gestures me to cross.

My heart sinks with the stranger’s kindness.

The unwritten rule of allowing a pedestrian to cross in front of an approaching car is that said walking human will not inconvenience the motorist further and will speed across the road in as little time as possible. This part of the deal I cannot honour.

I sigh deeply, looking like an ungrateful wretch before we’ve even begun. And I’m far too British to wave the car away. I’m too afraid of us getting stuck in some kind of waving loop, each person trapped in competitiveness politeness. So I obey the flicking hand and move into the road.

Except I don’t speed up. I can’t. I break my part of the bargain. Instead I keep my eyes firmly rooted on the road ahead, each slow motion step make me hyper-aware of the rising impatience of the driver. As though they were standing right behind me, puffing irritated air into my ear.

Meanwhile other pedestrians have taken advantage of the situation and sprinted past me, highlighting the sluggish pace of my own body even more. I act as a kind of slow motion lollipop lady.

I know if I speed up, if I push myself, there will be a price to pay. Much as I’d like to give the gift of ten extra seconds to those charitable drivers, I can’t afford the cost to myself. If I push myself it has to be on my own terms and for my own benefit. Because nothing else is worth the ramifications. Too long or fast a walk could mean two days motionless and gloomy on the sofa. That I can not bear and it’s those kinds of days that challenge my mental health most deeply.

My life is all about balancing energy. Conserving it, spending it, generating it, paying for it.

Tiredness is normal after surgery. The anaesthetic has a profound effect on your body function and a hospital stay can disrupt circadian rhythms. Being less mobile can affect your muscle mass. Opiate-based pain medication can make you drowsy and slow your breathing. If you’re not breathing so well, then oxygen isn’t getting to your cells and they’re not doing their job fantastically well.

Your wounds are also a problem. Not only has your body got extra work to do to heal, meaning even while you’re sitting very still you’re actually working a full time job internally. But your wounds are continually evaporating away precious water, like steaming cracks in the Earth’s crust. During my pre-assessment appointment, the anaesthetist educated me that skin holds water inside our bodies. Seems kind of obvious but when our skin is cut, water literally evaporates out of the tissue that’s exposed. This is why the nurses kept filling my water jug over and over and over. Dehydration shrivels your brain and your cells need water for just about everything.

So there’s lots of reasons to be tired, even fatigued. I oscillate between the two but tiredness is the set on which my life is performed. Fatigue means the show cannot go on. Then only sleep or withdrawal will renew me. It’s tricky to know when I’m tired but can regroup and when I’m fatigued and must stop. Sometimes there’s a long delay before I actually feel the effects of whatever I’ve been doing. I have to be a kind of tarot reader for energy levels.

If I’m really unlucky I could become chronically fatigued, meaning the condition will be ongoing and long lasting. Luckily I don’t have the predictors for that possibility. I wasn’t depressed or had anxiety before surgery. My levels of general health and fitness, aside from the deadly disease, have set me in good stead.

For now I work with what I have on any given day and try to strive for more. Or accept less.

One slime-less snail move at a time.

The eve of BIG NEWS

Tomorrow is the big day. The sliding doors moment when I get my pathology report from the last surgery. This is the most important appointment since I got my diagnosis in January. It’s the moment when I get the ‘ALL CLEAR’, albeit a qualified one. I’ll never be completely free of this disease. I’ll glimpse it occasionally out of the corner of my eye, like an inept detective following me for the rest of my days. But they will be able to say that as far as they can tell, it’s gone. Radiotherapy is just the clean up crew then, an insurance policy.

Another thing that will happen is I’ll get my prognosis. I’m in two minds about whether I want this as there’s all sorts of issues around determining it. The doctors basically put all your results into a computer programme that have names like Predict and Adjuvant! Online. I’m feeling like those names are a wee bit too glib for what they do. I mean if you’re gonna go glib, then name the thing Cake or Death.

Also the data they base these predictions on are at least five years old, if not more. Treatments have improved, care has gotten better. Plus the samples are dominated by older women because it’s much rarer for younger women to get breast cancer in the first place. And ultimately we’re all individuals. But perhaps I’m being picky about this in case it’s not what I want to hear. Boiling down my life chances into three rigid options (excellent, good, poor) strips me of all the complexity my existence is made up of.

Lastly and most excitingly, I will get a pathology report while I’m still ALIVE! Having been completely obsessed with Quincy as a young ‘un and as a result wanting to be a medical examiner for at least 3 minutes when I was eight years old, this is pretty cool stuff. I do feel I missed my calling as a social justice hero who cuts up dead bodies.

So my friends, by lunch time tomorrow I should know if I get to move on or if there’s more surgery on the horizon. If I do get to go forward, then for how long. All big, dramatic life thingies. In fact, it’s all a bit too serious for a sunny day. I’m off to the beach.. and I’ll take the cake please.

Trouble in paradise

I’m pleased to say that I am in no physical pain my friends. This last surgery has lived up to its reputation as being easy and quicker to recover from. My troubles for this week have not been caused by someone slicing me open with a very sharp knife. That was a walk in the park compared to some serious emotional distress I’ve been exposed to in the past few days. I was bullied online in a breast cancer support group. Sharp intake of breath. A place where I had opened myself up to strangers in a way I haven’t ever done, turned into a very unsafe space very quickly. I’m not going to go into details because it’s very long and tedious, she said this, she said that. The context was organising for a Christmas gathering for the region which I had helped out with. A disgruntled group wanted a different kind of event and were very vocal until the event changed to their liking. When others wanted to be included they rounded on them aggressively and then seemingly gloated of their victory with in jokes and ridiculing statements. Eventually the admins stepped in and sorted it all out but it got very ugly for 24 hours. Things move so fast on the internet.

I decided to leave the group. Recovering from surgery and being terrified to check my phone were becoming mutually exclusive. I chose my health. But it has not left my mind for long which is why my friends, I find myself writing this out because my coping strategies aren’t cutting it so far. I’ve moved through lots of different reactions and emotions: fear, anger, guilt, rage, sadness, despair. I’ve tried thinking my way through it, could it have gone down differently? Could I have intervened earlier and with more skill? Was I the bad guy? So far none of this has stuck. I haven’t moved forward much at all.

Today I began to think well perhaps this is just the product of standing up to bullies. An unpleasant side effect for defending yourself or others. Something to be endured. I felt better for a little while, confident in my self righteousness. But it didn’t fit, like socks that slip down into your shoes and make you feel slightly uncomfortable all day. It has forced me to come at this in a very different way. What does Heidi the social scientist think of all this? I think the bullies felt like the oppressed group. At first they probably were. They weren’t getting what they wanted and they were fighting for it. They perceived themselves as powerless. They quickly formed an in-group of similarly perceived powerless people. Once there was an in-group, favouritism was inevitable. People in an in-group will see more similarities between the members of their in-group than the people they perceive to be outside the group. After that the dynamics were fixed and it would have been almost impossible to steer it differently. We became the out-group, other. Their self-identity as a group was also imbued with justice and righteousness so any criticism or attempt to include more people was treated as a threat.

However once they had achieved their goal. See I’m even doing it as a write. Seeing them as a out-group, a ‘they’. In actual fact ‘they’ were a group of individual women coming to this conflict with an entire narrative of their own, loosely thrown together by a fast moving and random sense of togetherness. I also suffered from the oh-so tempting action of forming an in-group when threatened. Anyway, at some point the event was changed and at this moment, power shifted to their advantage. Their self-identity changed without them consciously realising or acknowledging it. Their statements and comments became more overtly and clearly bullying.

When I drew attention to this behaviour, the commenters were defensive of the bullies. They made excuses for them. They explained that it was my interpretation of the comments that was the problem, not their intention. The in-group was still in full effect and becoming entrenched. I find this very interesting how a self-identity formed so quickly and got made rigid by perceived challenges to the group. But it made me feel depressed that this could happen in such a normally supportive space. But then humans are humans, even if they have a deadly disease. The self-identity of us all as breast cancer sufferers got splintered. The larger in-group shattered.

I do think this all could have played out differently though. If we had remembered we are all special little butterflies and not formed an identity as a group, then it would have been much easier to resolve potential conflict. Conflict is normal. Conflict can be sorted through if people show empathy, compassion then listen and compromise. Sadly, forming groups is normal too. It is one of humanity’s strengths but can sometimes be one of our deepest failings. The original conflict can become fixed into a story of justification for bad behaviour, its ‘heroes’ defended and canonised. I’m not saying folk songs will be written of the Battle for the Breast Cancer Xmas Party but remembering we’re all human beings with differing needs and wants is a better way than ‘us’ against ‘them’. Because there’s one big thing that makes us all one big in-group. We’re all going to die, some sooner than others. But our time is limited and I for one don’t want to waste another moment of it fighting some fake enemy for imaginary power. There it is. There’s that feeling I’ve been striving for all week. Peace.

The second cut is the deepest..

Monday is the day. By 11:30am I shall be hungry, dehydrated and dressed in a thin unattractive hospital gown waiting to go under the knife once more. My re-excision surgery is imminent. Another centimetre of my flesh is going to be removed around the original site of the tumour. Apparently this kind of surgery is quite common and about 30-50% of people with my kind of breast cancer go through this. If that number seems very imprecise then that’s because there isn’t much data around and the variants are pretty big. I did find one small study that 23.8% of people who specifically had the kind of surgery I had, ended up having a re-excision. It’s also a pretty big must for me. Not to blind you with stats but it doubles my risk of the cancer returning if I don’t have clear margins.

It has been a rougher time emotionally lately and I’ve been contemplating why. I think chemo was so hard and gruelling that I hadn’t spent much time preparing for the impact of surgery. I was all la-la-la, nothing will be as bad as chemo. I can do this in my sleep. But surgery has brought its own challenges and they’re very different from chemo so my coping strategies didn’t help me. Walking on the beach and hanging out at the allotment were a no-go. I was too devastatingly tired and I couldn’t lift a shovel, no mind dig with one. Pain also makes meditating and mindfulness impossible. Being in the moment when they are overwhelmingly filled with agony is not somewhere you want to dwell. Body scans remind you that everything hurts. Pain also disconnects you from everyone around you. I was too scared to go out in case I got bumped. When your body is constantly stimulated internally (by pain), the sun seems too bright, the world too noisy. I had this feeling at the height of nausea but it passed quicker. Plus there’s no bear hugs. So the isolation gets intensely physical and emotional.

The medical aftercare was also poor and there didn’t seem a clear structure or point of contact for problems. During chemo I had the hospital, the cancer ward, my oncologist. This time it felt like all the carers couldn’t wait to hand me off to some other schmuck. Where the chemo care was careful and cautious, the surgical was quick, sharp and fast. Perhaps much like the treatments themselves. I’m sure there’s a PhD in there somewhere. The single biggest outside form of support I’ve had was from kind and generous internet strangers on the Facebook page for the Younger Breast Cancer Network (YBCN). User-led, all my fears and questions found an audience who could reassure me with their own experiences and make me feel less alone. I take solace in that.

I did have another Buffy-style fleeting moment. This time I was going through my nighttime routine of gingerly scooting my front-fastening bra off my shoulder. It’s a tricky business as it can be unpredictable at which angle my scars will start to protest. For instance, I was in a changing room today trying on a top that I had managed to squeeze into feet first but I realised getting it off was another matter. I stood there staring in the mirror, perplexed, shifting one shoulder one way and wriggling one arm another. I even considered leaving it on and simply going to the till, bending over the desk and asking them to scan it from there. Luckily I had the awesome Kat to come to the rescue and pull my arms out. Anyway, back to bedtime. As the strap dropped down and I sat there with boobs flopping, I felt this wave of irritation and wish for these sacks of flesh to just disappear. Poof, be gone. I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t scared. I didn’t feel emotionally attached to them. What I think this means is that I’m transitioning to a state where I see my boobs as the enemy. I’ve heard other women talk this way and I never got it. Until now. At the beginning of all this, my boobs were mine. They were fun, bouncy, part of my identity. They did cool things, they played a role in sex, in feeding my baby. They gave me lovely, beautiful cleavage that caught my food (I actually found a chip in there the other day, a whole chip).

But ever so gradually, those things have been replaced. My boobs have been on show to the public. They’ve been handled many times by strangers, stared at in a non-appreciative way, cut into. The surgery clinched it and pushed this forward more. My boobs are starting to take on new meanings that are eclipsing what they were before. They are bits of flesh, parts of my body with no purpose other than cosmetic. And they are trying to kill me. Maybe this is psychological prep work for any future mastectomy. Or maybe it’s a dangerous trick of my mind, disconnecting me from a part of my body that I need to reintegrate into my sense of self. I’m on the fence. Maybe both those things are true and I will exist in this state until the cancer decides for me. As usual, I live with uncertainty.

So now I am learning my lessons. I am preparing for what’s coming on Monday. Kat has cooked everything in sight and the freezer is full of frozen delights. My Brighton Buddy is coming over tomorrow and I will hand her the hoover as she walks in the door. Now I just have to pack my bag in case something goes awry and I end up in hospital overnight. There are many things I cannot control about all this. But some things I can. Here I go then, preparing as best I can.

 

 

Boob is saved.. so far

Yes, it is good news folks. And didn’t we need some of that. It seems all that pain, nausea and hell of chemotherapy paid off. The tumour is down to 3 cm, halved in size. My surgeon, the relaxed and immensely reassuring Mr Zammit, said he couldn’t even tell the difference between it and normal glands. He gave me three options for surgery without even a sniff of the M-word. I could have a procedure that meant taking a good chunk of breast tissue, meaning that there would be quite a change in size and shape. That also meant another operation next year to reduce the healthy boob to match. The next was to go in from the top and just take the tumour (plus a margin), meaning leaving a big scar on my cleavage. The last to tunnel in from around the nipple and remove the tumour leaving no scar at all. I was slightly tempted to get a free boob reduction on the NHS with option 1 but big NOPE to the more operations and bigger scarring. So I plumped for number 3. I’m actually pretty blown away that I could come out of all this, not only with my boob intact, but pretty much the same as when this started.

cushion

This is my boob pillow for after the operation. I thought it was rather a sweet touch to make it heart-shaped. The surgery is going to happen the week of the 6th July to give me some extra time to recover from my “rough time” (their words) in chemo. I’ll have all my lymph nodes removed too now that they did their job but are not to be trusted anymore. Seems like a poor reward for the wee glandy thingies. A drain will be fitted below my armpit to collect fluid from the wound in a tiny bag that they give me a handbag to carry around in. I’ve never had a handbag in my life so this will be an image change. One interesting part of this process is that I’ve realised I don’t fit the medical profession’s idea of what a woman should be concerned about. I fear I haven’t been consuming their make up sessions and free perfume with the appropriate level of feminine enthusiasm ; p

I’ll be in hospital for 2 or 3 nights depending on how I regroup from the surgery. Hopefully I can go home lickety-split but the drain may be in for a week and it could take a month to recover fully from the op. After that it will take 2/3 weeks for them to analyse the tumour and the margins to check there’s no pre-cancerous or loose cancer cells around. If there is, I’ll go in for a day operation to scrape away the tricky areas. If those are clear or it’s clear in the first place, then it’s onto the next phase of radiotherapy. But that’s for later.

For now, let’s celebrate and enjoy the awesomeness of boob save-age and shrunk lump.

 

 

 

Goodbye Red Week

The last red week is over. I won’t lie, it was the worst one yet. In fact, it was more like red ten days and I only really felt myself again yesterday. During the first four days I was overwhelmed by an all senses enducing nausea. People talking to me, me talking to people, sunlight daring to shine, street noise, being touched, it all made me want to vomit. My neighbour hearing me describe it this way said it sounded akin to when he gets a severe migraine. I’ve never had one of those but maybe if you have, you get the picture. I basically just have to hole up in Lilah’s bedroom and wait for it all to stop. After it lifted, it was just plain old nausea. I made the mistake after a week, you know with it being called red ‘week’, of attempting to leave the house. We went to the allotment and after walking up the 20 metre hill (with several pauses for breath) to the plot, I up-chucked in the flowerbed. But vomit is a fertiliser right?

Smack bang in the middle of red week I had to start injecting myself with GCSF to boost my non-existent immune system. In previous cycles, the side effects have been manageable with ibuprofen and old lady shuffling movements around the house. I get chills, not John Tavolta grease lightning style ones. Fevery, shivery chills that make me shake uncontrollably but without the accompanying normal high body temperature. I have to watch this carefully because it can make me miss a real fever. Then I get a dull ache in my bones in the pelvis and lower back that if I move too fast can turn into agonising jolts. They are centred in this region of my body because that’s where my bone marrow makes all the weeny white blood cells that make up my immune system. When the GCSF starts doing its thing, my bone marrow expands and among other things I don’t really understand to do with neurons called noiceptors, sends panicky messages to my brain.

This time, the pain wasn’t manageable. On the worst night, as I made the unreasonable attempt to turn over in bed, it felt like my skeleton sank slowly to one side of my body and ended up in a pile at the hip slicing its way through my flesh on the journey. My leg muscles were feeling left out of the pain party, so they joined in. Then the chills started and every time I shook, a wave of pain would ripple out from my pelvis up my spine and down my legs. It reduced me to a blubbery mess. Luckily I have the best husband ever and he rushed in to soothe me with massage oil, loving whispers and some serious spooning until I finally fell asleep.

That’s all done now. I will never have to feel that way again. There is more discomfort to come I’m sure and probably more pain. But THAT particular pain. That’s done. I made it to the allotment three days after that, climbed that 20 metre hill without pause and didn’t vomit in the flowerbed. A win.

wpid-wp-1434347685391.jpegNow that I’m finished with that part of the cycle, my head is clearer and I’ve been contemplating the next phase. I have my appointment with my surgeon in two days to decide what kind of surgery I’ll be having, a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. This will all depend on where the lump is and the size. If it’s too big still and in an awkward place, then I’ll probably have to get the whole boob removed. This is where having enormous boobies will come in handy for once as there’s more breast tissue to work with. But it’s all still very uncertain and depends on the results of the last MRI and a clinical examination on the day. I have been attempting to meditate on both possibilities for a few days now. Not literally meditate because I am unskilled in that regard. Just thinking on it. Trying to accept both and failing. I realise yesterday that it’s impossible to accept things when you don’t know for sure what they are. So I decided to accept the uncertainty instead. I’ll accept what comes, when it comes.

This is where I’m at now. I’m looking forward to a whole day without pain, free of nausea. A day to spend with my family, enjoying the normal movement of my body, speaking, eating, being. Today will be a good day.

The Bad News Room

the bad news room

So this is the room in the clinic where they first told me I had cancer. I knew as soon as they took us to the room with the comfy chairs, it was gonna be bad. And they have been taking us there ever since. At least today it wasn’t so awful and the meeting with the surgeon held no devastating surprises. He actually said that the original lump is probably around 5 cm (not 6 cm) so some slightly better news. I’ll take it. But they can’t know for sure until they yank it out and do a Quincy on it. It looks like the chemotherapy will come first to shrink the bugger before they do surgery. This will mean two things. They can see if the cancer is responding to the chemo as the lump will start to shrink and if it’s smaller, then they will take less tissue out of the breast. Thus furthering the goals of the ‘Save the Breast’ campaign, please sign the petition: “Dear Cancer, We strongly object to your plan to take over Heidi Bachram’s breasts. Please stop.”

Anyway as this was a slow news day for us, Adam and I descended into competing for the affections of the nicest nurse in the clinic, Julie. You’ll be glad to hear that I won said competition after she gave me a squeeze of my upper arm as we left the building. Next big news will be next Tuesday when we get the results from the lymph node biopsy (under armpit) and the small lump in my left boob.