During the bouts of cancer diagnosis and treatments, Rachel writes e-mails to keep her friends and family updated on her thoughts and spiritual walk.


September 19, 2004

Another epic. Get comfortable.


I had a great meeting with my radiation oncologist, Dr. Tyldsley, last Monday. My kind of doctor – straightforward and caring. He would be the doctor who would oversee the radiation treatments I am scheduled to have post-chemo but, ironically, he is one of the doctors who is recommending that I have a mastectomy. After my case was discussed at a conference of cancer docs a few weeks ago, several doctors (in the minority) were suggesting that I have a mastectomy in light of the second tumour they found in the tissue they removed back in July. I had made a note to ask Dr. Gelmon (my regular oncologist) for the name of one of those doctors because I wanted to find out why they held the position they did regarding mastectomy. Turns out, Dr. Tyldsley was the primary advocate for mastectomy so it was ideal that I got to meet with him.


He is conservative in his opinion but he had a lot of credibility for his argument, in my mind, for a number of reasons. One, he’s young and therefore not an old fuddy duddy who is stuck in the doing things the “old way” as mastectomy used to be the standard treatment. Two, he’s my radiation oncologist so you’d think he’d be the one guy advocating for radiation (I wouldn’t have radiation if I had a mastectomy). Three, he knows his stuff. The numbers and statistics are not exactly in my favour long term and he was very thorough in outlining why he thinks it’s not a risk I should take. And four, he’s very caring. Basically, he said that if I was his wife, he would want me to have a mastectomy. Making a personal comment like that means something – at least to me.


It was a big change of direction in terms of our thinking but I’m actually ok with it. I haven’t made a final decision as there are several conversations (plastic surgeon and hereditary counsellor) and tests (MRI and another mammogram) yet to have but I am leaning in that direction now. I plan on having reconstruction at some point and so I’m thinking, “If I’m going to have surgery anyway, why wouldn’t I just get rid of any chance I could get cancer again?” Two birds, one stone. Until Monday, I hadn’t really realized that a mastectomy would allow me the freedom from the possibility I could recur. And the more I think of it, the more attractive it is. So much so, that I’m considering having a bilateral (both breasts) mastectomy. Craziness. But, again, two birds (and two breasts). One stone…one surgery. The bilateral mastectomy isn’t being recommended at this point but they may give it to me if I request it or if my hereditary screening warrants it. Apparently many (high risk) women do just for the peace of mind it provides. And I am high risk.


Well, that’s more information about my breasts than I think I’ve shared with anyone. Ever. Welcome to the world of breast cancer. Anyway, I have to decide by the time I finish chemo. About 10-12 weeks.


Speaking of chemo, I’m scheduled for this Thursday (23rd). Have bloodwork on Wednesday to determine if my white blood cells have recovered enough to take it. Although I’m hopeful that my WBC are high enough, I’m dreading this next round. I still can’t even think about going into the chemo ward without getting nauseated. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. I was thinking about it today – trying to psyche myself up – and I realized that I will have a hard time not crying when I have to sit down for my treatment. Just because I know what is coming. The treatment isn’t painful nor do I get sick right away but I know what lies ahead and the anticipation is terrible. I am so hoping that my reaction will be better this time but, to be honest, I’m not very optimistic. I’ve already started counting down – “this time next week, I’ll be sick in bed” or “only 5 more days of feeling good.” I’m afraid my negative thinking will become a self-fulfilling reality but I’m having a really hard time thinking it will be any better than last time. The worst is that this is only the third treatment. I’ve got three more to go. It’s halfway (I know, I know) but it’s ONLY halfway. That’s tough for me right now.


My body has betrayed me and I have no control. When I am lying in bed, I can do none of the things that I mistakenly think give me value or purpose. I can’t take care of my kids. I can’t make a meal for my husband. I can’t work to make money. Clinging to Him is all I can do. He is my comfort. He is my strength. He is the one who can heal me. He is my hope that things will be better. He is the one who will bring good from my suffering. It’s not bravery. It’s desperation. And it’s exactly where I should be. Clinging.


Sometimes when I think about Jesus coming back, I imagine I am suddenly 7 years old running towards him and throwing my arms around his waist. As he reaches down to embrace me, I hear him say, “Well done, daughter. Welcome home.”


And so I cling.




p.s. Many of you (some I haven’t seen in years and some I have never even met) have written e-mails and I just have not had the time nor the energy to reply to them all. I want you to know that I am so grateful for your words of encouragement. They are appreciated more than you know. Thank you for thinking of me and taking the time to tell me so. You are loved.

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