I saw my oncologist this morning, and here's what you and I have been waiting to hear: she gives me a 75% chance of NO recurrence. Here's why:
I have been hit with both barrels of the shotgun with inflammatory breast cancer (everything I read says "rare, aggressive, deadly") that is also triple negative. Each of these is considered pretty lethal on its own. The pathology report showed that the sheet-like tumor in my breast tissue had left cancer cells throughout the tissue—BUT the margins of the tissue were clear by 1 cm. all around. It was contained within the tissue that was extracted. The report showed "significant" size tumors in two of my lymph nodes—BUT they had not pierced the outer walls of the nodes and were thus contained. The best news and a surprise to all was the excellent response to chemo. Triple negative normally does not respond well at all. So "contained" and "responsive" lowered the odds of recurrence considerably.
Radiation should begin in early March, if I can get my right arm to stretch properly. I started a strenuous regimen of physical therapy today. With only two weeks until the start of radiation, my physical therapist said it's a good thing I got a refill on my pain meds. Ow.
To be honest, I wasn't expecting quite this good a prognosis. I knew what good things I had going for me—catching it early, good response to chemo—but until they saw the tissue, no one would know just how good those things were. It was either sheer and incredible dumb luck or God's grace that led me to catch this stuff so early. Five weeks! Five weeks and look how far it had spread. If I had gone to my mammogram when I was supposed to we would have missed it altogether, since IBC is invisible to mammography; and it might not even have been present then. When the pink skin didn't improve after a few weeks, I decided to go and asked for "diagnostic" instead of "screening." I had no idea what IBC was or that I had classic symptoms. Thus began the whirlwind that hasn't stopped yet.
My hair is coming back in! After a couple of false starts, it appears to mean it this time. At one quarter inch it looks really dark, and I still have one spot of short bunny fur, but I’m going to let it all grow and see what happens.
I am so grateful to hear this good news. Damocles' sword still hangs overhead, but the thread holding it just became a strong cord.