Saturday, May 28, 2011

Events of the Second Day in Houston...

I have some good news and bad news.  Good news first....

My initial appointment at MDA went very well. The facility is awesome and the people are friendly. Dr. Moulder has a wonderful demeanor and a reassuring presence.  She was very quick to tell me that I am a "beyond unique" cancer case. She requested all the actual original slides from every surgical procedure from the past three years.  She wants her staff to review the pathology, and confirm that it is indeed breast cancer we should be treating, and not any other possibility (i.e. cancer of the sweat gland, etc).  She assured me that there was not anything my doctors could have done differently thus far, due to the way my cancer has behaved: unpredictable and bizarre.  We had lunch there in the Waterfall Cafe and went back up for appointment scheduling.  I have a full day of imaging next Wednesday.  The pictures I've included are the front of the clinic, waiting in the waiting room, and the tree sculpture at Mays Clinic :)

The bad news is hotel 4:00am again THIS morning the smoke alarm went off.  This is especially annoying because it happened the previous morning in this exact manner, and we checked with the staff on four separate occasions to ensure it had been handled before retiring to our room yesterday evening. So, there we were at 4:30 am, a cancer patient and her exasperated mother lugging groceries and luggage to our new room.  We managed to salvage a few hours of sleep but were not happy campers.

We do not have any appointments till Tuesday (an ultrasound for SIRM) so we intend to run errands today, and maybe make time for a mani/pedi. If anyone has suggested "must sees" for Houston, please send them on!



Friday, May 27, 2011

First Day in Texas

What I've learned so far about Houston:

-Everyone is friendly with the exception of the cab drivers...they are NOT.
-Dinner/movie for two people costs less than the cab rides to get there and back...we are renting a car today.
-I would have much preferred being in LA at Stevie's birthday concert last night, I hear phenomenal things.
-Our hotel is nice but not without issues.....

All within the first 24 hours: a broken bed frame they had to literally replace, a severe lack of toiletry items (nothing major....just SHAMPOO), and a screeching dying battery in our smoke alarm-NOT a pleasant way to awaken after a long travel day/day ahead of reliving my medical history yet again and also unknown doctors, etc.

After a long day at MDA, followed by a long nap after that, I will update to report on my visit.

If anyone wants to see our shining faces, we are periodically available to Skype.....gypsycarly

Until we meet again.......

Monday, May 23, 2011

Carly's Cancer Journey

My story:
My name is Carly Byrd and I was first diagnosed with breast cancer (DCIS) at age 25 in 2008. I was frightened and unsure. My doctor did not have a comforting bedside manor so the news was delivered in a very nonchalant way.  I have no family history of breast cancer so it was initially a feeling of shock, denial, and disparity.  After my lumpectomy to diagnose mysterious nipple discharge in February of 2008, I made the difficult decision to have a double mastectomy.  Even though only my left breast was affected, I decided to remove both, in hopes of decreasing the daily anxiety I would likely experience of wondering when it would appear in the right breast. 

My mastectomy surgery in March of 2008 was intense, and I immediately began the tissue expander process. My next scare was when one of my expanders deflated and had to be replaced in that April.  In June of that year,   they replaced my expanders with implants. I began nipple reconstruction/tattooing in October. 
When 2009 came around, and my BRCA results were negative, I thought I could rest easy and begin to deal with the emotional recovery process.  However I had to be totally reconstructed once again in November of 2009 when a breast MRI revealed my implant had severely shifted and was causing me pain. Once that was behind me, I looked forward to calmer days...which lasted until February 2011.

I went back to my favorite surgeon after feeling a lump in my left chest wall.  After an ultrasound, and a biopsy, the unthinkable happened....a second DCIS diagnosis.  He said in 30 years of practice, I was only the third patient in which he had seen this kind of reoccurrence.  Neither of us could believe it was cancer again, in the less than 1% residual breast tissue left in my body! I had another lumpectomy on February 23 and underwent six weeks (28 consecutive treatments) of daily radiation therapy.

During the final days of radiation, at a regularly scheduled follow-up appointment with my oncologist, he located a prominent lump under my left axilla.  I went in for a PET scan on May 2, 2011 and results seemed promising.  Radiation ended on May 4, 2011 and I went in for more surgery on May 5, 2011 for removal/frozen section of the new lump.  After removing 15 axillary lymph nodes my surgeons learned that 2 were completely devoid of lymphoid tissue, meaning the tumors totally replaced the nodes.  I have now been diagnosed with Stage 2 Metastatic Papillary Ductal Carcinoma.

I have been thrown into a spinning whirlwind of questions, options, decisions, and circumstances.  My oncologist ordered Chemotherapy, that was originally scheduled to start the week of my 29th birthday (which is June 10). I flew right out to spend a week at MD Anderson Cancer Center for a second opinion regarding my treatment plan with Dr. Moulder, then flew straight from there to Dallas, TX for egg harvesting with the Sher Institute for Reproductive Medicine.  There is a 30% chance the chemo will send me into early menopause, and my ovaries will have ablated in the process so my oncologist insisted on these precautions. The procedure was successful, 25 little Byrd eggs were frozen on the day we flew home to GA.

 My mother is currently battling a marriage via commute- living with  me to help through the challenging times we are facing, and traveling to North Carolina whenever I have a "good day."  At the conclusion of this chapter, I will meet with my plastic surgeon about reconstruction yet again, due to the contraction of my implant.

Cancer is a scary predicament.  It makes you evaluate and reevaluate every aspect of your life.  Lessons are learned, research is commenced, and advice is received.  I am so thankful for all of the information and literature that helped me knowledgeably face my treatments and procedures. I also appreciate the copius amounts of love and support that have been poured out, and just keep pouring...
Thank you for reading my story...