“You’re cancer free” she said.

“You’re cancer free” she said.

June 13, 2017. Tuesday. New Yorkkkkkkkkkk (in the Oprah voice). It was time for my first follow up after surgery, 6 days later, can’t believe it’s been 6 days.  I took a bath, kind of. I still can’t shower in the breast region. Put the water on, sat on the edge of the tub and cleaned my feet, legs, stomach, YA KNOW, OTHER PARTS. Cleaned my arms but didn’t go into my armpits as I didn’t want anything dripping down in the drain region. I honestly didn’t know what to do with my armpits. I actually, lol don’t judge, took alcohol swabs and wiped them, I MEAN, NO GERMS YA KNOW. Wait, but I wiped my left armpit and then went to wipe my right armpit and WOW WEIRD FEELING OMG. I’m still pretty numb everywhere however they took the lymph nodes out of my right armpit so there were a lot more nerves cut, it feels so freakin’ weird I couldn’t fully wipe it. Welp, smelly right side here we come. I actually don’t think I smell, but hey, I might be a little bias. Also, I have been wiping my VV with some VV wipes, again, I’m not a total monster, just a mini monster. Ugh, all my secrets are out. 

Dad was picking me up at 7:30 am for a 10 am appointment in the city. We usually train it but it was just too close to surgery and I’m not too mobile. I got in the car, we made a turn and I said, “oh no! I forgot my sheet!”. Ugh. I record my drainage on two pieces of paper and in order to get my drain out I have to show them they produce less than 30 ml in 24 hours, only one was ready to come out. We turned back and went to get it, then on the road again. Ed picked up fresh bagels for the leftover cream cheese I had. Quite delicious. I used to think bagels were the devil. I kind of still do but, I eat them. They are just so carbohydrate dense, they can be 4-6 slices of bread. I usually ask them to “scoop” out the center. Remember I’m a dietitian? I kind of forget. 

There was quite a bit of traffic, we got in around 9:30 am, parked in a garage and walked a few blocks to the office. I was carrying my purse which was slightly too heavy, so dad carried it, HE’S A TROOPER. It was really warm that day. We got in 3 minutes before 10 am, perfect. Bathroom, sat down, 3 minute later, “Caitlin”. Sometimes it’s weird my name is Caitlin. No, not weird, but when I was young, until college, I went by Katie with a K. Why? Not sure. 

Anyway, I went in myself, dad usually sits in the waiting room or in the doctors office for the meet and greet after. I was put in the same room I was in during my first appointment with the plastic surgeon, that felt nice. I walked around doing my exercises while waiting. After less than 5 minutes the nurse came in. She asked me if I had any questions. I just wanted to know if everything was normal that was happening; the drop of the implant, the one drain not changing color and staying red, the bruising on my left breast. All normal, she said. “Any drains less than 30 ml?” she asked. Yup, left #1. She was ready to take it out today. WOW, I’m scared, what will it feel like, will it hurt?? She said everyone says different things. She undid my bra, looks good, she said. She was looking at the drains on the left and brought over some scissors. Anytime she got near me I said, “ARE YOU TAKING IT OUT NOW??”. I will tell you when I do it she said. I asked if the doctor was coming in. “He’s not here today”. Oh. Well, this is interesting. I’m 6 days post op from getting my tits removed and the doctor isn’t here to look?? Sorry, that’s just how it was in my brain. If the nurse wasn’t SO confident in her answers I would be concerned but, she clearly does this on her own a lot. 

She took the scissors and started to cut the stitches, “this might pinch” she said. I didn’t feel anything. “Okay, I’m going to take it out now” … “Ok! Ok! Can I hold your arm?????”. 1, 2, 3, PULL and out. It wasn’t terrible. Kim and Rebeka both asked me how it felt, Rebeka cringing when she asked. “THAT’S HOW IT FELT!” I said. It feels exactly how you would imagine a drain coming out, cringey. There was breast tissues, really just redness, in the drain, is that normal I asked, yup, she said. Everything weird seems normal unless it’s REALLY WEIRD. I also asked her about the sharp pain in my left breast, she said the drain is most likely on a nerve and it just happens. Sigh. I collected some extra stuff; gauze, alcohol swabs, etc. and we were on our way, a total of about 15 minutes. Sigh. The price you pay for MSK, rhyming queen. 

I was craving an iced coffee so we walked towards Central Park as it is only two blocks from the office. Stopped at a food truck and got some and sat in Central Park. Dad read a page or two from a book that he was reading about Paris. I went to Paris a few years ago and plan on going back this Fall! We eventually went back to the car and home we went. I relaxed on the couch the rest of the afternoon. Kim came home and was happy to have a 7 limbed girlfriend rather than 8.

It was 8:45 pm and Kim and I were in bed, of course. I received a call form New York that I didn’t know. These days I don’t answer numbers I don’t know because 99% of the time it is NO ONE AND IT’S SO ANNOYING. Anyway, I decided to pick up for some reason… “hello, it’s Dr. Heerdt, how are you??”. Oh, just my guardian angel/breast surgeon calling. She wanted to give me the good news. This is what I heard; the pathology report is in, there was no cancer left in the lymph nodes and there was less than 1 mm in two spots in the breast and it’s not in the duct, it’s best case scenario, we are extremely happy. I wasn’t 100% sure what that meant/I heard the right thing, I was just really happy to hear best case scenario. I texted Hillary saying what I thought I heard then she starts to FaceTime me.  Before picking up I looked at Kim and said, she’s going to be hysterical, and she was. 

I think she just said, “you’re cancer free”.

Wow.

June 14, 2017. Wednesday. Woke up and made scrambled eggs and an English muffin, all by myself! Kim was off to work and it was the first day I was on my own for a while. A little weird but pretty nice to have some Kay time (y’all know I love my Kay time). Literally laid on the couch all day. I’m the type of person who can do this all day on a Saturday or Sunday and apparently when I get my boobs removed. Eventually it will get old once these drains are removed. 

Rebeka brought over dinner around 6:30 pm. Chipotle y’all. So delicious, and chips and guac. Ate about half and hung out the rest of the night. Rebeka cleaned the kitchen while Kim and I danced and watched her. We’re not bad people, she didn’t want us to help! Don’t mess with a woman with a goal of organization and cleanliness! Thankful for her. She left around 9 pm, drains and sleeps.

June 15, 2017. Thursday. Another appointment today but not until 3 pm. I made eggs and an English muffin again. I got dressed, wore moms large white button up with black spandex and my sneaks. Took me a good 15 minutes to put my socks and sneakers on, hence I ordered some slip on shoes. Around 11 am I walked to Starbucks to get some iced coffee and maybe a donut. I put my Rutgers cap on and went out. I haven’t been wearing my wigs because it just seems like so much work, but also I REALLY need to wash my red wig and I just haven’t, I’m a lazy person. Walked to Starbucks, order a tall iced coffee with a glazed donut, yum. I sometimes get a pump of hazelnut in it but getting the donut adds the sugar component. I feel people looking at me while I am there, I mean I would to. Is this a boy? Is this a girl? But they’re wearing pink shoes. My hair is really growing back but doesn’t look like actual hair like I cut it like that for a reason. 


I got my drink and walked back home and sat on the couch. I was catching the 1:20 pm train to meet Ed in the city for my appointment with the breast surgeon. Kim and dad were both worried about me taking the train by myself. Ed’s worried I won’t be able to do something, Kim’s afraid I will fall and won’t be able to get back up. They aren’t wrong, but I made it. I walked down to the train station and got on the train all by myself.

I met dad at the cab line outside of Penn station. We decided to walk a bit to get out of the hustle of Penn Station before grabbing a cab, lesson learned. We were about an hour and a half early knowing we would walk some. It was beautiful it, not too hot, not too cold. We walked about 45 minutes before Kay needed a break. I haven’t walked much in the past 8 days. We stopped in Starbucks. I got a green/passion tea and dad got a mocha frappucino and we sat outside and enjoyed people watching. 

A lot of Starbucks today huh?? We kept on walking and finally, after all these trips into the city, saw a famous person. Katie Couric! She was walking down the sidewalk in deep conversation with a man with two men following. I just pointed and said, “Katie Couric!”, dad stopped and turned around, “wow, cool!”. We kept walking, and walking, and walking. Kay was tired, and sweating. 

We took the elevator up to the third floor, checked in and were called in within 4 minutes. I went into the exam room and Ed went into Dr. Heerdts office. I started doing my stretches, they recommend doing them 5 times a day, I try to stretch every time I get up. Dr. Heerdt and Anna, the PA walked in. I met Anna before my surgery, very, very nice. Dr. Heerdt unvelcroed my bra and said, “oh my, this looks great!!!”. I immediately asked about the pain in my left breast and the subsequent bruising that showed up. She said it’s not the implant dropping, there is swelling underneath. It looks like there was a bleed during surgery which would explain the swelling as well as the bruising. She was not concerned at all. The PA said my skin looks really good, not too stretched out or anything. Phew. Dr. Heerdt re-velcroed my bra and sat down. “Do you live with your dad?”, lol… “no my boyfriend” … “how long have you been together?” … “3.5 years” … “oh good, it’s been a long time, how is he dealing with this?” … “yeah, we moved in together two months before all of this started. He’s doing well, he’s an angel, the gold standard, an angel”. Kim is doing well, however he’s feeling this too, we all are.

Dr Heerdt started to explain the pathology report when I said my dads in the office if we want to go in there, “oh of course!” she said. We went in and she pulled out the pathology report. There were 3/22 lymph nodes affected by the cancer, 4 if you include the one that was taken out on November 21, 2016. All lymph nodes removed and she confirmed there were two small, less than 1 mm sections of the breast that still had cancer however they were in the duct therefore they “don’t count” she said. This later confirmed by Hillary that the smart folk are trying to clarify if the “cancer” inside the duct are really cancer or moreso pre-cancerous cells. Hillary says it’s not cancer so, the chemo killed it all. Wow. I had multiple questions for her. 

  1. Was the main tumor HER2+? They don’t know because it got obliterated by the chemo, so most likely yes. 
  2. What stage would you classify the cancer (because they told me they couldn’t really tell me exactly until they saw all lymph nodes involved)? She wasn’t sure as it was maybe 2 or 2b, maybe 3, but basically it doesn’t matter and they barely use staging anymore. 
  3. Radiation? Yes, since it was in the lymph nodes, sigh. 
  4. Do you notice any lymphedema? Nope.
  5. Do I need physical therapy? You look like you’re moving very well so I wouldn’t recommend it at this time but if you need it then sure. 
  6. Can I travel after the drains are out? Yes, but no third world countries. 
  7. Can I said I’m NED (no evidence of disease) or cancer free? Both. Now technically, cancer free is aggressive. We DON’T KNOW if I’m cancer free that’s why people say NED because, yes, there could be tiny, tiny, tiny cells left, hence radiation. There’s no evidence at this time based on the pathology report however, right now, I feel confident saying cancer free.

Hi, my name is Caitlin Marie O’Neill and I am cancer free and this is how I feel..

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    2 thoughts on ““You’re cancer free” she said.

    1. Hello Katie (Caitlin), Debbie karpinski here. I will be walking 39 miles in Boston this weekend to support the Avon foundation to cure Breat cancer. This is the 8th year I have done this. This year I raised 5400! I will have you initials (ko) on my forearm as I walk ! Go girl ! Stay strong!

      Rachel let me know about your blog great stuff! She said hello !

      Debbie karpinski

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