Oh my goodness! I have been reminded all over again how blessed I am to have such amazing people in my life. I am overwhelmed with the amount of heartfelt and genuine concern from so many of you. There are no words to convey how much your love and prayers mean to my family and me.
Barely two weeks in, and we have received offers of support and promises of prayers from so many. Already, Maddie and Creed’s schools have been so helpful and supportive of our family.
My children are very blessed to be where they are; they will never forget the kindness of their teachers, friends, parents of their friends, and the many others who have loved on them and supported us as we begin this new chapter.
Knowing we have the love and support of our family, friends, and community in a time like this makes such a difference. You all have made a significant impact on my heart by reaching out and loving us so well. Please know I am truly grateful.
Many of you have asked for an update and I promise I wasn’t making you wait on purpose. There are still a few more tests pending and I wanted to receive results before posting.
Also, several of you have asked how I found out that the cancer may have come back. If you know me very well, you know there’s a story there. 🙂
Ever heard the English proverb, “A stitch in time saves nine”? It’s earliest known use was in the early 1700’s, so it’s been around awhile. In the Cambridge dictionary it’s meaning is defined that it is better to act or deal with problems immediately, because if you wait until later, the problem or situation will get worse and it will take more effort or a longer time to fix it.
Those of us who have had breast cancer are cautioned to watch for signs of recurrence. One thing in particular that I was told to look for was any sign of redness on the skin near mastectomy scar lines. I am hyper vigilant to check for that all the time.
One day, I noticed a tiny sore, about the size of a pin head. I decided it must be a little blackhead, which was odd, since I do not get those, especially below my neck. About a week later I noticed it had grown and was now about the size of a small nailhead.
It would have been easy to ignore this, I was never told to watch for a blackhead and I have many other things that require my time and attention, but I felt like I needed to mention this seemingly harmless, tiny sore to Patrick. After looking at it, he told me it was a stitch from my mastectomy. The mastectomy I had 14 months previously! What in the world?
His guess was that it was a permanent stitch placed deep within the skin and for some reason it migrated up and was coming out of one of my tiny scar lines. It’s called suture spitting and it’s a real thing. Google it. It’s weird. (And pretty much unheard of 14 months after a surgery, so I guess that makes me a little weird, too. But we already knew that.) 🙂
Of course this was a Friday afternoon when nothing could be done about it, so I called my surgeon’s office Monday and was disappointed to learn he would be out of town until the following Tuesday. His nurse asked that I show up right before he opened the day he returned so he could take a look at it. I gave it little thought the rest of the week.
When Dr. Hagans saw me Tuesday he said that although odd, I did indeed have a “spitting stitch”, and before I could reply he snipped it, pulled it out, and I was done. I think it took less than 10 seconds.
He wanted me to come back in two weeks so he could check on it, but cautioned that I return immediately if it got red, as that could be an indication of infection.
That evening I noticed a tiny bit of redness where the stitch was removed. When I woke up the next morning it was really red. I called my Radiation Oncologist, Dr. Bryan Imamura, to see if I could run by and let him take a look at it (because he’s right here in Conway, and he’s so nice he doesn’t mind when
I drive him nuts, I mean, call him with any concerns.) He saw me the next day and agreed with my surgeon that the redness was a sign of infection.
I’d been told before that redness in that area was infection, back in 2014. Actually, I was told that repeatedly (by a radiologist that should not be reading mammograms).
Thankfully, Dr. Imamura and Dr. Hagans are a lot smarter than that guy, and when I kindly disagreed with their infection theory and asked for a biopsy, they immediately complied.
And by immediately, I mean, in less than 24 hours, Dr. Hagans graciously performed a skin punch biopsy on the red area where the stitch had been removed.
Unfortunately, 48 hours later he called to tell me that he was glad they listened to their patient instead of just guessing, because pathology from the biopsy showed some cancer cells. He compared the new biopsy with pathology from 2014 and it was the exact same type of cell; inflammatory breast cancer.
A common question many have asked is, if I had a mastectomy and the cancer was gone, why is it back?
My doctor’s best guess is because my cancer was triple negative, meaning there are no known hormone growth factors that caused the cancer, they have no idea what caused it and what fuels its growth. Although my previous treatment killed all the cancer, unfortunately it did not kill what caused the cancer. So here we go again.
We believe every medical opinion requires a second medical opinion, and with the blessing of my fabulous team of doctors at CARTI, Patrick and I traveled to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston last week.
We chose Dana-Farber for many reasons, but mainly, because they have a collaborative care program. Many cancer centers do not work with local oncologists. If you are under a doctor’s care at another center, you must receive all of your treatments there. Simply stated; they don’t share.
I did not want to travel for treatment. Last time, being away from my family was worse than the cancer itself, so this go around, I knew if I required treatment of any kind, I wanted to receive it locally.
As I mentioned in my last post, Dr. Beth Overmoyer, the director and founder of the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program at Dana-Farber, wanted to personally handle my case. (We loved her by the way.) She is brilliant, compassionate, and reminds me of one of my very best friends, Debbie, so I immediately took to her.
After 4 days of testing she confidently and reassuringly told me that treating inflammatory breast cancer was her passion and she was going to take good care of me. She already has a game plan. As more test results come in, she may tweak it a bit, but overall, she gave us good news.
She told us that I do have a “small amount of disease in my chest” (confirmed by PET and CT scans and a brain MRI), but that’s it. There is no distant disease. That’s a very big deal.
In fact, Dr. Overmoyer was pleased (and surprised), that is all that showed up on the scans. She said it is very rare (a word that has been used many times when describing me), because typically, by the time this disease has been found again, it has already spread into organs and bones. We discovered the recurrence super quick and it was still contained to a very small area. All of my organs and bones are clear.
A stitch in time . . .
I will be taking an oral medication, although it may take us awhile to find the right one. She is trying to walk a fine line between taking care of the disease, but allowing me to feel well enough to do what I love to do (which is taking care of my family, being very involved in my kid’s activities, and continuing to serve in other volunteer positions I enjoy). She wants me to continue being me, not sick in bed. YES for that! I was so very thankful to hear that was possible!
Dr. Overmoyer has been in communication with my CARTI oncologist, Dr. Thomas Sneed. I will see him Thursday morning and get this party started!
I want to mention this; in the world of oncology (and I’ve been a part of that world for two years now), it is a rarity to find a doctor who is willing to work with other doctors in oncology. That goes both ways. Many cancer treatment centers do their own thing and will not consult with other oncologists, and many other oncologists do not want to be consulted.
The fact that Dr. Overmoyer at Dana-Farber in Boston, and Dr. Sneed at CARTI in Little Rock have willingly joined forces and agreed to collaborate with one another to give me a longer and higher quality of life is no small thing. Just one of many reasons I am grateful for these two outstanding doctors.
You know I don’t like to waste anything that happens to me so I’m going to throw this out here. I want you all to think about that English proverb for a moment. After hearing my story, I hope you will be inspired to take action if there is something in your life that needs attention.
If you know of a situation that you need to take care of, no matter how insignificant it may seem, be proactive and take action now! It does not matter if it is a physical ailment that has been bugging you, a relational problem with a friend or family member that isn’t resolving on its own, or a weird noise under the hood of your car that won’t go away; the same principle applies.
A stitch in time saves nine.
I like this verse in Proverbs 27:23, “Be sure to know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.”
Be aware. Know what’s going on. Pay attention. Be an advocate for yourself and your family. Don’t ignore little things. Take care of seemingly small situations now, so they don’t turn into bigger, more complicated or costly issues later.
My situation would have been much more difficult to treat, and most likely shortened my life had I not paid any attention to that tiny stitch and/or insisted on an immediate biopsy. (And I thank God that He prompted me to do that, and gave me doctors who listen to their patients.)
Sometimes God uses very simple things to help us with very complicated situations. Be aware of what you need to take action on today, it may very well save you added trouble and complication tomorrow.
I still have some pending tests results and will find out more in the coming days. I will update as more information becomes available, but wanted to let you know where I’m at as of right now.
Again, thank you for all the love. My people are the best people. So grateful for you all. #WEwin!
debbie stockford says
o my gosh girl….I am so sorry for the bad news. I love the comment at the end tho….you have been entrusted with this, not cursed….
what an inspiring woman you are. keep the faith. be bold and courageous sister! one life touches so many others…
Praying daily for you, your family and of course your precious children
Kay Dickson says
Love you girl and this is very good news and we are giving God glory with you!!!
Thanks for letting me in again on what’s going on, my dear Tina. Jodi had shared a little this afternoon. Believing with you and all your family and friends. Love you.
Tina – My heart is so thankful for the many blessings woven in this. For that stitch in time, for your absolute undeterred spirit, for His answer about what really is vs what was originally thought. The Welches stand with you in thanksgiving and prayer! #WEwin