Though the journey to full recovery is far from over, we did get some incredibly good news from the surgical oncologist yesterday. The chemo worked and surgery did too.
At first Ericka was told she was at Stage 2B. That was an initial ‘best guess’ clinical diagnosis. Upon closer inspection it was determined she was in fact fully into Stage 3. That’s a lot of cancer. That’s a tumor in the 4-6 cm range. That’s an invasive spread to the lymph nodes. That’s a spot they couldn’t really figure out but were scared of anyway. Overall very bad news, hence the three-step treatment plan of chemotherapy, double mastectomy and radiation.
Chemotherapy was a living nightmare for E, but it did its job and shrank her tumor down to less than 1 mm. She went from about 5 centimeters (!) down to less than one millimeter. That’s Stage 3 to Stage 1!
All of the tissue Dr. Seiling removed during surgery was sent to be tested. That included both breasts in their entirety plus 17 lymph nodes from her right armpit. The pathological report that came back after surgery showed only a microscopic remainder of cancer in that right breast tissue and all of her lymph nodes were clear. And considering her right breast is no longer part of her body…
You guessed it… The doctor said the sweetest combination of four words I’ve heard in a very, very long time. Maybe all my life in fact. One right after the other, she said: “You are cancer free.”
My eyes welled up because that’s what they do and Eri-ska winked at me because that’s what she does. Then we turned back to the doctor and drilled her with as many questions as we could think of.
In the end we walked out understanding that her body’s excellent response to chemotherapy means more than just good news in the present moment. It’s the best prognosis she could have moving forward in terms of her future chances of recurrence or new diagnosis. The double mastectomy adds a boost to that prognosis, as will the radiation insurance policy she’ll add once her spacers have been fully expanded.
The word remission is not used in the context of breast cancer. It’s saved for chronic illnesses like leukemia and lymphoma. I have to say I like Dr. Seiling’s words much better anyway. Cancer. Free.
This journey is so far from over but now it is clear that it’s all uphill from here. Please help us help others climb that hill. A donation to Cycle My Heart Out will greatly help Ericka and her four incredible children get back on their feet and it will also help everyone who calls on Ann’s Place for assistance. Your contribution will make a big difference in the lives of many people! Thank you Thank you Thank you!