Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I'm in Love!!!

'There is a light in this world, a healing spirit
more powerful than any darkness we may encounter.
We sometimes lose sight of this force
when there is suffering, and too much pain.
Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge
through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call
and answer in extraordinary ways.'
Mother Teresa

No! I am not in love with the man personally.  I simply love who he is and how he goes about doing what he does. I am talking about my new Oncologist. What a joy he has turned out to be!

It was June 2007 that I realised I had a recurring problem. Just 6 months after Jeremy's accident I discovered a lump in the region of my previous mastectomy. It was not until April 2009, and suffering considerable pain, that my problem was diagnosed. I was advised that radiation was my only option; recurrence in the brachial plexus a rare and painful condition. Thirty hits of radiation later I was given the 'all clear.' Unfortunately, within one month it was obvious that the 'problem' was far from 'fixed.' I was then referred to Dr Janine Lombard who was to become my Medical Oncologist. I saw her twice before she went on maternity leave. For the whole of 2010 I was subjected to different doctors with varying opinions.  As the result of a PET Scan in June I was told that my results were 'exceptional.' I was elated! It appeared that the results from Femara had exceeded all expectations. I became a little concerned in September when, yet a different oncologist disregarded my concerns for the lump which was growing on my clavicle, then.

I then spoke to my own medical practitioner who recommended a CT Scan in a letter to my Radiation Oncologist. My appointment was in December which did not seem to be the 'right' time to push for further testing, even though the size of the lump was increasing with several new hard lumps in the region of the chest wall. I decided that as my radiation oncologist was not concerned I would 'let go' of my own worries.

My appointment today was to see Dr Andre Van Der Westhuizen. I knew nothing other than his name and the fact that he had arrived from South Africa to take over my care from Dr Lombard. My initial reaction was favourable and within a short time I knew I had struck 'gold.' Dr Van Der Westhuizen informed me that I would be on Warfarin and Femara (or some form of chemotherapy) for life. When I said I thought it would be for a period of five years he quickly pointed out that was for patients not living with metastatic breast cancer. In answer to my concerns regarding the lethargy/fatigue he said that, unfortunately, will also be a lifelong problem.

Dr Van quickly noted the oedema/lymphoedema in my right arm, along with loss of function. He also appeared surprised to learn that I still manage to find a way to undertake yoga and Tai Chi classes. I pointed out that both are an effective means of moving the lymphatic fluid. On reading the clinical notes he was amazed to learn that no further testing had been recommended during my September consultation, given that the lumps were increasing in size. How could there be such dramatic changes in a three month period?

I was given a request for Ct Scan and Bone Scan. Somewhere there is also to be a scan of my liver. Doctor Van did make it clear that the lesions? on my clavicle and surrounding area are most unusual, especially as the area is often extremely painful. As a starting point, he feels a clear picture, indicating my current condition, is essential.

As we said our goodbyes he placed his arm around me and said gently 'I really hope these tests  give us a 'good' result!' For my part, I will make every effort not to worry unless I am given just cause.

What a delightful man!

40 comments:

Kaz said...

Chez so good that you have finally find one that gave you a hug and the end,know what that means to you.Hooray...Here is a big one from miles across that will be around you always gorgeous.Hope you get answer,sorry the the figtue will stay with you..

Love you always my friend,and you so imspire me to be who i am..xoxo Kaz

Alli said...

Reading this made me give a "sigh" of relief because finally someone hears you!!
I so hope this Dr works out well for you and have a long relationship with him..

Love Alli xxoo

stonepost said...

Chez, it is great to find a doctor you can even talk to, one who will treat you as a human and not a number on a chart. The testing is essential and I am happy that you are being treated seriously. Maybe now they will find the correct medicines. My wife has been on Warfarin (rat poison!) for over 30 years and hasn't turned into a rat yet!

nancyspoint said...

Chez, I am so happy to hear you have found renewed optimism because of your new oncologist! The fact that he put put his arm around you and treated you so kindly, speaks volumes because you so deserve to be treated kindly! I like his honesty too, letting you know what you probably must live with. Hearing you say you will try to not worry unless given just cause is wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Finally! Three cheers for Dr. Van for being human as well as humane!
Praying and trusting that it all turns out well for you, my sweet Aussie friend. Love and hugs from the Lone Star State!

rama said...

I am sure things would turn out good for you.When the right time comes the right doctor too comes along. What a positive note to begin the new year.
Happy New Year. Your Yoga and Tai Chi would always be there to help you become healthy and happy again.

Audrey said...

Chaz, it sounds like you have struck gold with this oncologist - I am so happy for you. After all you have been through, it now sounds like you are in very good hands! I am truly happy!
xoxoxo

gillian said...

Aah, good to hear that a South African. I live in Johannesburg and think my oncologist is great too.

Chez said...

Kaz, thanks sweetie. He was a dream come true for me. I cannot help but feel concerned about new lumps and fatigue eh? These things keep me away from these pages. Catch you when I am able my friend xoxo

Chez said...

Thank you so much Alli. I left the hospital feeling absolutely elated. I liked his honesty and the fact that he told me that he did not feel I had been well advised about my condition. Maybe I will find out what the lumps are. I wish you 'success' in your next appointment also my friend.

Chez said...

StonePost I am thinking it is time to take my 'other' medicine also. The pain in the area of these 'lumps' is driving me crazy.
Gosh, your wife has been consuming rat poison for a long time. I am amazed!
My Mum told me to sneak rat poison into Haydn's food if I wanted to get rid of him. Funny thing. We are both still here. Smile..

Chez said...

Nancy I do like your choice of words. You are so sweet! As I have just mentioned, feel like I have been kept in the dark and fed bs as the saying goes. It is more to do with no 'regular' oncologist.
My pain levels seem to be on the way up, as too the sensations from the nerve endings. Not good!! I do try not to worry Nancy as I know it does not change things.
Thanks so much for sharing my journey.

Chez said...

My friend from the Lone Star State you have said that well. Dr Van definitely has the personality that makes a huge difference to those of us being 'treated' for this insidious disease.
Doctors are like friends...good ones make a huge difference! Thanks to you too for sharing the journey.

Chez said...

Thank you for visiting Rama. My yoga and Tai Chi is definitely good for body, mind and spirit.
The difficulty with my disease is the location. Having a recurrence in the nerve centre for the arm is both debilitating and painful. I manage to get through the days somehow using the strength I gain from doing what I do.
Hope you find your way here again.

Chez said...

Audrey, that you can be happy for me is a gift in itself. I am so grateful to have you with me on this journey. I gain so much strength from what I do here; have come to rely on you all to keep me sane.
I am expecting great things for both of us in 2011. We can look forward in anticipation....

Chez said...

Gillian thank you for visiting. My new oncologist said the reason he accepted the position was because there are some similarities climate wise and he felt Australia was 'safer' It probably is, but for how long is anybody's guess.

Starry said...

he sounds very thorough and like he really is paying attention to all the details... great!

my dad loves his Dr Van from south africa too.

hoping this is a bright start to the year ahead,
xoxoxox Starry

diane b said...

How good you must feel to have found a doctor who you have confidence in. He sounds a caring, understanding man. Hopefully he can get to the bottom of the problem. A good start to 2011, I hope it keeps going for you.

Maundering mutterer said...

When I read your Oncologist's name I immediately knew he was from these parts! I do, do hope he'll stick around and look after you well. Sounds like he admires your tenacity (Thai Chi etc) as much as we do! It's no good continually having to change doctors. I also hope that your tests turn out well, better than expected.

Maundering mutterer said...

PS: While our doctors emigrate, we get immigrant doctors from Cuba. Don't laugh! They're very good, perhaps they think its 'safer' here? Oh well, you know what they say about grass: no not that smoking it makes you dumb, the bit about it being greener on t'other side.

Rose Mary Saraiva said...

Chez,

Good for you, finding a good physician can be very difficult at times, and finding one that not only listens, but also makes it personal, is a rare find and definitely worth their weight in gold.

Wishing you all the best.

Love and hugs, Rose Mary

Paul C said...

What a warm caring doctor providing some assurance and courage.

Chez said...

Starry, interesting that your Dad has a Dr Van also. On re-reading this post I can still feel the sense of anticipation, and excitment that I felt after the consultation. I feel the testing gives me the opportunity to have a 'clearer' picture.
Continue to create and inspire my friend. 2011 shows great promise xo

Chez said...

Diane B as I have just mentioned to Starry, it is like finding a 'pot of gold.'
Thanks for visiting and also the opportunity to do my travelling through your travelogue.

Chez said...

MM the one thing I have found with my condition is that it is considered rather 'unique' and the doctors appear to take a real interest, particularly in light of their feeling that it is my inner 'strength' that is my greatest asset.
I really appreciate 'picking up' the odd bit of information, such as the situation with doctors coming out of Cuba to your country. Our healthcare system is struggling under the weight increasing sickness. 1 in 3 people with cancer whereas it was 1 in 30 just a few years ago.
I am temped to try a bit of that greener 'grass' myself. Anything is worth a try with this pain and negative side affects of the opiates.
So glad you are here to share the journey. I particularly enjoy your style of writing.

Chez said...

Rose Mary you are so right. Over all, I have been happy with my standard of care. It is just the fact that my oncologist has been on maternity leave for 12 months. I have found that difficult as these 'new' lumps are a concern for me. To feel 'validated' is a wonderful feeling.
Thank you so much for visiting. I am waiting to get my new computer set up in the hope my Dragon Naturally Speaking will make my writing much easier.
Thinking of you and sending love on angel wings.

Chez said...

I could not ask for more Paul. I am happy to place my care in his hands remaining optimistic that we will do his best for me.

Beth L. Gainer said...

Chez,

I'm so very happy for you that you "struck gold"! Dr. Van sounds wonderful.

I have a terrific medical oncologist who has been so caring and attentive -- and he calls me back the same day I leave a message, sometimes within 5 minutes of my call!!

I'm too inflexible to do yoga (I tried it in three different classes), but I am considering tai chi. How do you like it?

julie said...

Yea! Having an onc. you trust & like is such a huge thing, and some people never find that. So glad you've & Dr. Van have found each other!

Diana Doyle said...

Dear Chez,

My mum had a similar problem to what you've described with her arm. You are an inspiration to be blogging and being able to attend your yoga and tai chi.

Sending love and keeping my fingers crossed for you that your health gets stronger and stronger!

with love
diana x

Chez said...

Beth I am so happy that you also have an oncologist that seems to treat you as a 'whole.' What a difference it makes.
As far as the yoga, I would not give up as there are many 'different' styles as well as variations within the style. The teacher has a lot to do with how well you do in class. Actually, I am not very flexible myself but have found 'gold' with my current teacher in the Iyengar style. Given the degree of disfunction in my body these days I find there are still many benefits. I would recommend that you keep looking.
Tai Chi is a moving form of meditation/breath which is excellent for moving the lymph around the body. My teacher is only average however, is a lovely lady and very encouraging. We live in a rural area so these classes serve the purpose as I do not have to travel. Also they are subsidised which makes them very affordable in retirement.
I really like the fact that both forms of exercise are great for improving flexibility and breath control while bringing the mind into focus.
Good luck in your endeavour to find something that works.

Chez said...

Beth I am so happy that you also have an oncologist that seems to treat you as a 'whole.' What a difference it makes.
As far as the yoga, I would not give up as there are many 'different' styles as well as variations within the style. The teacher has a lot to do with how well you do in class. Actually, I am not very flexible myself but have found 'gold' with my current teacher in the Iyengar style. Given the degree of disfunction in my body these days I find there are still many benefits. I would recommend that you keep looking.
Tai Chi is a moving form of meditation/breath which is excellent for moving the lymph around the body. My teacher is only average however, is a lovely lady and very encouraging. We live in a rural area so these classes serve the purpose as I do not have to travel. Also they are subsidised which makes them very affordable in retirement.
I really like the fact that both forms of exercise are great for improving flexibility and breath control while bringing the mind into focus.
Good luck in your endeavour to find something that works.

Chez said...

So am I Julie. It is a real relief!

Chez said...

Thank you Diana. I know how hard it can be to be reading things reminding you of what your Mum went through. I pray that it will provide healing for you as 'feeling is healing.'
I am sure we will be able to talk 'real' time in the near future.
Love Chez xo

BreastCancerSisterhood.com said...

Dearest Chez,
Your story is a perfect example of why we must be our own advocate. We know our body and we have a gut instinct when something isn't right. Unfortunately, we want to believe the doctors when they tell us not to worry, so we take the easy way out and turn a blind eye to what we already know.

It sounds like you've found a good doctor. I hope you will follow your instincts and make sure your new doctor follows thru.

I'm still in shock over the death of my darling James. I just walk around shaking my head, not understanding. I know you understand the pain I'm in.

Love to you, my sweet friend,
Brenda

Jeanne Marren Egan said...

Chez,
What a wonderful way to start the new year. It sounds as though you have found a great doctor who is both caring and medically astute. I think that it always helps to feel like you have a plan that you and your doctor both agree upon. I, like many other people who have commented on your blog, am totally impressed that you continue to function at such a high level in spite of all of your pain. May 2011continue to bring you all that you deserve.

With love and hugs,
Jeanne

artistdeb said...

Interesting my friend. I posted this prayer Jan. 5th and had not seem your post. It meas a lot to me as well.

Chez said...

Brenda, I have no idea how you are managing to function sweetie. Finding your way here is such a blessing.. and a true example of altruism. Your care and concern for others is felt by all whose path you cross. I have read your recent Post on the love you shared with James. Your ability to express it, enabling you to share with your readers is such a blessing. A gift from God! You must be feeling that huge and empty void right now.
Take time for you Brenda, secure in the knowledge that you are never alone. Where you are, James is also.
Love and gratitude Chez xo

Chez said...

Jeanne thank you my friend. Yes! I do feel blessed for many reasons. I feel truly loved and supported in this journey. The response to this good news post has me overwhelmed.
You are in my thoughts as you prepare for your surgery. I will be with you in 'spirit' tomorrow and anticipate a full and complete recovery in record time.
Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read and comment. It does mean the world to me xo

Chez said...

Deb, I think we agree there is no such thing as a coincidence?
Thanks for being here xo