Friday, November 16, 2007

my breast cancer

My Breast Cancer.

OK, I’ve said it. I’ve owned it.

It has not even been a month (Oct. 23) since Dr. Mondro (the radiologist) came into the room and said, rather off-handedly, “unfortunately the biopsy came back positive, but the good news is that the cells are still in situ.”

I was a little dazed, but that didn’t seem so bad. This was 2007, and this could probably be taken care of with a simple out-patient surgery. I had had skin cancers like this.

What threw me a little was when she handed me a big Breast Cancer book – somehow it didn’t seem to apply to me.

Then there were the MRIs, and the consultation with the oncologist (Dr. Bertrand) and the surgeon (Dr. Rimmer), and the talk about radiation therapy and hormone therapy. It all seemed so “aggressive”. Wasn’t this supposed to be “beginning stage” breast cancer?

I like my breasts. When I look at them, they look perfect to me. Balanced. And though they are a bit droopy now, they are not too big and not too small. They feel soft to me, comforting. And they are sensitive and like little antennae for me. Sexually, just knowing that they are there makes me feel just a bit turned on. All of this seems connected together to who I am, how I feel, my very passions for life.

I certainly was not ready to give one up, and didn’t even want to go there. I skipped all the chapters of The Breast Book about mastectomy. Just the mention of “drains” and the like scared me.

And then the results of the MRI came back with some “questionable” area in the same breast as the original cancer cells, but in an “opposite quadrant”. Damn MRIs are too sensitive. They pick up anything.

The surgeon, Dr. Rimmer, recommended a sonogram to detect and biopsy this “questionable” area. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of another needle in my breast, especially when I was still black and blue from the first biopsy. When Dr. Mondro (the radiologist) was not able to see the area with ultrasound, I was relieved. Not only was the needle not going in, but I presumed that this meant nothing was there.


It only meant that now I had to have an MRI- guided biopsy. The day before the MRI-guided biopsy, the MRI doctor - Dr. Mullins - showed me the "questionable" area on a computer screen. It looked like a little silver diamond on the screen, shiny. It certainly didn’t look vague.

I asked what this could be besides cancer. Oh, maybe a fibroid cyst, Dr. Mullins said, a little node of denseness. That felt right. I had little bumps of things all over my body that were not cancer. Maybe this was just one of those.

The day that Dr. Mullins called with the results of the MRI-guided biopsy I was nervous. It seemed like every test I had had lately had come back with something “positive”. I paced the floor, put away the clothes.

I liked Dr. Mullins. I had made sure he knew that I didn’t like the idea of needles going into my breast and wanted to make sure he gave me enough sedative that I wouldn’t feel it. On the morning of the biopsy he came in and said “Oh yes, you’re the woman who doesn’t want any drugs, so I’ve brought a bullet for you to bite “, and we had laughed. He’d done a good job with the biopsy. Clean, he said. We just went in, got the cells, and got out.

Dr. Mullins was sweet the way he told me that the cells were cancerous. Invasive. But the area was small.

Maybe you got it all with the biopsy, I said. Maybe, he said.

I already knew that Dr. Rimmer was going to recommend a mastectomy when he called the next day. Still, I tried to talk him out of it. Why not 2 lumpectomies? I asked. I mean, they are really small.

Dr. Rimmer says that 2 lumpectomies will leave me with a very deformed breast, that I would never be happy with it. He says that they can reconstruct the breast during the same surgery that they remove it.

So this past week I’ve been trying to get my mind around losing my right breast – and having a fake breast. I haven’t even gotten to the part of having cancer cells yet.

Last night I went to a Breast Cancer Support group. One woman suggested keeping a journal, writing about it all. So that is what this blog is all about. Writing down my feelings. Every day as I make my way through breast cancer.

So far it seems like every day has been different. Sometimes I seem ok; sometimes I seem totally whacked out.