Friday, September 2, 2011

Two Weeks

Two weeks ago today I was preliminarily diagnosed with breast cancer. At an earlier consult with my OB/GYN about an annoying but only slightly painful lump in my breast that just wouldn't go away no matter how often I nursed, he reassured me it was probably nothing but asked if I wanted to see someone else about it. "Yeah, I think I do," were the smartest words I've ever spoken. Thinking it was just a cyst I could have removed after I'd finished breast-feeding, he sent me to "the best breast surgeon I know."

I sat in Dr. Liu's office on the afternoon of the 19th, avoiding all the information on the walls about breast cancer because that just didn't apply to me...and it was some scary stuff. I picked up a Redbook instead. After a quick exam, she asked if I had time to go straight over to an imaging lab for an ultrasound. I called Chris at home to make sure he had enough milk to keep Bug from reaching total meltdown status for another hour or so. Yep, he assured me. We didn't suspect a thing.

At the radiology center, they quickly took me in for a mammogram. I will spare you most of the details, but boobs are not meant to be pancakes. Nor should they ever place stickers on you to mark where they want to image. Those stickers have to be removed, and...OUCH!

Next they took me in for an ultrasound, and I kid you not: it wasn't until the radiologist came in and took over from the radiology tech that I could tell there was something wrong. She noted the "calcifications" and "silvery sheen" and told me she was "pretty concerned" by what she saw.

"How concerned?" I asked.

"I'm very concerned," she said. "This looks like cancer."

Heart racing, mouth dry, adrenaline COURSING through my veins, I somehow drove the 2 miles home. It was the longest drive of my life.

After watching Chris' dad - my father-in-law - suffer through and ultimately fall victim to pancreatic cancer less than two years ago, I was consumed with guilt about the news I had to share. "WHAT?!?" was Chris' reaction. "Tell me exactly what they said." We were both crying as I told him about my appointments. "I can't believe we're fucking having this conversation."

We slowly shared the news with immediate family over the weekend and waited anxiously for my biopsies on Monday. 48 hours never felt soooo d r a w n out. I couldn't sleep; I imagined the worst. I was pissed off and scared out of my mind. When my surgeon called to follow up and reassure me that she would get me through this, I told her there simply was no other option.

On Wednesday the 24th, I got word that the tumor was malignant, which really wasn't a surprise but still took my breath away. There was also evidence of some cancerous activity in my axillary lymph node. My doctor might as well have reached through the phone and punched me in the gut. I felt the strong urge to cut this MONSTER out of my body myself, but I am clearly not qualified for that (thank you, organic chemistry). And more diagnostic tests were necessary - an MRI, something called a MUGA scan to test my heart, a PET/CT scan and another that I (get this) volunteered for called a PEM scan, which is essentially a 45 minute mammogram. Fun times.

You guys know the rest - CT and PET scans show some small hotspots elsewhere, suggesting that things have gone outside of my breast, but that they are still very small. Clearly this is more serious than if the cancer was contained, but at present the plan of attack remains the same as, for the most part, if the main tumor responds to chemo, the little spots will too.

Chris' cousin posted about me on her Facebook page this week. She wrote, "Our wonderful cousin who is 32 with a 6 month old son has been diagnosed with breast cancer..prayers and thoughts are going out to them as they fight this." I can still hardly believe that refers to me.

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