Last week I scheduled my surgery for June 19th. Sincere apologies to my brother for stealing your birthday thunder.
Still many unknowns to account for. Will I need chemo? Don’t know. Will I need radiation? Don’t know. Do they need to take out some lymph nodes? Won’t know til I’m on the table.
Something I am certain of: Will be reading labels more carefully to avoid the pinkwashing industrial complex. Just because it’s the name of your cat and is on sale doesn’t mean this is the rosé you want to drink all day.
After 4 mammograms, 2 MRIs, 2 biopsies, and a genetic blood panel screening, we have a diagnosis and the start of an action plan.
I need a unilateral mastectomy due to multiple instances of invasive ductal carcinoma.
Surgery will probably take place in mid June. Not sure yet on treatment (chemo, radiation, or both), as the pathology from surgery will determine the best approach. Also not sure on the type of reconstruction that I’ll want. Pretty sure I’m not enough of a badass to forgo reconstruction, but maybe I’ll surprise myself.
Scheduling a consultation with the plastic surgeon today.
Thursday’s biopsy results came in Friday afternoon via phone call, which I took from the privacy of my desk at home.
The kindly nerd doc clearly did not relish this part of his remit; his cumbrous message was delivered gently and I honestly felt bad for him.
The suspicious-looking spots are more of the same: invasive ductal carcinoma. Whoomp.
A heart-to-heart with my oncologist’s nurse later in the day was helpful if sobering. Sounds like mastectomy might be on my horizon. Her prescription for the weekend: dig in and do my research and allow myself as many distractions as possible. Thanks to husband, IKEA, and dear friends who delivered on that last one.
Plan of action to be developed this week.
So, MRI biopsy happened today. Took a long time. Have never felt more uncomfortable or vulnerable in my life. Was deeply touched by the gentle care from nurses and technicians.
I was momentarily concerned that the 5th-year resident doc performing the procedure didn’t get my lame “May the fourth be with you” joke. Like, had never actually heard it before despite his claim of being a Star Wars fan.
Decided I preferred that his nerdy focus had been on hard science.
Results are due by Monday.
Got a call from the genetic counselor this morning. Ducked into the tiny “phone booth” room sandwiched between the men’s room and the two mother’s rooms in our office for the impression of privacy. As one who used to sit at a desk just outside all three amenities, don’t be fooled: there’s no sound-proofing in that snug refuge.
Good news! Genetic testing revealed….nothing. Sharp little tears of relief.
And I scheduled the MRI-guided biopsy for the first available time slot. Which is 10 days from now. When asked how long the procedure should take, Nurse said, “Give yourself three hours.”
Which means that 229.5 hours from now, I should be out of the dreaded MRI machine and wearing an ice pack.
This week was….long. Surgery can’t happen until there’s an answer for the “to what extent?” question. At the suggestion of my oncologist, two additional tests were performed.
On Tuesday, I went for genetic counseling and a blood test. Might not be covered by insurance. It can take 2 weeks for results to come back.
Friday morning I went for an MRI. A dazed-looking woman in the locker room shared that she’d just had an MRI biopsy. Did not know that was a thing. Did not realize this was foreshadowing.
I do not care for physical confinement. Never been a fan of krautrock. Face-down in a tiny tube for forty-five minutes pushed my limits considerably. After an initial panic attack, I dug in. Effective coping mechanisms included diaphragmatic breathing, giving Kraftwerk the benefit of the doubt, and creating elaborate narratives about how Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick secretly hated the avant-garde and retreated to the comforts of milk and gingham after long days at the Factory.
For the second half, a contrast agent was injected via IV. Through the earplugs I heard the sweet technician say, “You will feel cold. It will taste funny.” It was freezing and my mouth filled with metallic dirt. And then it was over and she said results would come back in 4-5 days. I went to work with smudged mascara and lines all over my face.
The doctor called a few hours later; I ducked out of a meeting to answer (anyone else noticing a trend here?). Suspicious-looking spots were sighted. Another biopsy will be performed. An MRI biopsy. I need to work on my breathing.
I can identify with the thought that “hope is the thing with feathers*.” But patience is a virtue with which I am not endowed.
Today was the first step of many. We met with my surgical oncologist for the first time to map out what I thought was the full plan for kicking the shit out of breast cancer.
Turns out this will be more of a prolonged lingchi effort than one epic street brawl. More tests are needed to determine the extent and type of surgery required. And I was stunned to learn that the treatment plan can’t be formed until after the results of surgery.
So…booking more appointments and taking things one step at a time over here. And trying to remain hopeful.
*Really looking forward to that new movie about Miss Emily Dickinson.
Scary times reveal truths. As Magic Johnson said, “When something happens to you…and then you find out who really your friends are.”
I’m fortunate to have a deep bench of friends from every court, pitch, field, and locker room of my life. Which is funny because I suck at sports and don’t play any.
The support and generosity from friends and family is humbling. And then there’s the Husband, who has been my champion since 1997.
Bless me, mother, for I have sinned. It’s been 4 years since my last mammogram.
In early April, I went for a regular screening mammogram. Which got a call back. Literally: They call you on your cell phone when you’re sitting at your desk in your open floor plan office environment.
A week later, there was a diagnostic mammogram. And ultrasound. The perfectly-seasoned radiology technician took 60 images.
The next afternoon, there was a biopsy. Ultrasound-guided removal of tissue via a long needle, with tiny titanium clips nail-gunned in to mark six spots. And right after that, another mammogram. Hell yes, it hurt.
At the end of the next business day, another phone call. Excuse me please, advertising colleagues, while I step out of our meeting to talk about invasive ductal carcinoma.