*** .....We interrupt this Lent BlogFast for some breaking news.....***
Back in November I found a lump in my breast. I made an appointment with a nurse practitioner at an OB/GYN. She was very nice, examined my breasts, and sent me for some tests; a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. The results came back clear/normal. The radiologist personally spoke with me and said he didn't see anything on any of the films in any of the places that we were concerned about. Happy to hear the news, I went on my merry way.
A couple of weeks later, the results were sent to the OB's office and to me. The nurse practitioner called and said she wanted me to see a breast surgeon for a consultation, just to make doubly sure that everything was OK. I was surprised to say the least. Surely, if there were reason to worry, the extensive testing I had would have shown something, wouldn't it?
Of course, this sort of thing makes one paranoid and suspicious. Did the report really say everything was clean? Did the nurse-practitioner know something I didn't? Was she concerned or was this her normal routine with patients?
The medical community feeds this paranoia. When you are tested for things, the diagnosticians can't tell you anything. They send the results on to your doctor to be explained to you. If you get results into your doctor's office, they won't tell you anything over the phone. They will practice cheer and force smiles to convince you that everything is OK, because they are trying to cover their behinds until they have irrefutable evidence one way or the other about your condition. I understand that, but it makes me second-guess everything they say and wonder what's really going on....which then makes me second-guess myself and my intuitive power to ferret out the truth or the implications of a particular situation: "Maybe, I'm just being paranoid." "I must be a hypochondriac." "I must subconsciously want something to be wrong with me."
Anyway, I made the appointment with the breast surgeon. The night before my appointment, I realized that no matter what I would probably have to have a biopsy. Even though everything came back normal on my earlier tests, the pea-sized lump was quite obviously there. Doing more image testing would just give the same results. Testing the tissue would be the only way to really know what the lump was. I went to the appointment with a good idea about what I would be told.
The doctor examined me, felt the lump, and confirmed that she would have to do a biopsy. The lump was close to the surface and would be easier for her to remove rather than trying to do a needle biopsy. When she was done, the entire lump would be sent for testing.
I spent Valentine's Day morning with DH at the local surgery center under the influence of some good drugs that gave me a nice little 40 minute nap while my doctor went to work. I was still out when she came by to talk to us afterward, so she told my husband that things went well and everything looked fine. We should have the results in 5-6 days. A follow-up appointment was scheduled for February28th, just to check the incision and go over everything.
I should have know something was up when I got a call on Tuesday, February 19th, that the doctor was going to be out of town on the 28th and could I please come in tomorrow instead? I directly asked if my results were back, suspecting that the sudden appointment change was an indicator of bad news and the sudden need to talk to me. "Oh no, we just had to reschedule some things," was the nurse's reply. um...yeah....check your pants I think they are on fire.
I couldn't make it the next day so I had them give me an appointment for yesterday, a couple of days earlier than my original time.
So....all that to say.....the nurse was lying. The report was back on 2/18/08. It revealed a small tumor was in the lump that was removed. It tested positive for breast cancer.
I haven't had time to really think about it all. I haven't cried or gotten hysterical.....not yet anyway. The truth is that we simply don't know what this means.
Was that the only spot in my breast? Are there others that didn't show up on the mammogram and ultrasound? Is it in my lymph system? The answers to those types of questions need to be found, and found quickly. They have a huge impact on what the diagnosis means. The outcome could range from needing to be carefully monitored during my life just to be safe, to having full-blown cancer....exciting huh?!
The next steps for me involve getting an MRI to try and see if there is anything else they can find visually, having a lumpectomy in the same area where they removed the original lump to make sure that no cancer tissue was left behind, followed by direct, local radiation treatment in that area of my breast. They will also have to remove and test some of my lymph nodes to discover if there is anything cancerous in them. It would be bad if there was.
It's hard to think about all of this in real terms. Typing the words tumor and cancer with "I have" in front of them seems like a huge hoax. It couldn't really be true, could it? I am young and healthy, so they have said at every turn. It's probably nothing, they and I said. Everything looks fine, I was told. But, let's just be sure and do some more tests.
I am thankful that my doctors had decided to be sure. It means that perhaps we have caught this at an early treatable stage. The flip side is that whenever I reassure myself that everything is probably not a big deal I have example after example of how wrong appearances and reassurances can be.
So..if you are out there reading my blog...I would just ask that you pray for me and my family. Pray that the tests will reveal there is nothing more in me. Pray that I will be strong. Pray that when I explain to my kids why I have to go to the hospital so much in the next month or so that I can do it in a way that is not frightening to them. The Rationalist knows what cancer is and was worried when he knew I was having a biopsy. I told him everything was going to be fine. It will be hard to explain to him that everything wasn't...at least not as fine as we had hoped. Pray for my husband. Pray that I can figure out a way to tell my family, something I don't really want to do. It's hard to consider calling them up out of the blue just to say, "Oh...yeah...I had a cancerous tumor removed." I can just imagine their panic, and having to tell the same story 20 times, and having to reassure everyone that I'm not dying.
more to come later......
P.S. it really sucks to now have a breast cancer tag for my blog posts