Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Other 'C' Word

Ok, let me just write the word first and then it won’t hurt so much later. 


Done.  I have written worse things…however, not about myself.  As much as I have now grown used to the fact that I do in fact have it, I am still in disbelief.  Is it possible to be completely conscious about your situation and still be in denial?  It must be possible because that pretty much sums up how I feel.  First just let me say that as I write this, my prognosis is excellent and supposedly, if I am going to get cancer, I majorly scored.  I am still working on feeling lucky about that little nugget… 

So, it started with a routine mammogram, my first.  And then I was called back for ‘more pictures’ and then they handed me a consent form to do an ultrasound of my right breast and then I shit my pants.  Once I saw that form I knew they were looking at and for something.  This was seriously going to fuck up my day.  I had planned to get a pedicure and do some thrift shopping.  Getting diagnosed with cancer was nowhere on the list of ‘Things to Do Today’.  What should have been on that list was: not get cancer.  Note to self in the future…

Much of what happened that day is a blur, but I clearly remember that the radiation technician screened the WRONG breast.  As any woman could tell you that has had a mammogram, having your breast smashed together between two cold plastic plates is highly unpleasant and very unwelcomed especially when coupled with the information that it was done in error.  Lucky me.  As I looked around the room, there was an enlarged picture of the offending breast, my offending breast, with a circle around a blurred blob and an arrow pointing to said blob.  Crap.  That is gonna be a problem.  After realizing that she had in fact ‘mammo’d’ the wrong one, she apologized profusely, gave me a hug as I burst into tears and very gently proceeded to screen the correct one.  My world as I knew it was over. But if my world was going to end, a hug from this woman, at that moment, kept me breathing.

There was a ridiculous amount of waiting until I was sent into another room to have the ultrasound.  It took the technician very little time to find the ‘lesion’.  That’s what they call it because I think, they think, that calling it a tumor would send you over the deep end.  But really, it’s just semantics.  It’s a fucking tumor.  And another thing… The medical community needs to place a sign on the ultrasound monitor for all patients that reads: 

Things on this screen look waaay freaking bigger than they actually are. 
Don’t. Lose. It. Yet...”

So, I see the damn thing and it looks like the size of my whole breast and I nearly pass out right there.  The technician attempts to calm me down and tells me that it is an enlarged view.  Mine was somewhere in the neighborhood of one centimeter.  Damn! I knew that I should have paid more attention when they were going over that whole metric system thingy.  Apparently, informing me of the size was supposed to make me feel better.  However, since a centimeter is somewhere in the area of 10 inches (in my very ill-informed mind), I nearly passed out…again.   To lighten the mood, the technician tells me that if it is cancer, no biggie…she’s had lymphoma not once, but twice.  Emily Post hasn’t covered what is socially expected of you when you are being screened for cancer and another person, to make you feel better, tells you that they have had cancer…twice.  A high five perhaps?  Probably not...  Anyway, I do remember stammering out sorry but feeling rather ticked off at the same time.  I really wanted to shout at her that I am sorry that she has…had (whatever) cancer, but I don’t want this happening to me.  And knowing someone else has dealt with this bullshit doesn’t make you having to deal with the bullshit any less…well, bullshitty.

After we were done with the ultrasound, she tells me that I can get dressed so the doctor can ‘go over’ the information with me.  You mean tell me that I have cancer????  You see, I suspected from the blob on the mammogram pictures, the look on the ultrasound technician’s face and my complete and utter panic that I did in fact have cancer.  My momma didn’t raise a fool.  Seriously, we know that if the doctor wants to see you, it’s not to throw you a party or show you a unicorn.

Now, this is where I go from terror, to confusion, to just fucking pissed off.

The doctor, a radiologist, brings me into a room where all my pretty little breast pictures are lined up and he starts to ask me a series of random questions starting with if I had ever had any trauma to my breast.  Wha???  Define trauma…  He never did explain that line of questioning.  And then he asked me if I knew that my breasts were asymmetrical.  Aren’t they all?  Again, I still have no idea where he is going with all this.  He then states that if I want to do a biopsy I can or I don’t have to if I don’t want to.  He mutters that he is required to say that by law. Huh?  I am still processing that statement when he ‘reassures’ me it’s nothing I have done or could have prevented.  What’s nothing that I have done?  What’s nothing that I could have prevented?  I am not even sure that we have established what the ‘it’ is…   I then ask him if ‘it’ could be a cyst.  A calcification? A lumpy breast?  To which he answers no, no, and no. I then ask hopefully, “So, ‘it’ could be a benign lump?”  And he says, “It’s not going to be benign.”  This is basically how I was ‘told’ that I have breast cancer.
The man is a menace.  He has no business dealing with people…you know, people with feelings and stuff.  He’s not comforting.  He’s not compassionate.  This asshole was the first doctor of my cancer journey and to this day, I still fight a compulsion to wring his neck and smack his smug face.  He never once made any attempt to ask how I was doing or soften the blow of the information.  I’m not even sure that he knew my name.  I came alone to that office unprepared for what was in store for me and handed to a doctor that was unwilling to assess the situation and empathize with me, the patient; at that moment, his patient.  And from where I sit today, I now know that there was so much positive information he could have given me at that moment in addition to the negative information.  But he never did.  It was an awful way to start.  However, it is not how we start; it is how we finish.

So, how am I doing now?  This all started July 5, 2012.  Since that day, I had a needle biopsy on July 11, 2012 and learned that I have invasive ductal carcinoma.  After my lumpectomy on August 10, 2012, my tumor turned out to be 1.2 centimeters.  And I now know what a centimeter is.  I am stage one, with a non-aggressive cancer.  As for treatment, I will definitely be doing radiation and hormonal therapy.  At this point, I am one of the lucky ones; chemo is not only an option, but not an advisable one considering my prognosis. 

As for this blog, I most likely won’t be doing a great amount of writing about cancer because it’s not who I am or what I am about; it is something that is happening to me.  Focusing on it any more than I have to does not benefit my health or my state of mind.  Cancer hasn’t changed me all that much. Thing is, before I was told I had cancer; I juiced regularly, had a healthy diet and exercised.  Ironically, it was the healthiest I had ever felt.  But, cancer has shown me what an amazing group of friends and loved ones I have.  And some of the most unexpected people have been so there for me, that I am in awe.  I may not believe in an organized faith, but I can honestly say that I am blessed with the people in my life.  I thank each and every one of them for showing me in big and little ways how much I mean to them.  I guess, that was and still is my “cancer epiphany”. 

However, there is one glaring thing that breast cancer hasn’t changed… I still fucking hate pink. 

1 comment:

Marc said...

Oh my gosh! Big hugs. I wish I knew what to say - but know that I am thinking about you. Stage one non-aggressive is one of the best prognoses you can get on a positive finding. Your radiology doc sounds like a winner. It is shocking in this age of information travel that someone like that stays in business. There is no excuse for that ever, and especially when there's a positive result. Good god.