Katie & Briscoe

Katie & Briscoe

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"You'll scare yourself to death."

I was talking to the very nice nurse at my surgeon's office yesterday afternoon. I'd called to let them know the results of my biopsy. (This is the surgeon who is going to fix my hernia, and who I've asked to take care of the lumpectomy as well.) I mentioned to the nurse/receptionist that I was planning to do some research on the web about my cancer. Her reply, in a very nice & concerned tone, was, "oh, I wish you wouldn't do that. You'll scare yourself to death."

Turns out, the web research wasn't particularly scary. I'm that kind of person. I want to know all the details. I hit the web every time I, or anyone I care about, comes up against an illness I'm not familiar with. So, thank you ACS for all that in-depth info. Anyway, I went up to the hospital where my most recent mammogram was done to pick up the films & a copy of the radiologist's report for my surgeon. I got home this afternoon and got my first look at that report. First, I was mad that the OTHER surgeon didn't tell me what that report said. Namely, that I very likely had a primary cancerous tumor. He acted like he didn't know what I had. In fact, that's what he told my hubby when directly asked if they had ANY ideas about what it MIGHT be. No one was trying to ask for a definitive diagnosis, we just wanted some hint about what we might be facing. So, I get the report and low and behold, he knew good and well that I most likely had cancer but put me for more than a week until the biopsy results came in. Worse, he still didn't tell me that the mammogram revealed that my lymph nodes on that side are swollen and displaying signs of abnormalities. (This is where I started getting a little nervous.)

First, the biopsy revealed that my tumor was negative for hormone receptors, meaning my prognosis isn't as good & hormone therapy after the surgery is out. Second, the possible lymph node issue opens up a whole new area of concern. The size of the tumor alone is enough to push me into higher staging. If the lymph nodes are involved, then I'm looking at Stage III which has a significant impact on the survivability statistics. They hit the gutter if it's already metastasized.

I hate that he didn't lay all those cards on the table for me. As intimidating as it is, I would still rather know. I would much rather know I'm facing a tougher battle than to be coddled into thinking it's not so bad only to have my feet kicked out from under me when the ugly truth comes out.

But, this surgeon was not my kind of doctor. He didn't give me full disclosure, which is enough to make me not want to let him manage my care. As if I needed more convincing, though, on the day he did my biopsy, he walked into the room coughing. Have was kind enough to cover his mouth with his hand....the same hand he used to "clean" the area with, to inject the anesthetic with, to make the incision with and to operate the biopsy gun with. All without washing his hands, using antibacterial hand sanitized, or wearing gloves. That was one of the most unprofessional things I have ever seen. To top the whole thing off, after he gave me my diagnosis, I told him I wanted a second opinion, which he said he fully understood. He had recommended that I have a breast MRI, which I thought sounded like a good idea. My other surgeon's office said he ought to have no problem writing the order. We're talking about two different hospitals here, & the "non-quack" surgeon doesn't have privileges at the one that offers the breast MRI. So I called his office and asked if he would order the test for me. I got the call back this afternoon that he won't do it if I'm still planning to seek a second opinion, but he'll be happy to set it up if I agree to let him handle all my breast care.

Jerk. I wouldn't let him anywhere near me after that. Mark wants me to complain to his superiors, whoever that might be. I doubt it would do any good. We've been down that road before with his mom. On of her doctors put her on a high dose of an anti seizure med that I was already taking for migraines. I had plenty of experience at how hard it hit the body and how slow you had to go to reach the maintenance dosage. It took me weeks to get to my dosage and they started her off on a dose twice as high as mine. She was comatose. I kept telling them that they'd overdosed her. They ignored all our arguments, telling us, basically, that it was due to her brain cancer & we ought to just take her home to die. They were planning to kick her out the next morning so we called her neuro surgeon. He was livid. He called the department head. The surgeons words: "They overdosed her." They cut her dosage WAY down and low and behold, she woke up and started talking just fine. What happened to the doctor who started the whole thing? Nothing. It was all chalked up to a "miscommunication." Still ticked off about that. Moral of the story: doctors are not infallible. Only a complete idiot would trust them blindly. Which is why I do so much research.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I have cancer.

I'm still struggling to make it real in my own mind.

I am 39 years old and I have breast cancer. No family history of it. No logical or rational reason at all to explain "why."

I found out this morning. I've told my closest family & friends. I keep thinking of others I should call, though. One of the things that really troubled me when my sister was diagnosed (lung cancer, 2001) was that she kept it a secret for so long. She never told our aunts at all, meaning I had to do it AFTER she died. That was no fun. I don't want to do that to anyone. I don't want someone I love - and who loves me - to find out weeks or months later that I'm sick but didn't tell them.

So, I have cancer... Infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC for short). It's a grade III tumor. 2.3 centemeters in size. I won't know what stage I'm in until they get it out & find out if it has started spreading. Best case scenario, I have a lumpectomy followed by radiation. If it's already spread, then we're talking mastectomy, radiation, and chemo.

I gotta say I'm finding it a little ironic. You know, there's a lot of "breast cancer" stuff out there. Pink ribbons, hats, t-shirts, bumper stickers, the list goes on and on. Having lost my Sister to lung cancer and my mother-in-law to brain cancer, I used to always kinda wish there was more out there - product wise, I mean - for cancer in general. I never felt like it would be right to wear the pink stuff since I had never personally been effected by breast cancer specifically. Guess I can wear it now.

My sister is angry. "It's not fair," she says. She's right, of course, but no one ever said anything in life would be fair. I've been fighting that internal anger since my mother died. By now, I've pretty much run out of steam. I've done my share of screaming at the heavens. Maybe more than my share. I've asked God, "why," more times than I can remember. I wish I could say I have the kind of faith that gave me the strength to smile even in the midst of my deepest grief and pain, but I have fought Him as much as I've relied on Him.

I'm a Christian. I know God is in complete control of everything. I don't believe in luck (good or bad). I do believe everything that happens does so because it is part of God's plan. I trust Him to take me through this, even if He has to carry me part of the way. I wish I never felt even the merest hint of doubt. I should be clear here about what I mean. I in no way doubt God's existence or His supreme wisdom, grace, and power. I just don't always have the faith to reject the fear and/or grief inside me.

The depression doesn't help matters any. It just eggs me on, fanning the flames until my spark of unease becomes an inferno of irrational thoughts. I often wish the rational understanding of how it works would somehow render it impotent, like confronting a bully. It just isn't that simple. Even knowing what it is and what it does, I still have to fight it tooth and nail.

So, I have breast cancer.

Friday, July 16, 2010


I had the biopsy yesterday. I didn't feel a thing at the time, but I knew it was going to hurt later, considering the way the Dr. kept working that gun around in me. It started aching before I even made it home. If feels a lot better today, but it's still sore. I have trouble moving my right arm around because the incision is on the side of my breast and every time my arm rubs up against it, it hurts. Still, I'm sure this is much better than the old way. The hole is tiny. I'm not even wearing a bandaid today.
What really sucks is that I'm not going to know anything until Wednesday morning. I just cannot believe it's going to take that long! Where on Earth do they have to send it, Timbuktu? I just want to know something, ANYTHING, instead of sitting here wondering. Guess I don't have much choice, though. Patience just isn't my strong suit.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Well, I've been gone for a while now. Busy with other things, I guess. Only now I've got this problem and I just have to talk about it.

I went to the doctor (ob/gyn for yearly exam) on June 16 and she found a lump in my right breast. I'll admit that I don't do self exams with any kind of regularity, but this thing was pretty big. At least, it feels big to me so I don't know how I missed it. Anyway, this is the middle of June and by early July I finally got around to having an ultrasound. Basically, that just told them that I needed more tests. Yippee. So next came the mammogram. Now, I've had one before. 2 years ago my primary physician sent me to have a "baseline" mammogram so there would be something to compare future tests to. So, I've been through the boobie squishing once before. But this second mammogram was PAINFUL! Hurt like the dickens. I had bruises afterwards, too. Still, at least it was over.

I got a nice letter from the guy who read it telling me the results were abnormal and that I should be hearing from my doctor about it. Of course, by this time I already had an appointment scheduled with a surgeon. I saw him on Monday, July 12, 2010. He wants to do a biopsy. We're gonna do it in his office. He'll use a little gun to take samples and use the ultrasound to guide it. I cannot express how excited I am by this notion. Especially the "we'll need to take four or five samples" part. Just the thought of it gives me the heebie jeebies.

Oh, and have I mentioned that I also have a hernia? No? Well, I do. I saw the surgeon who's going to fix it yesterday, July 13, 2010. I like her lots better than the guy doing the biopsy on my breast lump. She did my gall bladder surgery 5 years ago. Anyway, I asked her if she'd handle whatever future care I need once we get the results of the biopsy and she said she would. So one more visit with the guy in Dearborn County and then it's to Madison for whatever comes next.

I'd rather go to Madison than Lawrenceburg. I hate making that drive and Madison is much closer anyway. Plus, as I said, I like Dr. Gifaldi. She's feisty. I suppose I feel better dealing with a woman, too. It's just awkward having some strange man play with my breast. (Not that he actually played with it, but it was still awkward.)

I'm dreading the biopsy itself, but anxious to get on with it so I'll know if there's a problem. I'm the kind of person who hates not knowing. I'd rather face it head on than have to sit here wondering. The depression doesn't help with this issue. I have to constantly stop myself from drifting off into a world of "what ifs." Some amount of speculation is normal, I'm sure. How could a person not think about what might happen if they have cancer? Still, my depression encourages me to take it to a whole new level. A level that is not only unhealthy and stress inducing, but borderline insane. I've been down that road too many times in the past and don't want to go there again, especially with this. I'll make myself crazy. So I keep having to force myself to focus on other things.

This is a marginally successful tactic at best. I've got a new iPad (had it for a few weeks) and I play with it constantly. I have tons of games of all kinds and I use it to distract myself. The problem is, this keeps me from devoting appropriate time to the things I need to be doing, like getting rid of some of the junk we've accumulated through the years once and for all. Every time I put the iPad down, my mind tries to turn to dark thoughts. So I do crosswords or play solitaire or work other puzzles or games, and when that isn't working, I sleep. Another facet of the depression. I'm sleeping way too much, which is making it hard for me to sleep soundly. And all of this is just one more reason that I can't wait to get the biopsy results so I'll know if I actually have anything to worry about.

Wow, I started this sometime this morning and it's taken me this long to finish it because the stupid power keeps going on and off. No power, no internet. Welcome to the boonies. Every time the power comes back on and I get everything (air conditioners, fans, clocks, dishwasher) up and running again, the stupid power goes right back off so I have to start all over. I waited a while after the last time and figured "they surely have the problem handled by now!" NOT! And it's hotter than all get out, too, which wouldn't be a problem if the power was just flickering on and off. But it went off and stayed off for an hour. House started getting hot and it hasn't had a chance to cool back down since the power hasn't stayed on for any reasonable length of time since. Somehow, I've got to cook dinner...