Life in the Slow Lane

Life in the Slow Lane

Sunday, March 06, 2005

My Posterior and The Supernatural

Surgery day, March 8th, is quickly approaching and I have not even remotely completed all the little things I wanted to have out of the way. My goal was to heal without distractions in front of the TV with plates of sushi around me and unlimited chocolate chilling in the fridge. Instead I will have to do my income taxes and other such goofiness.

I thought I would tell the tale of my diagnosis as it is a long one and my right arm is still willing and able. If anybody is not cool with me writing frankly about my breasts and other 'girly bits' just click that red X at the top right corner of your screen. I am going to be detailed here because I think it is important to tell the whole story.

I am not really sure exactly when I first noticed a lump in my right breast and thought about it with some concern. My boobs have always been lumpy and bumpy with hormone fluctuation and it was not uncommon for me to have a bump that would appear and disappear during my cycle. But I think it was in September 2004 that I first noticed The Lump and when it was still going strong in October I went to my family doctor for a check up. I should probably check my records for the exact dates but for now I will recite from memory. At that first visit my doctor felt The Lump and said that it didn't appear to be anything nasty. It seemed smooth to the touch and moved freely within the breast tissue without causing any pain. I have heard that cancerous lumps can feel gritty and uneven and may not move around at all. My doc believed that it was a normal hormonal cyst and suggested that I keep an eye on it over the next 3 months.

I decided in December 2004 that The Lump seemed to be a little bigger so I went back to my doc. He agreed but still didn't think it felt like anything bad. He suggested an ultrasound be performed to be safe but he still thought it felt like a cyst. After a mix up where my first ultrasound appointment was 'lost' a new one was rescheduled in January 2005. The results of that test indicated that there were several normal hormonal cysts in my right breast but The Lump presented as a Dark Area. Yet the radiologist said that it didn't deem to be 'aggressive' in nature and it did have some characteristics of a cyst as well. She suggested a fine needle biopsy to rule out any malignancy. I got a bit scared at this point and my doctor was very split as well. He assured me that it didn't seem to be cancer from the radiologist's report but he allowed that if his wife had this symptom he would be worried. I didn't really know what to think right then. So I was scheduled for a fine needle biopsy a couple weeks later. I hadn't told my parents about any of this because I had been assured that 80% of breast lumps are benign and at my age breast cancer was VERY rare. My mom's mom and my mom's sister both died of breast cancer in their mid 50's. Cancer is a very scary word in our house. My mom nursed my aunt through her illness and really got to see the nitty gritty of the whole process. It was a devastating experience for her. I didn't want to worry anybody needlessly. So I went for my biopsy on my own and, overall, it wasn't too terrible at all. Ladies, it just isn't that bad! Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself.

I went to the lab for the biopsy and the techs and doctor were so great. They were very informative and let me know what exactly to expect. I told the doctor I was nervous and he covered my icy hand with his and told me I had nothing to worry about. He was very sweet. So this doctor took a look at the Dark Area with the ultrasound and said that it did look worrying to him. He suggested that we do a fine needle biopsy (FNB) as well as a core biopsy which takes a larger sample of tissue. I'd heard this core one really hurts. I was not looking forward to that part. He then asked me what my mammograms had shown. When I said that I hadn't had any done he immediately hussled me off the table and ordered some taken immediately. So I went across the hall where they took 4 films of my right boob. That, actually, was the funniest part. I have never had one before and the whole experience is very surreal. You kinda expect some film crew to jump out at you and yell PUNK'D because this x-ray tech/radiologist handles your boobs in the most impersonal way. It is so matter of fact - Nudge, poke, squish and then HONK! If I wasn't so freaked I would have been howling in glee. It was really that funny.

So after lots more waiting on my part the biopsy doctor returned to the room and told me that all my mammograms had come out totally clear! He said that he was only going to do a FNB and if those results showed any problems he would get me back in for a core biopsy later. I was so relieved to get out of the core biopsy. So he injected some freezing into my boob (Didn't hurt at all!) and as everything got all numb I started thinking. I had arrived early for a my appointment that morning and had been kept waiting for about 1 1/2 hrs. Then I had to wait again for the mammograms and I was really sick of waiting around. I'd been there over 3 hours! The thought of having to wait for the test results and then having to wait again for another biopsy appointment as well as waiting again at the actual lab if I needed to return started my Lazy Ass Beacon chirping quite loudly. I really hate waiting so I asked the doctor since my boob was all numb anyway and every freakin' tech in the lab had handled them already if he could just get the core biopsy over with so I didn't have to come back and wait some more. Mind you, as I am asking him this a little part of my brain is yelling at me, "Why are you asking for a painful procedure he says YOU DON'T NEED?" Ladies, heed those pesky contrary voices even if you think they are your Lazy Ass Beacon. You never know. So the doc agreed to do the test even though he thought it was overkill. His exact words not mine. Once again I must assure you all that the core biopsy was not half as bad as I thought it would be. Totally bearable and I am a complete wussy. Afterward they gave me a band aid and a little Barbie sized ice pack for my bra and assured me that all my samples looked perfectly fine. The doctor actually said that while they send the samples in to the lab regardless of his opinions he does these biopsies every day and can tell when there is a malignancy. My samples looked perfectly fine to him. He patted me on the back and I went on my way. I knew it would be a week before my test results came back and during that week I didn't worry at all that a cancer diagnosis was in my future. I was more alarmed at the horrendous bruising those biopsies caused on my poor tittie. Such colour I have never seen before! It was tragic looking.

But a week later I decided to make an appointment with my family doc anyway because I knew his office had just moved and his staff would be very slow to contact me with any results (good or bad) in the unpacking chaos. When my doctor sat next to rather than across from me in his big chair I knew something was wrong. He showed me all my test results. The mammograms had come out clear as I had been told before but my FNB results were benign as well. Only my core biopsy results showed cancer!!! If I hadn't listened to my Lazy Ass Beacon and not asked for the core biopsy at the appointment I would NOT have been called back for further testing with my TOTALLY BENIGN FNB results. I might never had been diagnosed. HOLY SHIT! That was a very spooky feeling. When I told my surgeon this story she was shocked. The look on her face chilled me.

What I know about my cancer, Invasive Lobular Carcinoma, is that it accounts for about 10-15% of diagnosed breast cancers. Rather than forming a tumour like the more common Ductal Carcinoma does ILC tends the cause the skin to thicken around the cancerous area. This makes it next to impossible to catch with a mammogram! So I encourage all ladies to examine your breasts and INSIST on a biopsy (core too) of any lump that seems out of the ordinary. BE PRO-ACTIVE! You just never know and I PROMISE you the procedure is not that bad. Lobular cancer typically affects women in their fifties. I was 35! I will say that I don't know my family medical history as I am adopted but most breast cancer is not hereditary anyway. I don't know if mine is or not. That is something I must find out.

So that is the eerie story of my diagnosis and the psychic ability of my Lazy Ass.


Anonymous said...

hey there - its kelly from dooce - im the costumer (ok, former for many of the same reasons) who started the 10 things thread.
my real email is krinneATsoundqueDOTcom
please drop me a line.

domino said...

Stacey - I too found you via dooce, and your "diagnosed with breast cancer aged 35" sent a chill down my spine. See, tomorrow, Tuesday 8th, while you are scheduled for your surgery, I am going to my local breast clinic for a mamo, ultrasound and fine needle aspiration. Yup, I have a lump in my left breast. And I'm 35. (and shitting myself...)

Anyway, I just wanted to say, "good luck" for tomorrow, and thank you for sharing your experience in such a frank and honest way.

I'm going to keep you bookmarked, girl.