Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's Never Too Soon to Panic

Dr. Z called yesterday while I was out running errands with my mother.

Every conversation with a doctor since my diagnosis has left my mind spinning with questions and uncertainty. Did I hear right? What did she mean by that? But after listening to the recording of the first conversation with Dr. Z, I felt a lot of relief. I understood everything she had been trying to explain. In one or two cases I saw how I'd struggled to understand, and how I could have rephrased my questions more effectively.

Imagine being told there is a grenade in your breast. When the doctor goes on to explain the detective work ahead, what they know and don't know about the type and size and caliber and whether or not there are more grenades and the protocol by which they determine how best to remove or diffuse them, it might be hard to stop thinking, Oh my God there's a grenade in my breast! Am I going to die? Am I going to suffer? Is it safe to breathe?

I ran to the car to sit in relative quiet with my notebook, pen, voice recorder, and list of questions, all of which I'd brought along in anticipation of this call. I manically unpacked my stuff while the doctor waited patiently on the other end of the line. I was shaking madly, so I guess it's no surprise that I messed up with the voice recorder, only pressing the record button once, which lights up the display and the red record light, instead of twice, which is how you start the tape rolling. Disappointing, to say the least, but here's the gist of it:

The cancerous area that lit up on the mammogram is actually adjacent to the lump, not the lump itself. And the area that lit up on the MRI is adjacent to that. Plus there are two other areas in that breast, and another small one in the other which they will want to biopsy along with the swollen lymph node as soon as possible. "There's a lot going on in there," said Dr. Z.

I'm expecting a call today to schedule the procedure.


Paula said...

I'm sorry to hear of the uncertain weeks ahead while they biopsy and you decide what treatment will work best.

It sounds like the MRI didn't "light up" anything in the lymph nodes, right?

I will say again that I know so many people who have survived breast cancer and done well. My next-door neighbor, a single mom, underwent surgery, radiation, and chemo and is doing well. She swims competitively, bikes, is an artist, and teaches art (she bears many similarities to your interests, actually) and quickly got back to doing all those things.

Like you, she has a remarkable support system of people who brought her meals and helped with errands when she was tired. You will come out the other side of this, too.

Anonymous said...

What Paula said...

Also, did you tell your doc about the sensations you were having the other day? Although scary as *hell* it might be helpful to your doc.

Thinking good thoughts for you and so glad you have support both in person and online.

Anonymous said...

I'm here, checking on you from afar. Just want you to know that. Love you,

Ellen said...

I just read an article about a woman who, after a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, launched www.cancer101.org. Apparently it is a type of "cancer planner" so those in treatment can get better organized. Maybe that could help? I looked at the website and it looks promising. This woman, Monica Knoll, has been profiled in MORE magazine and on Martha Stewart.