Thursday, October 17, 2013

Finding out - Part 3

Note: you can read the first part of this story here and the second part here.

My primary care doc insisted that I make an appointment for Thursday so she could give me the results of the breast biopsy. A and I both took off work that day, and we sat around the house, waiting for the appointed hour. The waiting was agonizing.Was it cancer? Was it something else?

Finally the time of the appointment arrived, and we drove the short distance to my PCP's office. We checked in, waited for a bit in the waiting room, and then were brought into an exam room. We sat there, and waited. And waited. And waited. I was becoming more and more nervous.

The doctor came in, and told us that the pathology report wasn't ready yet. She had even asked them for a preliminary report, but they wouldn't give her one. She apologized, but the reality was that we weren't going to find out today.

It was so frustrating. I just wanted to know one way or the other. Not knowing was driving me crazy! We had wasted the entire day waiting. My doctor agreed that I didn't have to come back for the results; that she would call me as soon as she knew.

The day passed, and no phone call. It looked like Friday would be the day I'd find out.

On Friday, both A and I went to work. We just couldn't wait around the house anymore.

Finally, around noon, my doctor called. "It came back positive for breast cancer. It's invasive ductal carcinoma," she said. I'd never heard that term before. "It's what most of my patients have when they have breast cancer." The next step, she told me, was to call the Breast Center at the hospital to schedule an appointment.

I stuck my head into my co-worker's office to tell her what was up. I don't remember exactly what I said, something like "it's not good news." And I packed up and headed home. I don't remember crying, although I'm sure I did cry. I also must have called A on my way home to tell him the news.

When I got home, I called the Breast Center. "Hello, I've just been diagnosed with breast cancer." What a strange, strange thing to say. It was all very surreal.

They gave me an appointment the following week at the multi-disciplinary clinic. I would meet with 3 physicians in the span of a few hours: a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, and a breast cancer surgeon.

My memory of that day is trying to take in a lot of information in a very short amount of time. First we met the medical oncologist, a woman who was young, dark-haired, tall, and pretty. A immediately dubbed her "hot oncologist babe," a name that stuck for quite a while. She examined me, and was concerned that the tumor was very close to my nipple. She thought I might need chemo before surgery (called neoadjuvent chemo) to shrink the tumor. I'd never heard of that before.

Next we met the radiation oncologist. Also a young woman, tall, and with an accent. She seemed very nice, and talked about radiation therapy, but that was something down the road. First stop would be surgery.

Last we met with the surgeon. An older woman than the others, she was calm and lovely. She examined me and felt that she could probably take out the tumor and save my nipple. If not, she said, she'd just take the nipple off and my breast would look like a mountain with the peak removed. Our next step was to schedule surgery.

There was a nurse there kind of coordinating the visit, and before we left, she gave us one sheet of paper that had all the information I needed about my breast cancer. Looking at it now, it's kind of amazing how organized the whole process was.

In retrospect, there wasn't really a discussion of choices. The plan pretty much had been made for me. Lumpectomy, discussion with the oncologist about hormonal therapy or chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. That was the plan. Also in the mix: genetic testing for the breast cancer gene.

My surgery was scheduled for several weeks later. Now I just had to tell everyone what was going on.

P.S. The government shutdown ended today. I am very relieved, but also disgusted with many of the people running our government. It's a very strange time here in the U.S. Strange indeed.

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