30, 32, biopsy, breast cancer, cancer, Cancer Kitten, Cathy, core needle biopsy, DCIS, Dr. Thompson, histologic grade 3, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, mammogram, pathology report, radiologist, Stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma, stereotactic biopsy, thirties, ultrasound, young woman with breast cancer
Tuesday June 5th: I had an ultrasound-guided biopsy of a small lump I found in my right breast a week and a half before. I was taking a shower and just found it. I always wondered how women can differentiate between normal and abnormal lumps. I discovered that even if you don’t know your breasts like your ABCs, you KNOW when something is awry.
I went to my OB/GYN the day after I found the lump. She sent me for an ultrasound, which proved that the lump was not simply a cyst and therefore a biopsy of the mass was necessary to ascertain whether it was a benign or malignant growth. During this second ultrasound (ultrasound-guided core needle biopsy), the radiologist, Dr. Thompson, examined my breast thoroughly. It was at that time she found a line of microcalcifications in the duct leading to the lump, which she said was concerning. I watched some of the exam on the ultrasound screen, and saw a line-up of white specks.
Due to Dr. Thompson’s new-found concern, I had a mammogram of both breasts immediately following the biopsy. Julie was the mammographer (not sure if that is technically her position, but it makes sense to me!), and she was wonderful. I felt like she was a long lost family member, and just wanted to give her a hug. I’ve heard that mammograms hurt, but mine didn’t, and it wasn’t just due to the Lidocaine injection in my right breast – my left one was unmedicated. Even if it did hurt, I would have accepted the 30 seconds of discomfort in order to obtain good imaging for diagnostic purposes. Regardless of my comfort level, I really wanted the process to go quickly, as I didn’t think I could extricate my breast should a fire alarm go off.
When the radiologist entered the mammogram waiting room, her face told me what I wanted to know. “I am nearly positive that your pathology results will show that you have cancer.” I asked her if it was OK to cry now, and she said yes, so I did. Then there was a flurry of activity, or maybe it was a blur of activity, while the nurse and the radiologist debated calling my fiance, Bing, or trying to find him in the waiting room. They eventually found him in the waiting room and when he appeared in the doorway, I blurted out “It’s not good.” We hugged each other, not knowing what else to do.
The energy in the room became controlled panic. People scurried to find a chair for Bing. Then the poor doctor had to explain the next steps to me two or three times, as it was increasingly difficult for me to hear, nevermind listen to her words over the shouts of my inner Cathy: “CANcer! canCER! CANCER!” The nurse, who was my age, buzzed around, making sure that I had a cold ice pack on my incsision site and stuffing extra gauze and what not in my hospital goody bag. Bing asked few questions. He watched me with an unfamiliar gaze.
Once the cancer dust settled, I went back into the mammogram room for a magnified mammogram of my right breast. I got a much-needed hug from cuddly Julie, who was so sweet and actually apologized for not being present in the waiting room to hear what the radiologist said. Then Bing and I were ushered back to the ultrasound exam room where Dr. Thompson took a closer look at both breasts and my lymph nodes. I guess there is another lump of concern in my right breast, which may be a mass or may be a lymph node. Further imaging on June 11th should tell us more.
Bing and I left the hospital dazed and confused. He said “Well, Cancer Kitten, that was heavy.” Bing’s nickname for me until that moment was Kitten, or Kit. I liked the contrasting terms in my new nickname, and immediately took ownership of it. Kitten conjures feelings of cute, innocent sweetness, while cancer is just…mean.
I started making phone calls as we drove out of the parking lot. I think calling everyone I know was a way for me to actualize my probable diagnosis, the rationale being that I can call once, then send everyone group email updates (well, now they can just read my blog!). My systematic phone calls backfired to some degree, however, as everyone is constantly checking up on me and referring me to friends who had breast cancer! It’s very sweet and appreciated, but at times it is frustrating because their concerns remind me of the evil cancer gnawing away at my body. I learned quickly to put my phone away when I want some respite from the Big C.
My ob/gyn called on Wednesday and told me that the pathology results are positive for Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, aka, breast cancer. My histologic grade is a 3 (on a scale of 1-3, 3 being the worst). This is not the stage of my cancer, as we won’t know until my lymph nodes are biopsied if it has migrated out of my breast tissue. I am scheduled for an MRI of both breasts and a stereotactic biopsy of the microcalcifications on Monday (the stereotactic biopsy is taken during a mammogram…that should be interesting!)
I am quite concerned with what these breast cancer diagnostic and treatment processes look and feel like, so I am going to attempt to photo document as much as I can throughout this unwanted adventure.
Biopsy site, 2 days post-biopsy (please ignore my dirty fingernails!):
I was sore, but really only noticed it when I crossed my arms under my chest. My stupid lump is relatively close to my skin surface, so I think I may experience a little less post-procedure pain (perhaps it was less invasive?).
Biopsy site, 4 days post-biopsy:
PS-From now on, I am calling breasts “boobs” or some other slang. I don’t care if it sounds like I am an 8th grade boy, it’s what I call them, and I don’t have to be professional, I am not a doctor. =)