The first slap

The first slap
This photo was taken the day after I was diagnosed, and it is my first bitch slap at cancer. I'm the one with the icepack symbolically placed on my boob. My teammates changed our team's uniform to pink at the last minute, and I came off the soccer field that night with one goal and a whole lot of love. Several of these women are my close friends, but they are all warriors, and they all helped me set the tone for this fight.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Invasive ductal carcinoma, shitfuckdammit

Doctors here in Urbana, IL have actually been following my right breast for two years. Back in December 2011, they found a suspicious looking calcification, possibly a ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which I would say barely even qualifies as Cancer as we know it, as it does not metastasize. It was in a spot that was virtually impossible to biopsy without removing a large portion of my breast. So, we just waited and followed it: Every six months I went in for a mammogram, which was typically followed by the words, "No change."

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (i.e., a different part of my breast), a small cyst I'd had for years started growing. I had it checked out, and it was nothing to worry about. But I felt another one right next to it, so I had an ultrasound done on it (December 2012). It was deemed to be another cyst, and a similar assessment was made in April 2013 in my third follow-up mammo. But it continued to grow, quickly. I was not worried because I thought it was just a cyst. In retrospect, this cancer was popping up around the cyst (I think), and there really wasn't anything substantial there six months ago.

Fast-forward to Wed., November 13th, 2013, the date for the last of my six month follow-ups. I was so confident that it would be clear, that Craig was not even in town. He was in Denmark at a conference. But this time, I was put in "The Room." You know, the one with sofas, pretty paintings, dim warm lighting, and a box of kleenex. Shitfuckdammit. One of the paintings was a large Georgia O'Keefe print of a bright blood orange flower, with a very dark irregularly shaped interior with rough edges. I'm not superstitious, but I didn't like it. It looked like a scary thing inside a beautiful thing.

This time, it was "not okay." "Change in the breast tissue." "Very concerned." "We're pretty sure this is invasive cancer." "Very concerned." Rocking back and forth, shitfuckdammit. I can't remember everything that was said, but at one point the nurse asked if I wanted to see the image of the largest tumor (there are three, two of which appeared on imaging). "Sure, what the hell," rocking, holding my knees, rocking, forward, backward, forward, backward. I looked at the screen and it looked exactly like a black and white and gray version of the painting--same contrasts, same edges. "That Georgia O'Keefe painting is the wrong choice for this room," I told her. When I explained why, she agreed. She'd "talk to the decorator about that." More talk. "Biopsy." "Lymph nodes." Shitfuckdammit. She left the room so I could call Craig in Denmark. Whimpering. "I need you to come home, please come home." The nurse comes back in and we schedule the biopsy. The painting is still there. I get up, walk across the room, and I turn it around. Because no one else was going to do it.

I could write a lot more about what happened between Wednesday and the following Monday (Biopsy day!), and when I found out on Tuesday afternoon, but I'll leave that for other posts. But it is cancer, and it is in at least two lymph nodes. Shitfuckdammit.

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