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GOOD NEWS!!!!!!

29 Aug

August 29, 2011

The Breast Blog #15

I HAVE GOOD NEWS!!!!!!!!

I called the doctor’s office on Friday and they still didn’t have the Pathology report.  I called again today and someone called back.  My heart was in my throat until I heard the words, “We have good news for you.”  (They must love saying those words.)    Apparently the “margins are clear” on the right, which I believe means there are no cancer cells left following the lumpectomy.  And on the left breast, the nodule was diagnosed as a papilloma, a benign condition.

I cannot express the relief I feel.  After that call, I felt immediately so much lighter.  I had thought I was, by and large, doing okay with everything.  I really thought I was handling things.  But when I compare how I felt this afternoon to how I’ve been feeling the last three months, I can tell you, it is clear now I was carrying a huge weight for these last few months.

I gave the news to a few of the more significant people in my life.  The first several times, I spoke the words, I cried.  I cried more sharing this good news than I did sharing the scary news!  Tears of relief and joy.

How do I adequately express my joy and gratitude????  Picture me doing a HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY DANCE!  Picture me giving each of you who has prayed for me, sent me love, sent me Reiki, or given me any kind of healing session or comfort or food or money or any kind of kindness, being hugged with the most heartfelt of hugs.

You all have been my gift.  There have been many gifts, actually, but feeling your kindness and love, and getting back in communication with friends I haven’t seen or talked to in a long time, has been an enormous blessing.

I only received that short summary from one of the office people.  I don’t really know a lot of details.  I’m really curious to read the actual report.  To be honest, I’m kind of curious if the papilloma/nodule shrunk a bit from when it was first discovered.  So many prayers were sent on my behalf that I can’t help thinking SOMETHING changed as a result.

Well, I certainly have changed.   I know that I will be a significantly healthier person as a result of this.  I have already changed my diet in a good direction.  I have learned a lot – on both a medical and metaphysical level.  I have certainly processed a lot of emotions.  I hope to never take life for granted again, but I know that it’s hard to retain this level of euphoria and commitment over the long haul.  Let me just say I pray I will be very conscious of my choices from now on.  Life is indeed sacred.

I have a follow-up appointment with the surgeon on Thursday.  I’m sure I will learn more and have more to report after that.

Meanwhile, all I can say is THANK YOU.   Thank you, thank you, thank you.  And thank You, thank You, thank You, Mother/Father God.

Blessed be, one and all.

Mini Update

9 Aug

The Breast Blog #10

August 9, 2011

Mini update.

This is a follow-up regarding the recent biopsy.  No, I still don’t have word.  It’s been six days, or three-and-a-half business days.

What I am aware of is continuing discomfort in the right breast.  I am feeling the after-effects of the procedure.  I am realizing that my poor little breast suffered trauma and it may take some time to heal from that.

It’s interesting that I wasn’t feeling much physical pain for the last two months.  But now I do – from the finding-out  part, as opposed to the symptoms themselves.  I  ask myself, ‘Was the procedure really necessary?’  And my reluctant answer is, ‘Yes.  I think I needed it so I can know once and for all if anything is going on that needs to be taken care of.’  To not have had this procedure would have left me wondering and worrying for a long time.  But to wonder and worry for a short time but then find out what’s going on and deal with it, that makes sense.

My friend Julia was so right.  This is the worst part.  This freaking waiting.  Once I know, I can deal with it.  I know I can.

If I feel discomfort now, I find myself rather scared thinking about recovering from the trauma of actual surgery.  And I also realize how very little I know about the upcoming procedure.  And once again I will have to summon up the courage to be more assertive and ASK.  Because for some reason, the doctor did not schedule time to meet with me after this first biopsy and before the surgery.  And as I am basically a hospital novice (with regard to personal experience,) and certainly a novice with any kind of surgery, and most certainly a novice with this particular kind of surgery, I need to ask more questions.  What exactly will you be doing with/to my left breast?  What instruments will you be using?  Are you extracting the entire milk duct?  How long is a milk duct?  How wide?  Will you remove any tissue from around the milk duct?  And is the nodule in fact within the duct?  What will be the repercussions?  Will I have scarring – internally or externally?  Will we somehow “fill in” the space that will open as a result of removing the duct?  How will the body heal?  How can we accelerate and support the healing?  Will I lose any sensation in my breast or nipple?

I don’t know any of these answers!  From my online research, it sounds like there will not be an external scar, but there may be a depression in the breast.  It sounds like it is possible to lose sensation in the nipple, which may or may not be temporary.

I am sad to think that my body will look and feel different after this surgery.  It helps somewhat to do what my social worker friend says, “Think of it as a battle scar.”  One author – I forget who – says that if Americans went around without shirts on, we would see that the most common scars among men are from open-heart surgery.  And the most common scars among women are from mastectomies.

I am one of many, many, many women engaged in a battle to save my breasts (or life, as the case may be.)  Hopefully this blog will help you all to save yours as well.

The Breast Blog – Feeling Anxious

14 Jul

The Breast Blog #3

Feeling Anxious

July 12, 2011

Okay, I confess.  In this moment I am a bit anxious.  It is getting close to 2 months now, and I still don’t have a diagnosis.

I can go for a week at a time and be as calm as can be.  And then I’ll have an appointment, or a call to make to one of the doctors, and I’ll be nervous all over again.

I am well aware that there are a number of benign conditions that could explain my three or four symptoms (abnormalities).  I am aware that there is about an 80% chance that nothing serious is wrong.  Of course, stating the obvious, that means there’s a 20% chance that I do have cancer.

To get you up to date, here are my symptoms:

  • A dark discharge was discovered coming from my left nipple.
  • An ultrasound of my left breast showed a small nodule beneath my areola.
  • A mammogram showed a “cluster of micro-calcifications” in my right breast.
  • I feel discomfort in my left breast. (Sometimes this discomfort seems to be directly proportional to how much recent abuse my breast has gone through – ie, palpation, squeezing, etc.  But other times my left breast feels warm to the touch and my bra feels uncomfortable and it just plain “doesn’t feel right.”)

During my second-to-last doctor visit, I was informed that the nodule could be any of the following:

  • A papilloma (generally benign)
  • A fibroadenoma  (benign)
  • Cancerous (gulp)

I personally have ruled out fibroadenoma as they generally occur with younger women who eat lots of fruits and veggies, get moderate exercise, and have had several births.  If they’ve been on the pill, there is a lower incidence of fibroadenoma.  I am 53 years old, eat a fair number of veggies and fruits, don’t exercise nearly enough, have born no children, and was on the pill for quite a few years. Therefore, I seem an unlikely candidate.

A papilloma is most likely.  Apparently 40-70% of pathological nipple discharge (PND) is due to a papilloma.[1]  This is a growth which appears in a breast duct and is generally benign – unless there are “certain cellular changes”[2] – ie, atypical hyperplasia, which is doctor-speak for “an accumulation of abnormal cells.”[3]   Almost every site I researched called a papilloma benign.  I had to read carefully to get to the disclaimer “certain cellular changes” part.

Once again, for most women, the chances are good that their atypical mammograms reflect a “false positive” – ie, no cancer.  “80% of all breast lumps are not cancer.”[4]  And the Mayo Clinic states:  “Generally single papillomas are thought to be an aberration and not a disease.”[5]

I am torn here.  On the one hand, I want to document how I’m feeling.  On the other hand I want to be reassuring to women who may be reading this blog.  Please know, dear women, the odds are very, very good that you have nothing to worry about.

What concerns me specifically about my situation is that in addition to the nodule in the left breast, I have these micro-calcifications in the right breast.   “Microcalcifications are quite tiny bits of calcium, and may show up in clusters, or in patterns (like circles or lines) and are associated with extra cell activity in breast tissue. Usually the extra cell growth is not cancerous, but sometimes tight clusters of microcalcifications can indicate early breast cancer.”[6]

I was told that these are benign 80% of the time.  But again, there’s that pesky 20%.

So, I have different things going on in each breast.  Each condition has about an 80% chance of being benign.  Math is not my strong suit, but I’m guessing two 20% chances of cancer is more worrisome than one 20% chance.

To tell the truth, initially I was not overly alarmed.  There seemed to be a good chance everything was benign and I hadn’t had any premonitions or anything.  However the thing that started to worry me was when I took a solitary retreat to get clear on my next course of action.  I had taken a book with me:  She Who Dreams, by Wanda Easter Burch.  In this book she documents the pain she’d been having in her breasts and the dreams which finally took her to the doctor’s and the dreams which ultimately helped guide her in her healing.  I had been reading snippets of the book when I had a sudden memory of a few dreams in recent months  in which the word “cancer” was mentioned.

The next day I spent the whole day poring over journals from the last year.  I found many marvelous dreams, several scary dreams, and thus far, two cancer dreams.  One was especially  to the point.  A woman ally turned to me and said, “How’s your cancer, Cindy?”

Uh oh.