Totally screwed up, I think that’s alright

28 07 2020

First there was the mammogram, and then the ultrasound. Then the second mammo and ultrasound.

Then the ultrasound-guided biopsy.

Then the blood tests.

Then the MRI.

Then more blood tests.

Then the ultrasound, and the mammo, and the MRI-guided biopsy.

Then the COVID test.

Then the pregnancy test (!), the surgery, and the excision of the lump and some lymph nodes.

Tests at every turn. The first few indicated a problem, the first biopsy confirmed it: cancer.

The blood-work checked for receptivity to hormone treatment (yes: good news) and whether I was HER2+, which would have meant chemo (no: good news).

I also paid out-of-pocket for some additional genetic tests, on behalf of my nieces. Sixty-six of sixty-seven were normal; one contained a SNP of uncertain consequence. I passed that information along.

The second set of blood-work were just basic panels: all fine.

The second biopsy indicated no cancer, but not quite right, either. Something to watch.

The COVID test was negative.

The pregnancy test was negative. The surgeon was able to get a clear margin around the tumor; the lymph nodes were clear—so no chemo on their account.

Now, I wait for the typing of the tumor’s genes, the third reason I might need chemo. I have no expectations on the results.

I don’t want to do chemo—I mean, really, who does? It’s good that it’s available and can be effective in lowering the risk of recurrence, but it’s even better not to need it in the first place. I’m already dreading the radiation; add chemo, and, ugh.

(Okay, my response would almost certainly be more than “ugh”; that’s just a placeholder, preferably for a reaction that won’t be necessary.)

But if I need it, I need it, and I’ll bitch and moan and do it.

I realize that in my last two posts, I’ve been all “whatchagonnado?”, as if I were all brave and determined and “chin-up”. I’m not. I’m not hopeful and self-encouraging. And while I admire stoicism, I am manifestly not a stoic.

I am resigned.

I did have a choice—to treat or not to treat—but since I’ve chosen treatment, this is what I have to do, regardless of how I feel or think about it. (I’m still working through both of those, by the way.) That’s it. I’ve chosen to do this.

So I’ll do radiation and hormone treatment, and chemo if necessary, because I want to be cancer-free. I want to get past this, and the only way past is through. That is the most mundane of realities, one to which I can only bow.

That’s it.





Cut it up

25 07 2020

Surgery over.

It wasn’t bad, all things considered. I got there at 6, was home before 1—and that included the time it took to get my prescription.

I mean, last week I had a second biopsy uptown that ended up requiring an MRI, and that took me even longer, so, really, no complaints about the time.

Because being sick takes a lot of time. That biopsy, for example: half of the time was spent waiting, and even on Thursday I spent 1 1/2, 2 hours waiting. Waiting to get processed. Waiting for the pregnancy (!) test results. Waiting for the radiologist. Waiting to talk to the nurse, the anaesthesiologist, the surgeon, just . . . waiting.

And then it was done.

A strange feeling, to walk into the OR—which, in stark contrast to all of the dim imaging rooms I’d been in, was bright and busy—climb on to the table, put out my arm for the IV, hear them telling me what they’re doing, and then verrrrrrrry slowly waking up, later.

It was that kind of wake-up where you think, I should be awake, but you just can’t, so you close your eyes again; you repeat that a couple of times, and then, and then you’re really awake, with the nurse offering you water (“Do you want it warm, or cold?”) and saltines.

And at some point you notice you’re wearing a surgical bra.

I don’t know why I find that odd—it helps to keep the swelling down—but the thought of them dressing me in a bra while I was unconscious, well, I find that, I don’t know, kind of remarkable.

It’s not, I know. Maybe because it’s such an ordinary thing after what was, to me, an extraordinary event; maybe because I haven’t been dressed by anyone since I was a small child; regardless, that small act has stayed with me.

The ride home wasn’t fun. My mom had suggested I bring a plastic bag with me, just in case; I didn’t use it, but my nausea didn’t fully subside until today. Saltines and ginger ale have been my mainstay. And while acetominophen works well enough during the day, I find the Percocet helps overnight.

Oh, and not that I recommend cancer, or any kind of surgery, to anyone, but if you do get sliced open, check if they’ll seal you up with surgical glue. I apparently have internal stitches, but externally? Glue. I was able to take a shower the next day, and wound care is a breeze.

I’ve got some nasty bruising, but no blood.

As for what’s next? Heal from this, and then, pathology results willing, radiation—and no chemo.

Not looking forward to that, or to sorting through my insurance and the hospital bills which have already begun arriving, but, whatever, I’ll deal with it. And if I do need chemo? Well, I’ll deal with that, too.

I mean, I’ll bitch about it, because of course I will, but in the meantime: keep on keepin’ on.





You spin me right around, baby

14 07 2020

Nine days to my surgery, and I’m impatient.

It helps that I’m teaching this month; it gives me something to concentrate on besides my immediate future. And while I don’t love teaching online, it does give me the flexibility I need to deal with the surgery and recovery (and, in the fall, my radiation treatments).

Anyway, I think at first I underplayed how much this cancer would fuck around with me life, but then I think I overplayed it. I went from “this is a pain” to “this is a disaster” and now I’m, like, “I dunno”.

And I don’t. I mean, I know this is going to suck, but I have no idea how I’m going to deal with the suckage.

Consider the pandemic, and how it’s affected each of us. I’m guessing that for most of us, life has gotten harder. I’ve had some really bad days the past few months, but, mostly, I’ve managed. My life is worse than what it was, but not unbearably so.

And maybe that’s how my life will be for the rest of year: worse, but not unbearably so.

Or maybe it will be unbearable; I’ll  bear it, nonetheless.





You may ask yourself, Where does that highway go to?

12 07 2020

So I have cancer.

Stage 1A breast cancer, to be treated with surgery and radiation, possibly chemo, and long-term hormone treatment. Prognosis is good.

~~~

I was years overdue for my first mammogram, when I finally followed through on one of the many scrips my doctor urged on me and scheduled one for early June.

They did the mammo and a breast ultrasound, and sent me on my way. Less than a week later, I got a call: Hey, there was an issue with one side, could you come back for another round?

It’s probably nothing, they said.

So, second mammogram/ultrasound in my life, less than a week after my first one. Then another call: Yeah, we found something, we’d like to biopsy it, just to be sure.

It’s probably nothing, they said.

Biopsy, then. The radiologist was very nice, told me everything that she was doing, said, you guess it, It’s probably nothing.

Four days after that: It’s something.

The first days after the diagnosis, I was simply annoyed. What the hell, I griped to friends, like 2020 hasn’t been bad enough. Then I was angry, because anger is What I Do—and that was useful, because I had follow-up appointments and arrangements to be made and anger gave me the energy to do what, as I griped yet again, was basically a job.

Cancer is a job.

But now, now I’m in the lull before the surgery. I have one appointment at the end of this week, a covid test next week, and then two days after that, surgery.

Anger doesn’t work so well for lulls, for waiting. It worked when I thought that cancer was something I’d have to fit into my life, but not for the reality that my life is something I’ll have to rearrange around the cancer—for the next few months, at least, likely longer.

I’m not afraid that this will kill me. It might, but it’s been caught early, and if it does kill me, it likely won’t be anytime soon.

No, I am unsettled by what I do know—that I am in for a hard time—and uncertain about the rest.

This is my life now, my life with cancer, and I’ll have to figure out how to live it.





Baby, take a walk outside

4 07 2020

It’s that time of year again, and what a year, in this big, stupid, messy, angry, sad, mean, flailing, glorious country, where we sometimes even try.