Diagnosis

December 31, 2011

I thought I had an infection in my left tit.  That’s the beginning of this part of my story.

So… I schedule a checkup.  I’ve just moved to a new town, so it’s a new OB/GYN… not one I’ve seen before.  The doc is making the routine circular motions all the way around my boob.  And then she stops right over my nipple.  ”You have a mass,”  she says.  ”Didn’t you feel this?”  Well, no.  I didn’t feel it.  Nor did my OB/GYN back home when I had my yearly two months ago.  What I had noticed was that my nipple had just started to invert a little, which is why I thought I had an infection.  ”You have to see a breast surgeon.  Today.”  Says the OB/GYN.

Awesome.  Way to incite panic.

So, I see the breast surgeon late on the same afternoon.  She does an ultrasound on both my breasts.  ”It’s an infection,” she says.  Whew.  Okay.  That’s what I thought to begin with.  ”We’ll start you on some antibiotics and you’ll come back in a few days.  If it’s not cleared up by then, we’ll drain it and get you back to normal.”  Sweet.

Four days later… full of antibiotics… I go back to the surgeon.  Another ultrasound.  She says the nipple looks better, but my breast has gotten larger.  Another ultrasound.  Whatever is behind my nipple has in fact gotten larger.  She says she will have to do surgery to get all of the infection out.  An outpatient procedure.  Just one incision, really.  But before the surgery, I should have a mammogram, so she can have a clearer image of the infection.

Mammogram the next morning.  The radiologist discovers that the mass behind my nipple is taking up almost all of my breast tissue and there are 3 smaller lumps around it leading up into my armpit.  ”This is more than an infection,” says the radiologist.  ”We need to do a biopsy on the mass and each of the lumps and an MRI to see how active these cells are.”

Biopsy the next morning.  I am the world’s biggest baby when it comes to needles.  They have to take three to four samples (aka chunks of flesh) from each lump.   (“Ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow” is how I respond to each needle.  And I broke the stressball they gave me.)  So at the end of it… I have about 16 tiny bullet-looking-holes running from my nipple up into my armpit.  Awesome. Then the MRI, with an IV in my arm. (“Ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow” )  And back to the breast surgeon, who pulls up my images.  ”Now, we won’t know for sure until the results from the biopsy come in,”  she says.  ”But you see this?”  She points to the MRI image of my left breast, which is lit up with white and red pigments, as opposed to the image of my right breast which has zero lit-up cells.  Apparently, the lit-up pigments are all the cells in my breast that are growing super fast.  ”We normally only see this type of activity in cancerous cells.”  The C word.  The screen of her computer starts to fuzz over.  My eyes blur and feel stingy.  I cannot speak.  The surgeon pushes the box of kleenex across her desk towards me.  She continues to say that we won’t know for certain until the next morning, but I know this is her way of giving me the bad news before she has to really give me the bad news in the morning.

And sure enough.  The next morning, December 23, 2011, 8:30am.  It is official.  I have breast cancer.  They will be unable to save my left tit.

End cancer chapter 1.

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9 Responses to “Diagnosis”

  1. Brooke Says:

    Son of a bitch, my comment disappeared. Here’s what I think I was saying:

    You’re off to a great start, something something, positive energy, blog, something something. It means so much to me how generously you love Sadie, and I love you extra for it. Something about our TN trip. Something about how you know we’re in your corner, etc., etc.

  2. Gale Says:

    But they WILL be able to save YOU, which is way more important. Very similar experience to mine, diagnosis 7/18/11. Only it was my right tit, or ta. Seriously. Right down to the inverted nipple, large mass behind it that the MRI showed as several. Had mastectomy, had one cancerous lymph node. Today was my 12th of 16 chemo treatments. They have come a long way. Weird but doable. Email me if you’d like to talk or ask John for my phone number. It’s a lot of stuff to process and, as you’ve already seen, things move really fast! I’d be glad to listen to and or talk with you. I have read everything I could get my hands on. Hang in there and keep writing. There are a lot of us out here. Use us.

  3. Jen Kaucher Says:

    I am so glad your able to write about your experience and use it to express how you feel. I know it can’t be easy to share with everyone, but know I am praying for you. Let me know if I can do anything else. My sister fought and won and I know you can as well! Love and hugs!

  4. John Says:

    Hi Gwen. The “John” Gale refers to above is me- John “Curly” from WCA. Gale is a close friend of mine and I thought she would appreciate your blog.
    I was saddened to hear of your trouble, and my thoughts will be with you. If there is anything I can do, you can reach me on facebook. In the meantime, please accept an electronic hug from your old friend ——> (Gwen) <—— those would be my arms hugging you in ASCII-speak.

  5. Karen Sabo Says:

    Gwen. I don’t understand. This should be me, not you. I’ve had four mammograms in the past month, my grandmother and two of her sisters had breast cancer, I’m ten years older than you, and my doctor was very concerned about both my breasts. But apparently, with me, it’s nothing. I have some peanuts or something stuck in there. This is freaking me out. What are you, 31? You’re a vegetarian. You’re awesome, awesome you. What can I do? Can I do a breast donation? Cause you can have mine. No, actually, I’m serious.

    love and all good things,

    Karen Sabo

  6. Evalyn Baron Says:

    Darling Gwen – After a slight brush with uterine cancer this past summer , (grade one, stage zero)taken care of early by the brilliant doctors at Mt.Zion Diller Cancer Center in SF, I now know the value of finding the best doctors, ones you can thoroughly trust and who tell the truth, even if you don’t want to hear it….to get the job done. This will pass, and one day you will look back on it with the rueful smile of one who has been to battle with what some consider our ultimate enemy, but as ever, you will prevail….i know your spirit…and you will make art of this. Meanwhile, Crazy Sexy Cancer by Kristin Kerr, helped me a lot, and so did all the writings of Thich Nhat Hahn, that amazing Vietnamese Buddhist, who I know read daily after I meditate. Sending love…and healing. Evalyn

  7. Tricia Matthews Says:

    Gwen, Oh my gosh I am so terribly sorry to hear this news. Know that I am thinking of you. I will be sending every ounce of positive energy your direction – tomorrow, for your surgery, and every day after that for your recovery. Keep positive and know that you are loved. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.
    Much love,
    Tricia

  8. Gina Jones Says:

    oh my god Gwen how am I just reading about this now. You are such an amazing person. All my thoughts and love are with you right now. -gina

  9. Sondra Says:

    Whatever else, Gwen, you certainly have not lost your ability to put thoughts into words. Keep writing!


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