A recipe for living with cancer.

When I saw the tumor on the mammogram for the very first time it reminded me of a dandelion, round with kind of furry wispy edge all around innocuous enough but deadly. And ironically if you do not pull up a dandelion completely by its roots and kill it–before the flower turns into the white poof ball–a little giggle, a slight touch, a bird doing a low fly by knocks it, or best of all my grandkids picking them and blowing as hard as they can….and that poof ball is out spreading dandelions everywhere in the neighborhood. Cancer is similar, kill it or pull it out before it spreads.   Any leftover seeds or root pieces a little pesticide takes care of that dandelion….cancer longterm chemo and radiation to kill that.

My surgery has been scheduled in January so today I am going through a battery of tests, mammo, ultrasound, MRI and ct scan to see where I am and give the surgeons and docs a roadmap.  Medical GPS if you will.

I was pretty optimistic going in today with a “you are doing awesome” from my last oncology PA exam.  She had trouble finding the the tumor during the exam and in my lala land brain I envisioned it minute,  1/10th the size or less, on it’s way to extinction and the surgery is just sweeping up the crumbs (food reference!). I got my mammogram and although not “scheduled” they decided to do an ultrasound. No worries I half expected that would be the case.

I asked questions during the ultrasound and told them it was 2.7 cm originally and how did it look now.  “it’s smaller,” said the Fellow, but I wanted to know HOW much smaller. Click, click, click as he moved the slimy cold wand around on my breast.  Finally he told me 1.3cm.  What?!  1.3? You sure?   I expected a response more like, “hmmm really to small to measure, I can see it but tiny…”

Then I had to lie there and ask myself what exactly were my expectations from chemo…actually I expected it to ideally disappear, or be a shrinky dink and curl up to nothing.  Based on what information, you ask,  NONE, i never asked that question- what can I expect the chemo to do to the tumor size?   I was somewhat devastated, the questions swirled, does this mean more chemo, does this guarantee radiation, had the chemo not worked, crap do all my lymph nodes have to come out?  Did I go through all that to get a 50% reduction in the tumor…..yikes we can fall off the mental cliff really fast.  I didn’t bother to ask the radiologist, they won’t have the answer that is a surgeon and oncologist answer. I will see them both in two weeks and ask much BETTER questions.

Then a stupid over sight by the staff completely changed my focus from all these questions and turned it to a staffing issue in the unit.  After talking with the unit coordinator and detailed what had happened I completely calmed down and moved on.

I now wait for the MRI and CT scan and have restored my calm.  The chemo did exactly what it was supposed to do, get rid of much of the cancer cells.   Until they remove all the tissue and look at it they/we won’t know what the MRI, CT scan and ultrasound show.  Is all the tissue dead, is it just debris at the center, the pathology is the only thing that can answer those questions.  And I guess if like the dandelion, we didn’t get the root we will just have to work on it some.  I remind myself I have surgery, possibly radiation, a year of herceptin infusions and 5 years of the estrogen blocking drug.  So the chemo was just the beginning and  Medical GPS will tell us more and I will move on to the next phase!


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