This was my journal entry "that day."

You Have “A” Cancer – Part One

The following is an excerpt from my memoir. Edit Update:  My memoir is now available!

Today is April 29, 2010. It is the day I wait for the biopsy result which will determine my future. So much is riding on one little phone call. I keep busy all morning long, confident no news will be delivered early in the day. Doctors make such phone calls at the end of their work day, I tell myself. Bad news will be delivered late in the day. It will be put off because who wants to deliver bad news?

I busy myself with more cleaning, more laundry and more journaling, but mostly more waiting. As the day goes by, I start feeling more and more on edge. It must be bad news.

For much of the afternoon, I lie on the sofa and attempt to settle in with my latest Grisham novel, but I only pretend to concentrate. The only story line I can concentrate on is my own. My dogs, Elsie and Sophie, wait with me.

I decide to give the clinic until 4 o’clock to call, and then I will call them. Minutes tick away on the large, round clock behind the TV, but no call comes. Four o’clock passes. I wait another ten minutes. Those minutes pass as well; I determine I’ll wait just five more.

Finally, I realize I cannot wait any longer or everyone at the clinic will be leaving for the day and I will be forgotten. I muster up enough courage, make the call and leave a message with the receptionist who promises to deliver it to my doctor right away.

Minutes later, my doctor’s nurse calls and announces, “Nancy, your doctor isn’t in this afternoon. I don’t have your results. I’m really so sorry.”

“What?” I ask. “Well, I’m sorry, too, but this is totally unacceptable. You told me I’d be called today with the results.”

My heart starts pounding far faster than it is supposed to and anger starts to rise up from somewhere inside, but I know I cannot let it burst out of me. You cannot allow yourself to become too angry with people who are supposed to be on your side. Plus, it’s not the nurse’s fault.

So, I take a deep breath and calmly say, “I have an oncology appointment scheduled for tomorrow morning at 9:10. You cannot expect me to walk into that appointment without first knowing my results.”

“Oh, I know. You’re absolutely right,” the nurse says. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Immediately, I feel calmer and confident she will come through with some information. Nurses like her exude confidence. Nurses like her understand. I return to the sofa, but am unable to sit. I begin to pace around the room.

About half an hour later, my cell phone rings. I am afraid to answer it, and for an instant I think about pretending I am not available. If I don’t answer it, I cannot receive bad news today. I take a deep breath, grab my pen and paper and decide to push the accept call button. I might as well get it over with. After identifying himself and making sure he is speaking with the right person, this unknown-to-me doctor delivers the words I somehow knew were coming, but am still unprepared to hear.

“Well, there is a cancer there, your biopsy tested positive,” he tells me.

His voice is too calm, too detached and too familiar with giving such news. I wonder why he calls it “a” cancer, not just cancer, like it really matters.

“What else can you tell me?” I ask while thinking my question sounds completely ludicrous. At this moment, what else matters?

“Well, that’s all this report tells us really.”

“I don’t believe that,” I snap. “There has to be more.”

He annoys me. I know he is doing me a favor, delivering this news to a patient who isn’t even his.

“There must be something more you can tell me,” I plead.

For some reason I don’t trust him and feel as if he’s not telling me everything. I have no idea what those things might be.

“The only other thing,” he concedes, “is that it says here you are grade one.”

“Well, that’s at least a bit of good news,” I say.

Unbelievably he states, “No not really, it’s the least important piece of information when we stage cancer. Tumor size and number of lymph nodes involved are far more important pieces to the puzzle than grade.”

My displeasure with this guy grows, even though I know he’s right. Perhaps I am being unfair and judgmental, but I want to scream at him, what is your problem? Instead I keep pressing him for something further, I’m not sure what.

After I have squeezed all the information I will get out of him, I apologize for putting him on the spot and for being so short. However, I don’t really believe he deserves an apology, and I wonder if he knows I am insincere. I begin to tremble slightly. Our conversation is concluding and my voice, which thus far I have been able to keep steady, begins to waver.

“Are you okay?” he asks, hearing me start to cry.

 No you asshole; you just told me I have cancer!

Those are the words I want to lash out with, but of course that is impossible. Even he seems to suddenly realize his last remark sounded insensitive because his voice immediately softens.

“I know you’ve just been told you have cancer, and it’s understandable for you to be upset,” he says.

His voice is suddenly filled with concern. His compassion comes too late. I’m done with him.

We say our goodbyes and hang up. He probably goes home to have a nice quiet dinner with his wife and kids thinking no more about cancer today. I, on the other hand, start sobbing as I absorb the reality of my new life, for it feels my old life is over. Now I have cancer and am forever changed. I feel alone, angry, terrified, cheated, guilty, jinxed, unfairly treated and just plain miserable. I hear myself weeping and feel my body rocking back and forth, but it seems as if I am observing someone else’s life, a person I do not recognize.

I am alone, but not totally. Elsie and Sophie sit next to me and wonder what is wrong with me. Sophie puts her front paws up on the sofa and tries to lick my face. Elsie sits as close to me as she can get, wiggling her body as she tries to nudge Sophie out of the way. They both somehow sense the seriousness of the situation. My dogs are the only ones with me to witness first hand my ugliest moments.

They are familiar with this role. They are seasoned witnesses, my secret keepers, consoling me only months earlier when I grieved for mother who died from, of all things, breast cancer. Will I die from it too?

Perhaps being alone with my dogs is for the best. They will never reveal the secrets they witness on a late afternoon in spring.

Stay tuned for part 2.

How did you get news of your diagnosis?

Have you ever wanted to lash out at a doctor for any reason?

Who helps you when you receive bad news?

Edit Update:  Read more in my new memoir, Cancer Was Not a Gift & It Didn’t Make Me a Better Person:  A memoir about cancer as I know it

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He was an asshole!
This was my planner entry “that day.”

 

My eyewitnesses and secret keepers
My eyewitnesses and secret keepers

67 thoughts on “You Have “A” Cancer – Part One

  1. im sorry for your diagnosis, knowing what i know now, im sorry for everyone walking this road. For me, its very different. I wasnt feeling well, or myself for a very long time. At least a couple of years. I didnt have one drink at my sons wedding, 2 years prior ti my diagnosis, i didnt want to go to his wedding, i just didnt feel good. I kept my regular doctor appts, all normal exceot, i needed to lose weight and trying to keep my blood pressure under control. I worked in a job super stressful and one i hated. I was literally begging god to get me out, it was that bad for me. I had feelings of “urgency” i could not explain, urgency of needing to be with my family, pay off bills etc. I did begin paying off bills. Come sept 2011, i began feeling discomfort on my right side by my ribs. It didnt go away. I had my regular check up, all ok. Never a mammogram, i dont believe in them. About a week after my checkup i told myself if these pains dont go away, i need to call my doctor and get them checked. On a tuesday during work they proceded to get more uncomfortable. I was in court for a case, and knew that i was going “down” i knew something was very wrong with me. I went home after work, getting more and more discomfort but now on my left side. After dinner i proceded to make candles trying to ignore the growing pain. When i poured the last candle, i knew i had to get to the hospital. I told my husband we need to go to the hospital now. He was on the phone looked up, said ok. I jumped in the shower because you dont go to the hospital dirty. Got out, got dressed, crying and barely able to move. I walked right to my csr with my phone and left. I called the hospital told them i was driving a white kia and would arrive in a few minutes and would not be able to move. I got there two people helped get me in. I totally checked out, the pain was so intense i left and mentally went to a safe place. I was there for almost a week. It took them 2-3 days to get my pain where i could manage it. Somewhere in that two days they found my cancer, found it spread to my bones and my husband says i received a phone call telling me this. I have no memory of it.

    knew something was very wrong with me and that

    1. Dawn, You have quite a story. It’s interesting how you knew something was wrong for quite some time. I’m sorry for your diagnosis and for your suffering. Thanks for sharing so candidly.

  2. The rest of my story, lol. My cancer would not have been detected by a mammogram. It was found by a chest x ray and breast ultrasound. About 3 days in the hospital, the hospital family doctor comes in, explains i have stage 4 breast cancer, spread to my bones. No biopsy is back. He tells me to go home take a trip if i can, get my affairs in order, be with my family, that i have 6-12 months, then said, do you need a hug? I asked him to leave, told him i would not hug someone so unfull of hope. That began my knowledge of stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. I was in a daze for months. I dont feel as though i came out of the fog until end of december, early january. Im now trying to accept my new journey, but also believe god is in control and that i just may have more time. I pray so. Metastatic breast cancer is very sad. Im very sad, not angry, but very sad.

    1. Dawn, It’s perfectly understandable that you were in a fog for a while. Metastatic bc can be terribly lonely, not to mention frightening. Did you happen to read my recent posts on it? Perhaps they might be helpful. I hope your prayers are answered, Dawn. My best.

  3. Beautifully written, Nancy. The memory is so clear and compelling – I can only imagine the rest of the book continues on in such a gripping way.

    I wonder if there’s any perfect way to be told about having cancer? (Certainly there’s a better way than you received it, which largely has to do with compassion.) Doctors must be relay upon detachment to get through their jobs – but there are moments I feel would benefit everyone for them to let go and show some concern.

    Glad your wonderful dogs were with you. It’s a hard moment when the news breaks – but you’ve captured it so well in your excerpt.

    1. Catherine, There isn’t a perfect way, but there should be a fair amount of compassion mixed in with the delivery of bad news. Doctors must remain somewhat detached, but there is such a thing as too much distance. Thanks for your kind words about my writing and dogs too!

  4. My dogs are also the ones who’ve witnessed my ugliest moments. <3

    The "he was an asshole" made me giggle–it sucks that it happened, but I love that you actually wrote it down in your planner. Feisty.

    I was super lucky with my docs–the only one I really wanted to smack was my plastic surgeon (and once I got to know him, I was pretty glad I didn't give into that impulse. hahaha)

    1. Wendy, Oh my, your dogs were the ones there with you too? Wow, that’s incredible. Thanks for sharing that. Glad you got a giggle out of my word choice. It still seems fitting. My plastic surgeon was irritating at first sometimes, too, but boy did we get to know each other and I discovered he “got better” as we went along. Probably true with most doctor/patient relationships, but still when bad news is being delivered, one expects compassion and tact at the very least.

  5. Heartbreaking to read, Nancy. It’s absolutely the worst day, isn’t it? As if the news wasn’t bad enough, the flood of questions that follow are hard to bear. Where to go, what to do after that phone call? You know what’s weird? I was also told, I had “a” cancer. As if just taking it out would be enough…I wonder if the docs that call it that really do think it’s that simple. That might make them assholes. xoxo

    1. Stacey, It’s funny, for some reason I thought the doctor calling it “a” cancer was so strange. You heard the same thing – that is weird. We keep discovering these similarities don’t we? That always helps. Thank you for reading and commenting, Stacey.

  6. Nancy,

    Nothing like a cold call by a cold doc to start the cold ball of cancer rolling! My dogs were my only witness that day too. (http://thebigcandme.blogspot.com/2011/04/joining-cancer-club-part-ii.html)

    I love that you wrote that the doctor was an a**hole in your day planner! That is classic! I can only imagine how many times dr.’s have to call patients over the phone with “the news.”

    I had a long-planned appointment with my primary doc for (coincidentally) the day *after* I received his Big C call. I even said to him, We can talk about this in more detail tomorrow when I see you at my appt.

    But when I walked into that appt. with my husband that next morning, my doctor asked very casually, “So how are you today? What can I help you with?” My stomach sank. I realized he had no memory of me. He didn’t know that the woman sitting before him was the same one he had called a mere 18 hours earlier! How can you not remember that?

    I was dumbfounded. I looked at my husband, then looked at my doctor, and said (yup, with anger and heavy sarcasm): “You mean how am I feeling since you told me yesterday that I have cancer? Not so good.” He glanced down at his notes. It took him several seconds before it registered. And he said, “Oh, of course…” And all I could think was, S*** — am I in for a bumpy ride…

    We are joined at the hip by “That Call.” Though some had the pleasure of being told in person, I’m not sure I would have handled that any better!

    Thanks for sharing this, Nancy. Happy you are writing a book! YAY!

    1. Renn, Well, I simply must check out your post soon. It seems I’m definitely not the only one who was in the company of dogs on “call day.” I guess it’s another reason our pets are so special isn’t it? I’m sure calling patients on the phone with bad news is very difficult and I know perhaps I was a bit judgmental, but… And, oh my, your next day appointment doesn’t speak highly of that particular doctor either. Of course there are many wonderful doctors out there who are real gems. I’m actually kind of glad I didn’t get the news in person. It would have been so much work trying to hold myself together in public…Thanks for being “joined at the hip” with me, Renn. And thanks for your comments.

  7. My doctor talked to my husband while I was still “out.” It shocked my husband so much that he couldn’t remember whether the doctor had said I had cancer. And I did not ask what the doctor had said until several hours later. I knew what he had said. Later Les remembered something about “since she has cancer, she will need to do….” One of our sons is a physician and he was pretty sure no doctor would say the word “cancer” unless he was positive. He was right.

    1. Lois, It’s understandable your husband couldn’t remember for sure exactly what was said. Who could at such a time? I’m sure it’s been nice having a physician son in the family for a lot reasons. Thanks for commenting.

  8. One of the reasons I became a coach was because my docs were so great…the more I heard of unkind (being nice here) docs, the more I wanted to help others. after my mamo (the come for another look one), the radiologist asked to see me. showed me my films and told me there were three possibilities. 30% of those with calcifications are nothing, 30% pre-c,and 30%, well, cancer. Elyn, I have seen enough of these films to say I think you are in the latter and need a biopsy right away. I cannot do it as yours will be tricky. He recommends someone who can do it, assures me she is the best. I go to her, she is wonderful and she tells me after the biopsy that she will call me in 24 hours. yeah right, i think. 23 hours later, with my son’s playdate there and a mom i do not know, the doc calls. Elyn, she says, we need to talk. I excuse myself to the bathroom with the phone. she explains the details and i am introduced to a fab team…

    my wish for all is to fire all the mean docs, the ones who covet their internal protection against the stress of being human. we all deserve the best, most compassionate docs…why bother with the rest. I have no patience for the docs who put us on hold, make us wait for results, wait for action. for the diagnosed, a solid plan is what we need, so we can do what we need to do….to me, there is no excuse for needless waiting, it is just not right. btw, most often we do not have to spring to action, better to take our time to make the best decisions…on our time, not theirs. hugs to all, Elyn

    1. Elyn, It must have been rough taking “the call” that day with your son’s play mate and his mom right there. I’m pretty glad I was alone. It’s terrific your doctors were so wonderful. Mine have been pretty great overall too – not so much on my “call day.” The work you do is very admirable and helping many I’m sure. Your advice is very sound. Thanks so much for commenting, Elyn.

  9. After reading your wonderfully written chapter, I think we need to offer our services to medical schools. Perhaps if their students hear our stories they may take time to learn how to communicate better. I am glad you had a good team once the initial umph was past.
    My problems didn’t come at diagnosis. I am a nurse and knew once I palpated the mass in my left breast that it was cancer. I hoped it wasn’t but … My problems came in interacting with my plastic surgeon. I wanted the cancer removed quickly and didn’t do due diligence in choosing a plastic surgeon. I relied on my primary care doc’s recommendation. Wrong choice. Too much to talk about now. Keep writing Nancy.

    1. Meg, Maybe some of our stories get “leaked” out there! Good communication certainly is a vital skill for any health care professional to have. My team was/is wonderful for the most part. I’m sorry you weren’t happy with your plastic surgeon choice. Were you not happy with your results or was there a personality issue? Thanks for reading and commenting. I really appreciate your feedback. If you want to talk more, feel free…

  10. Oh, Nancy…how perfectly awful. In a certain way, there is never a good time or fashion for receiving this news, but this was just plain awful.

    I ended up getting my news by accident. I’d had my biopsy done on Monday. It was now Thursday, and I came home from work to find a voicemail from my surgeon’s hospital telling me that she had scheduled me for a breast MRI on the following Monday, which was when I was supposed to see her again in her office. I called the imaging department to confirm this, puzzled about why I needed an MRI, but fearing I knew why. The scheduler just said my surgeon asked that it be scheduled after she got the pathology report. So I called my surgeon on her cell phone. She was out of town at a breast cancer conference, ironically enough, but she stepped out of the conference room & took my call. “This is not how I wanted to tell you, Kathi, but your biopsy was positive.” Oy…

    I’m excited to hear that you are working on a book!! There will never be a lack of things to write on this experience, eh? I’m just glad you are here and you are writing. xoxo

    1. Kathi, Perfectly awful, yes, that’s a good way to describe it! There isn’t a good way to receive such news, but there sure are better ways than mine. It seems you had to wait quite a while after your biopsy. I’m glad your surgeon stepped out of her conference and took time to speak with you when you called her. It’s actually pretty surprising you had her cell phone number. That in alone says a lot about her. Thanks for your support on all this stuff, Kathi. It means a lot.

    1. Ann Marie, Sharing this post did feel a little like “over exposure,” but I decided, what the heck? Thanks for being there. And thanks for commenting.

  11. My surgeon was very compassionate, perhaps because she was a woman. She sat me down smiled we chit chatted briefly about Ukrainian Roots. My step-dad is Ukrainian as it turned out her family knew my step dads sister in Hamilton, She said Alici I wish I had better news but I know you know as well , You tests came back unfortunately you do have malignancies in your left breast. Not you have Cancer there was an “S” on the end of THAT word. Cancer , malignancies just didn’t resonate. It is quite advanced she said We suspect you are a Stage 3 Grade 3 Ok what kind of cancer do I have? She said Multifocal Breast Cancer with definite Lymph node involvement, in my head it sounded like wonk wonk wonkwonk wonk I called a cab, the driver was talking I blurted out I have Cancer I just found out.I arrived home I called my brother, he was drunk , that was a lost conversation but I did tell him and he said please don’t die and he started to cry..Called my step-dad he was stunned, my sister said Breast Cancer was not a big deal .
    I blew up at my Family Dr. he assured me that lump on my side was just a fatty tissue, he said they were very common. The swelling in my arm (Lymphodema) I must have twisted it or too much typing at work. According to my surgeon I had Breast Cancer probably for a better part of a year undiagnosed.
    And here I am still in the dark after the botched Pathology. Who do I go to? Myself and I blog…..

    1. Alli, I’m glad your surgeon was compassionate, although I don’t attribute that to her sex alone. Male doctors are capable of compassion too. The news you received was terrible and I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for you. Plus, you had to deal with your brother’s state and your sister’s denial of the seriousness of the situation. I’m sorry. You are your own best advocate for sure. Keep on advocating. Keep on blogging. Thank you for sharing so candidly, Alli.

    1. Kathi, Aren’t pets wonderful? I’m glad yours were with you on your “call day.” I’m sorry your dog is no longer with you… We have a cat, too, now in case you forgot. She works wonders on reducing stress. It’s amazing.

  12. Oh so right Nancy not just because of her sex.. I found her to be very empathetic there are many male doctors who are just as so. Three years later I don’t feel any better , I just try and live with it day by day hope for the best…. Thanks again Nancy… Love Alli XX

  13. Nancy, Thanks for your response. After my initial double mastectomy and tissue expander placement, I had a revision of the incision line due to necrosis. Several weeks after that and hemorrhage from that incision line and infection, the tissue expanders were removed. Although I was seen by the plastic surgeon after that I wasn’t happy so I stopped going and never received any communication from the office asking why. I suppose I could try again for reconstruction but at 68 I don’t see the point. My prostheses are a fine substitute.
    After joining my BC support group, I learned that several other women also had difficulty with this particular doctor. I have since recommended that women needing plastic surgery need to do some research before selecting a physician. It wasn’t a personality issue. It was the bad result. Not all his fault I know but still.

    1. Meg, I’m sorry about your bad experience with your plastic surgeon. If you’re still unsatisfied, you certainly could go back or communicate with them about how you were/are feeling. Even if you choose no further reconstruction, they might benefit from hearing your thoughts. You might feel better as well. Thanks for your willingness to share more details, Meg.

  14. Nancy, this is so poignant and beautifully written. I’m sure your book will be a great one that will help many people.

    I’m so sorry for the way you found out about the strangely put “a” cancer. It was cruel. But then again there’s no good way to find out about cancer.

    My surgeon called me at work, two days after he conducted the biopsy and told me two days prior to the call that I probably had cancer.

    It was horrific. It’s like one’s whole world crashes down. That day, a part of me died. Cancer diagnosis sucks to the 100th power.

    Keep sharing your stories, Nancy. They are compelling.

    1. Beth, Yes, I realize there is no good way to get this news, but still a timely and compassionate delivery most certainly helps. I was told I’d be called that day with my results and they didn’t follow through. I had to “chase” them down and that was difficult. And then the delivery… well… I can’t imagine receiving such news at work. It almost seems they should wait until they know you’ll be at home. Is that expecting too much? Thanks for your supportive words, Beth. I sure appreciate them.

  15. “A” cancer, delivered by A Bozo, although as we know, there’s no good ‘you have cancer’ delivery system that I’ve come across yet. Good story – keep at it:)
    jms

    1. Jody, Ha. Your comment gave me a laugh. Thanks! You’re right, there is no “good” delivery, but there certainly are better ways to deliver even bad news.

    1. Jody, Yes, I’m glad I saved that planner. I didn’t even remember I had written that particular entry until recently when I was looking through it. Thanks for the comment and suggestion!

  16. This brings back tons of memories for me. I got news of my diagnosis as they wheeled me, dizzy and groggy, out of the operating room after my lumpectomy. I thought I had misheard, but unfortunately it was real. I lashed out at my oncologist when he said I didn’t need tamoxifen. I actually changed doctors because of his attitude toward hormonal therapy. Sometimes we just have to speak up. And I surprised my normally meek self by doing so. Thanks for sharing your story. xx

    1. Jan, We all have similar memories don’t we? And yet, each of us has our own unique story-line as well. You’re so right about speaking up; sometimes we just must do so. Thanks for sharing about your experience.

  17. Yes, the way you had to chase the people down was very ridiculous, indeed. Finding out the way you found out was less than stellar.

    Actually, I was glad to be at work when I got the news. I was busy writing an article, so I had to be kept busy. If I were at home, I would have a meltdown — although I had plenty of those.

    1. Beth, It’s interesting you say you were glad to be at work. I think that would be so hard… guess your article kept you focused on something else, at least temporarily. Thanks for sharing.

  18. OMG! I feel as if I am reading MY STORY!!!
    I went thru the same thing. The COLD phone call from the Radiologist who just asks my name and says in an very NON-COMPASSIONATE way… “YOU HAVE CANCER”. I swear, they need to have a specially trained person in these offices to be able to deliver such a message. After he informed me with those words, I swear it was a 30 second period of silence on that phone call! I had to ask him WHAT NEXT? All he said was your doctor will probably contact you. Since I had both parents that passed away with Cancer, I thought it was more like somebody delivering a Death sentence to me! I hope that Doctors read this and understand there needs to be something done about delivering such devasting news!

    1. Angie, I didn’t mind the phone call. What I did mind was being made to wait all day after being told I would be called. If I hadn’t called, no one would have called me. And then, of course, the manner in which the news was given left much to be desired. Sorry to hear your news was delivered poorly too. Thank you for sharing. I appreciate it.

  19. My radiologist came into the room after they found my lump via both a mammogram and an ultrasound (the mammo didn’t show things clearly because I have dense breasts) and said I had to have a biopsy done as she handed me a brochure that said “Breast Cancer” in the headline. She told me I should call the hospital breast care coordinator to set up a needle biopsy. I almost threw up. To this day, I can’t stand that woman, although, to be honest, she was only doing her job. Scary stuff. Thanks for your honesty. xo

  20. Home alone on the telephone with no warning… No lead up… No conversation previously that i could have cancer… This diagnosis came like a bolt of lightening out of the blue… You have Uterine Cancer… Grade 3…. And so the dominos start to fall

    1. Helen, Yes, the domino effect… We know it well. I’m sorry that “bolt” had to strike. Thanks for reading and sharing. xxxx

  21. The radiologist basically told me it was cancer and we set a time for a biopsy. The lymph nodes were enlarged. That’s where the cancer was found. It took a pathologist in another state to confirm that my cancer was breast cancer and an MRI to actually find it. I drove away from the original mammogram in tears. All my family was out of touch. I felt so alone. I had an appointment with my massage therapist so I went. I told her what had just happened. She was so caring. “What can I do?” “just make me feel better.” The most gentle massage of my life. Bless her.
    The confirmation of all the tests was a week later in a lovely sitting room, The kind where you know bad news is coming. My sister was there with me and the doctor (a female) was wonderful.
    In general I loved the doctors, nurses and all my caregivers. I guess I was lucky.
    BTW. My breast surgeon was the same surgeon who did my mother’s breast cancer surgery 25 years earlier.

    1. Cindy, Thank you for sharing about such emotional and personal memories. And that’s incredible that you and your mother had the same breast surgeon. xx

  22. At age 58 I had a request to have my annual mammogram “redone”. “A**hole” was the name I gave the mammo tech in my head. “Thanks for botching the X-ray!” But I had a vacation to Cabo to experience first. I waited a month to get the second mammo done, being sure that I was healthy and this was a glitch of the machine or a blur because I breathed when I shouldn’t have. After the redo, albeit with different equipment, the tech told me they saw something I would receive a phone call. What? I asked if the radiologist would show me what she saw so they took me back to a dark office where she was staring at a computer screen with what looked like galaxies and nebula on it. She showed me the cluster of small dots that was suspect. Did she think it was cancer? Yes. I’m so greatful for her time and frankness. The radiologist who did the biopsy was a cad, talking only about his golf game to me when I had asked him to tell me everything he was going to do. But when I heard a strange voice also in the room. Turned out to be the rep for the manufacturer of the new kind of clip that was going to be left in my breast! Who are you and what do you mean you’re going to leave something behind? I did NOT give you permission to do that! But I really didn’t have a choice, I decided. Then the PCP calls and wants to see me the next day. So I do some research that might and decide that it’ll probably turn out to be DCIS. With a kindly expression, she takes a deep breath and tells me, my husband and some other random person in the room (?) that I have breast cancer. So I ask her, “Is it DCIS?” She looks at the paper in her hand and starts, “It’s D-U-C-T-A…” (“Are you joking?!?!”) I interrupt and ask her what I should do next. She recommends seeing the surgeon who took out my gall bladder! I don’t think so! We left and I called my cousin who started her breast cancer journey 3 months before me. Want to know how I got good care and found good doctors after that? I followed in her footsteps. After all, her husband is a doctor in Scottsdale; he found the best of everything for her.

    1. Connie, Thank you for sharing about your experience. I’m glad you took charge of finding yourself the best care. Hope you’re doing well now.

      1. Thanks Nancy. I AM doing well. A year ago my 6 yr. anniversary mammogram showed another cluster. The radiologist let me look over her shoulder and it was a very familiar image. Damn. A recurrence. MD Anderson had just opened a cancer center near me so I went there for the biopsy. DCIS, lower grade (intermediate vs high grade 6 years earlier). They would ONLY consider a mastectomy, which because of my breast size: 40 DDD would, in my mind, have to be a double MX. In researching where I could have DIEP flap reconstruction I ran across Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Because of the kind of interstitial brachytherapy I’d had done the first go-around, my former breast surgeon AND radiologist (they were my second opinions after talking with docs at MD Anderson) thought it certainly would be possible to have a second lumpectomy. Irradiating tissue a second time is out of the question, hence MD Anderson’s insistence on mastectomy. The docs at CTCA also agreed a second lumpectomy would be possible if I agreed to whole breast irradiation this time, which I reluctantly did. My breast was large enough to accommodate a second excision of the lesion and the old irradiated lumpectomy cavity and seroma scar tissue, but needed closure by a plastic surgeon. That side was now a swollen 40 A cup. While awaiting the incisions to heal (there was a problem, took 4 months, because of the previously radiation effects to circulation on that breast) I found out that the Oncotype DX test was now available for use on DCIS, not just invasive cancers. So I asked for it (why didn’t my MO suggest it?)! I had a low score which meant I wouldn’t benefit much from having radiation done. So I moved quickly to having the contralateral breast reduced. … Because being a 40 DDD on one side and 40 A on the other makes life hard. I’m almost matching sizes now, needing a little touch up next month, and taking Anastrozole until December 2020. I have the usual side effects that most people experience with the AI but it’s doable. Both breasts are numb and I feel no nipple stimulation anymore which affects my sex life with dear hubby. But comparatively, I feel lucky that the recurrence was not invasive, as it can be 50% of the time. I wish everyone who is told, “You have breast cancer”, whether by a kindly person or an a**hole, could get off as easily as I have.

  23. I went to the same breast center at the local hospital I’d been to for years for my annual mammogram. An ultrasound biopsy was needed, which I had had before. The room got quiet. I got up to leave and the radiologist said, “good luck.” Next thing I knew, I was being handed a pink bag with a pink pencil with a pink ribbon on it, some Kleenex and a piece of candy. Are you kidding me??? I took joy at the follow-up appointment when the cheerful nurse manager explained what she knew about my cancer and mentioned being treated at the hospital there. I said, “No! I am going to drive through horrendous Seattle traffic and go to a world-renowned cancer center rather than this place that can’t even get telling their patients they have BC right.” Good decision.

    1. Jeannie, Good for you for going to a center you felt better about. No one handed me a pink bag, with a pink pencil, with a pink ribbon on it and a piece of candy. Thank God! (As for kleenex, I was handed some tissues). I have never heard of that being done. Yikes. Was the candy pink too? Geez…Good decision, no kidding.

  24. My GP called me with the results of my biopsy during my planning time at school. Apparently we had a whole conversation giving details about the cancer and discussing where she would refer me for treatment that I still don’t remember. We had a repeat of that part of the conversation a couple of days later after I had absorbed the “You have cancer” statement. I couldn’t handle being alone in my classroom after that call, so I went down to the school office and my principal (who knew about the biopsy) ushered me into her office and handed me a box of tissues. After we had talked a while, she decided I was in no shape to teach the rest of the day and sent me home.

    1. Elizabeth, Gosh, that must have been so hard to get the call while at school. As a former teacher, I can imagine myself in the same predicament. I’m glad your principal knew and treated you so kindly. So many memories…and yes, some things we can’t remember too. Thank you for sharing.

  25. I live in a small town. I felt a lump. Had mammogram, then ultrasound immediately after. Local general surgeon called to say I should have a lumpectomy as soon as possible – skipping the biopsy. Within a week I had the lumpectomy. A few days later I went to the hospital to have the incision checked and dressing changed. The doctor (surgeon) told me the fax had just come in and I had IDC, grade three, and it reached the margins so I needed a mastectomy. Normally the mastectomy would be done at a larger hospital a few hours away, but the surgeons were on holidays. It would be a three week wait for the mastectomy, or I could have the general surgeon in my hospital do it, but I would not be able to have a sentinel node biopsy. That’s what I did. No one explained that I should see an oncologist. My GP’s secretary hadn’t bothered to make an appointment. At no time did I hear from my GP. It was awful. Lucky I ran into my surgeon by chance, and he called the secretary and had a bit of a fit – I heard him saying “You know this is your job!”. One last note, A few years before I had seen the GP because I felt awful, and also felt changes in my breast. She told me breast cancer never happens in the lower part of the breast. I was under 50, and usually found doctor visits a humiliating exercise, so despite feeling thickening for a few years, I never went back. I figured she would just repeat that it couldn’t be cancer because breast cancer doesn’t occur in the lower part of the breast. Too bad I didn’t do my own research and get another mammogram.

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