Hi! Welcome to my inspired cancer site. Funny story. I never thought this would be me (who does?) and I never thought I’d find an engaging topic in anyone’s mammogram, and I certainly never thought I’d want to discuss my own, so it just goes to show, you never know.
Cancer? Who talks about cancer? No one really. And that’s a problem when the actual big C finds you — or someone important in your life. So I’m going to do something about it. Let’s talk.
I bet scores of you have heard the term “Dense Tissue.” Frankly, when I first started casually using the term myself, to introduce my concerns about something in my own dense tissue, more than half of the women I spoke to said, “Oh! I have that too!” More. Than. Half. You may think you see where this is going, but DON’T PANIC! Dense tissue does not mean you will get cancer. Bottom line, it generally means you have finer, firmer breasts than average. Goddess like in many cases. Trust me, I breathe to find the positive. But dense tissue does create a bit of a technical difficulty in detecting cancer early, and early is when you want it detected. So pay attention.
Here’s how it goes. Some good General Practitioner, Family Doctor, or Ob/Gyn will likely have told you about your dense tissue (if you have it) by the time you’re 40 or so — that is, if you make it a habit to visit one of them. Can I just say something here? Make it a habit.
So now you know–and if you don’t know, for Pete’s sake, make an appointment and ask. You’ll thank me. If you have the dense tissue thing going on, self checking yourself is still really valuable if you check every month or two and can remember what always feels dense and so on.
I know, who thinks of self examination regularly? But if you DO think of it, it can go like this . . .”pressing with finger pads flat, press, slide, press, roll, what is THAT? oh just dense tissue, or is that something that moved away? no, it pressed out flat . . . or wait, that’s a lump, or, no, no, not really, no, okay, slide . . .” Let’s cut to the chase, get your mammograms on schedule. Just do it. I know, I know, it takes so much TIME, who has that kind of TIME. Let me point out the obvious. Early detection can make the difference between one month of daily radiation treatment, and four months of Chemo to be followed by one month of daily radiation treatment, or, six months of mixed treatment to be followed by 10 to 20 years of estrogen blockers, or, you could take an early retirement plan in oblivion, either just before or just after the, trust me not so fun, Chemo part. Think all those things slip right into your schedule? Got some time now?
#Valuable Chemo Girl Tip For Dense Tissue Goddesses: In a thoroughly unscientific survey I came to the conclusion that if you have dense tissue and you are over 40 you can ask any Doctor you may be seeing to write “at risk” in your file so you can remember (or not remember) to check yourself, and then be eligible for 2 mammograms a year on whatever health carrier you are using. See how that gets you right back to the mammogram thing?
Now (finally) we get to what I am doing here. I have been diagnosed with loebular-ductal carcinoma that nested long enough to start a family and send a few microcosms on an exploratory walk-about through my endoctrine system via lymph nodes. Surprise. Yay!
While this took more than a little time to process and accept personally, the crack health- care system (read-honestly, every healthcare system in our fine nation) was super helpful at letting me get used to the big picture, piece meal. Sort of like this: “Your mammogram showed an irregularity, please come back in at your earliest possible convenience.” “Thank you for your patience, I’m sorry dear, this image is inconclusive, can you wait here for an ultrasound?” “The ultrasound is telling me this is not liquid, like a cyst would be . . . can you raise your arm? We always like to check the lymph nodes while you’re here.” “Your lymph nodes are possibly questionable and therefore inconclusive . . . we’ll have our team leader review it and get back to you.” “Can you come back for a biopsy soon? Say two days?” See how helpful that was? They didn’t tell me it was definitely cancer until I came back and they were about to put the conveniently lengthy needle in me. So I had 7 days between the mammograms and then an 2 extra days after to take my brain from “This is nothing, it is nothing until it is something, it might actually be something, oh, yup, it IS something, it’s Cancer.”
For the record, I have 3 sisters, 2 brothers, a father a step-mother, a husband, and a 13 year old daughter. My husband has a close and lovely family who have thoroughly embraced me, and they include his mother, his sister, his brother, and, all of the siblings on both sides have nuclear families. On my side of the family we’ve lost a brother and our mother to different types of cancer. Now how does one go about sharing this sort of health up-date with loved ones? Well this is very simple really. I took a page from the healthcare method and did it piece meal. I began by warming them up with some bits and pieces of how many doctor’s appointments I’d been attending lately, and then some hints that surgery might be possible, and finally that a lumpectomy was right around the corner. And then I let them have The Plan. Here is a copy of the letter I sent by email to make sure they all got it at the same time.
Okay, there is a plan. All previous news stands. Low-level Stage 2 carcinoma with no complications, and it responds the way you want it to, to hormone blockers. Chemo-therapy will take this situation from a low chance of return visits to almost zero chance of a replay, so . . . to chemo we go.
The plan: 8 cycles of intravenous treatments to start on November 15th, and continues every 2 weeks for a total of 4 months. Finish with the fun part by the end of February.
Follows 1 month of 5 x per week Radiation–I may not need a night-light for reading for a while. Bonus.
Follows a pill a day for 5 to 10 years to better thumb my nose at this nemesis, and, to better hang around and nag my one and only child, who will need nagging for a good long time as far as I can tell.
Through the winter, I get to play with wigs and scarves and hats and hoods to my hearts content (or ache, depending on the day I suppose). My oncologist is very pleased with my general health and outlook, and tacitly implied the good outcome of the plan and even used the term “cure” at several turns. Very sassy this doctor.
I’ve been obligatorily informed of the plenitudinous variety of anti-nausea drugs at my disposal, and their accompanying benefits and drawbacks ad nauseam. It’s been a great day.
But really, it has been a great day. I’ll actually be done by spring, and every winter after this will be just GREAT in comparison. So I get assigned this, my winter of discontent, and then I get my life back, all the better for having experienced a downside. I’ll earn a nice dramatic TA DAA. It’ll be beautiful.
Don’t worry, I’ll let you know when you can do something. Cross my heart.
Future posts are intended to engage the reader in conquering the unexplored, then throttling fear, and upholding humor as needed. Where it can be found.