The Results Trickle In

** HISTORY **:
54-year-old woman with node negative breast cancer just finished
adjuvant chemotherapy and now has large axillary mass. FNA
pending. Assess disease status.

** IMPRESSION **:
The known 4 cm right axillary mass is hypermetabolic and most
likely metastatic disease with central necrosis; abscess or other
inflammatory lesion is less likely. There is no other definite
evidence of metastatic disease on this study.

** REACTION **:
Oh Shit.

My doctor called me with this news on Thursday night. She isn’t willing to make a final diagnosis  based on this data, so I was back in on Friday morning for an ultrasound guided core needle biopsy, quickly arranged by Karen, the breast care coordinator who first broke the news of my cancer to me last June. I ended up having the same US technician as the last time, and we again chatted about TV shows during the procedure. The goal is to get enough tissue from the mass to really see under a microscope what it is. I’m expecting to get the results back on Tuesday or Wednesday, based on how long it took last time.

But based on what they saw on the PET scan, I think that I’m prepared for the worst.

Stage IV breast cancer.

With a 5 year survival rate of 15-20%, and an already demonstrated hyper-aggressiveness that I’m not real happy about.

So, of course I’ve spent the weekend thinking about my funeral music, looking up permanent disability and how to file for it, reviewing what will happen to my 401K retirement if I die before retirement age, hanging out on cancer websites, putting together my discussion points and questions for my next meeting with my oncologist, and reading and re-reading the scan report in hopes that it will magically say something like benign instead of metastatic.

I think that I am becoming resigned to dying soon.

But then I think of my beloved Auntie N, who has beaten Stage IV cancer for years, and who right now is in hospital after her nth surgery.  She was given the choice of the very risky surgery or palliative care, which in her mind wasn’t an option.  When I spoke to her last week, I told her that if God gave out cures for determination, she’d be at the front of the queue. So in she went, the operation went well with good margins, and God willing she and I will have many more years together.

So that’s where I am tonight.  Still waiting for confirmation of a highly aggressive cancer that has already spread, but pretty sure that I’ll be hearing those words.  I think that it’s time to pull out the sleeping pills tonight.

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