Wednesday was Canceled this Week due to Cancer

December 23rd, 2011

I dispensed with Wednesday this week. It isn’t as if it is anyone’s favorite day so I doubt it was sorely missed. I’m recuperating from surgery for “ductal carcinoma in-situ” or DCIS, the most common form of breast cancer. That puts me among the one in eight women who can expect to be diagnosed with breast cancer in this country. The surgery was Tuesday so there was no reason to bother with that first day, post-surgical exhaustion. I hope the cancellation didn’t inconvenience you.

Thursday was better. This post was written to inform you of the order of events required to find out if you are the ‘eighth’ woman on your block. A routine physical resulted in my physician reporting a palpable mass. She was able to ‘feel’ the lump in my right breast. Mammography was recommended to view the extent of the growth and see if any others, not yet large enough to feel, might be present. Despite the fact that several months passed before I had the opportunity to obtain the necessary imaging, there is no question that such evaluations are critical in dealing with this all-too-common disease. If you lack health care insurance, you can find low or no-cost exams through the following sources at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Cancer Institute. Your local hospital may have a women’s health service offering such exams as well.

Knowing that the majority of masses are benign kept me calm about the findings. A relative and my own gynecologist both recommended a breast cancer surgeon. The world-wide web is a goldmine of information about professionals in every area and a search of this expert’s profile was reassuring about the competency you hope to find for a serious medical event. Mammography (breast x-ray) showed two masses in the left breast and some small, calcified material in the right breast. A sonogram, the simple use of sound waves to outline bodily structures, confirmed these masses and the need for biopsies to be performed.

Don’t freak out about the biopsy process. A sample of the mass is removed via hypodermic with or without a local anesthetic. It was minimally uncomfortable and informed me that the largest of the masses was a stage 0 cancer, treatable by surgical removal. The surgery, which took place earlier this week, was preceded by further imaging and marking procedures (also under local anesthetic) so the surgeon would have no problem locating the affected portions. All of the masses were removed.

Women everywhere have felt relief about the move towards lumpectomies versus complete mastectomies in which the entire breast is removed. I felt momentary alarm when the consent forms told me I was giving permission for a partial mastectomy. They are the same thing but additional material is removed around the mass to obtain ‘clean edges’ or cancer-free tissue. An IV put me to sleep and I woke up some 90 minutes later with bandages across my chest, able to return home the same day. Hence, my cancellation of Wednesday due to exhaustion and some discomfort that was easily manageble with Tylenol and chocolate. You DID know about the narcotic effects of chocolate, didn’t you?

Today is Friday and the pathology reports came in, informing me that there was more affected tissue than expected although it is unlikely anything is beyond a very treatable stage ‘one’ condition. Unfortunately, that requires a double mastectomy and I will have to consider the ultimate form of treatment I select after my next physician appointment next week.

In the meantime, every woman needs to keep up with preventive health care given the frequency of such events among our gender.

See you later.

1/7/12 Post-script: My surgery had to be postponed due to housing problems. I’ll let you know when I next plan to alter the calendar in order to have a smoother recovery from treatment :-)

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