Here’s the thing. It’s my birthday and I have been spending a portion of it reading up on ductal carcinoma in situ. I want to understand what’s going on with these calcifications that have shown up again in the same general area as the first ones did. I want to know why DCIS forms calcifications, how long it takes them to form, what types of DCIS there are (there are several), how long the DCIS is sitting there before it forms calcifications, what the recurrence rate really is, what benign breast calcifications look like, how often benign calcifications form after breast surgery and/or breast radiation. Etcetera, etcetera. Look. I’ve always been like this. I have never hesitated to read when I want to learn something. I have taught myself how to sew, use Photoshop, apply wallpaper and make chocolate eclairs by reading about it and then practicing. The generous description of this tendency is “scientific mind,” or “auto-didact.” The impolite description is “nudge” (pronounce the ‘u’ as in ‘push’).
I usually feel better after I know more. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I end up with the answers I was seeking. But we of a scientific bent are used to that. “The more you know, the less you know.” You know?? But let’s just say that gathering knowledge is not only how I feed my curiosity, but it is also a coping mechanism. When I’m freaking out about something, I get my intellect to help out my emotions by gathering info and then bringing it back and convening a little meeting. After this meeting of the various parts of my mind, I almost always feel better, not because I really know more, but because I’ve taken some action. It’s always better to do something when you’re freaking out than to sit there not doing something and feeling like crap.
Here’s the basic rundown of my coping strategy this week. After reading an equivocal letter from the local radiologist about my recent mammogram, on Monday, I sought further info. I was thus told that the more expert radiologist in the big city observed “more calcifications” in my involved breast and recommended immediate further diagnostic imaging. That night, I went to a local restaurant, bought three really gooey desserts involving a lot of chocolate, took them to my girlfriend’s house, and proceeded to consume them with her and her husband. This was accompanied by much cussing and cursing, with appropriate indignation and laughter at our indignation. I also logged on to my forum and told my “girls in the club” what was going on, and got lots more cyber hugs, indignation, cursing and general compassion and camaradery. All very therapeutic.
On Tuesday, I got more info, made an appointment for a diagnostic mammogram as recommended, found out my surgeon was on vacation all week, got more info faxed to the office of the medical oncologist I am trying to consult, talked to some girlfriends, cursed some more and ate some chocolate cream pie.
On Wednesday, I worked and didn’t have much time to think about stuff during the day. Wednesday night, I gathered at a local restaurant with a bunch of my wonderful work colleagues to bid farewell to a colleague who was leaving our employ. I had a fabulous dinner, got to let some of my work pals know what was going on, got hugs and prayers and took home a good doggie bag.
On Thursday, I went to work and got uncharacteristically snippy with a work pal who did not know what was going on. I immediately apologized, said I was having a tough week and didn’t mean to take it out on him. One of my other work buds asked if I was okay, and I fled to the women’s room and burst into tears. Okay. I was due for a meltdown. So, I had one. Got lots of hugs, tears, validation, got it out of my system. Felt lucky to have such awesome, caring colleagues. Went home, discovered a birthday present mailed to me from an old and dear friend (a purple silk wraparound robe/evening coat), called her up, talked to a few more buds, went to bed.
Today is a day off as well as my birthday. Got lots of phone calls this morning, plus cards, emails, Facebook greetings and general love. Got more information per the above. Got a particularly precious birthday phone call from one of my girls-in-the-club who is a mammographer who lives in Canada and has also survived this freakin’ disease. It’s warm and mostly sunny out. My dog and I are going out for a good jaunt this afternoon. I now have a firm appointment with my new medical oncologist. I called my surgeon’s cell phone and left her a message about this mess. I don’t have answers to all the questions I started out with, but I now understand that I am not being foolish, hysterical, irrational, fatalistic or just-plain-silly to be very, very concerned about these “more calcifications.” Turns out that ductal carcinoma is more of an unpredictable, poorly understood little bugger than we are generally led to believe. Turns out that this sort of thing is not so unusual, that the little bastards are sneaky and do reappear despite lumpectomies and radiation and tamoxifen. Turns out it is probably more aggressive in general than I had given it credit for, that there are several types of DCIS, and that we don’t necessarily have a very helpful system for classifying those types.
So. Here’s my bottom line. If I have more cancer, then all I probably have to do is have more surgery. I won’t necessarily have to have radiation or chemo or a sentinel node biopsy. I can just have a mastectomy, start the reconstruction process and be done with it. I can recover from surgery. I can recover and I’ll have a new boob and I won’t have to worry about the stinking cancer coming back in this breast. And I know I’m not crazy. Oddly enough, I feel better now.
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