Back in April I was diagnosed with a pre-cancer condition called Atypical Lobular Hyperplasia (see Russian Roulette or Mastectomy) and, because of a strong family history of breast cancer, decided to have a preventive bilateral mastectomy.
The decision was a difficult one, in part because I wondered how I would feel if the post-surgery pathology report came back showing no further instances of this pre-cancer condition. Would I feel as though I’d made the wrong decision? I mean, it is a pretty very extreme surgery and the pre-cancer I had might never turn into cancer.
In the end my two sisters who are survivors convinced me that, regardless of the outcome, I was making the right decision. By having a mastectomy, I would be eliminating my lifetime risk of getting breast cancer. No more six-month mammograms. No more breast MRI’s.
No more worrying.
And then last Monday my breast surgeon called me with the results of the pathology. I held my breath and awaited the verdict, determined that I would be fine with whatever the results were. “We found several more instances of the atypical lobular hyperplasia,” she said, “and extensive amount of ductal carcinoma in situ in both breasts. The good news is that because the cancer was contained inside the milk ducts (has not yet penetrated the breast tissue or lymph nodes), your surgery would be considered a total cure.”
Diagnosis and cure all at once. Cancer and the cure. I had breast cancer but now I’m cured.
I had breast cancer.
Surprisingly, that news threw me for a loop, and I’m still trying to process it. The scariest part?
Why wasn’t it seen on imaging?
Meanwhile, as I continue to absorb my diagnosis, I have a new complication to deal with. A visit to my reconstructive surgeon last week revealed a good-sized section of skin on my left breast that appears to be dying. Apparently this happens when the surgeon cuts too close to the skin and leaves it too thin to survive.
But for now it’s a wait-and-see game. This week I will apply an antibiotic ointment used on 3rd degree burn victims to the area and when my doctor returns from vacation next week, we’ll decide if another surgery is in order to remove the affected area.
There WILL be Unicorns
The good news is that I have received not one but two unicorns to help me heal, and since I already have two fluffy kittens, I think I’m all set. Now it’s time to just lie back, watch some Downtown Abbey and try to stay away from all the baked goods my sister left behind from her stay while my body continues to heal.
Thank you to all of you who have left encouraging messages over the past couple of weeks. I can’t begin to tell you how much they’ve meant. I’m hoping in the next week or so I’ll feel up to responding to your comments once again.
Reposted from August 13, 2013.