Hurry Up and Wait.
January 28, 2019. On my second visit to my new favorite oncologist, we talk about how DNA can snap one day and start duplicating malformed versions of itself (i.e. cancer cells), and how some of our genetic codes have little flaws that make it easier for such mistakes to happen. She listed a bunch of known gene mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 and the implications for me if my tests come back positive. In some cases, such as the BRCA gene mutations, it means that the incidence for subsequent cancers go up high enough that it makes sense to change my surgery to a full bilateral mastectomy. That is why it is important to get the genetic testing done before I’m wheeled in to surgery. Such DNA doom is a long shot for me, but worth doing the work and waiting the three weeks it takes to get the test results back to rule it out. So they give me a test tube with a “fill to this line” marker about ½ inch up. Sounds easy enough until you start trying to make like 50 ccs of spit on cue (well it seemed like 50). I spit into the test tube for like 20 minutes. Luckily, the nurse leaves me to spit alone, as this is the weirdest thing I have done all day.
While I’m there they get the test results of the hormone markers in my biopsy sample. Ninety percent of the cells had estrogen receptors and thirty percent had progesterone receptors. This is good news for post-surgery care. In the absence of any evidence of the cancer spreading to lymph nodes, or some scary genetic findings, I will be able to skip chemo.
Later this day, I decide to take my oncologist’s advice and get the news out there about my cancer in one big announcement. She suggested this method as opposed to telling people one-on-one and having to weather each shocked and saddened sentiment and each long, heartfelt hug, as this can be exhausting and much more damaging than one Band-Aid rip. I make the following announcement on Facebook:
FRIENDS: After some agonizingly long waits between each test result reveal, I can confirm that I have breast cancer. I’m definitely going to lose a boob but it could be worse. Although further testing and/or post-surgical biopsies may change the outlook, it appears that I may be able to skip the chemo part of the festivities and just take hormone blocking medication instead. I don’t share this with you to gather sympathy or prayers but rather to keep you, my most treasured friends and family, in the know if I need extra time or lack my usual panache in the next month or two. My doctor suggested that I tell my friends and family in large, impersonal ways to save myself the trauma of each face-to-face reveal and each subsequent emotional reaction, which can be draining rather than strengthening for certain types of people (me). This darn thing will slow me but not stop me so don’t stop needing me and asking for my help and I won’t stop needing you and asking for yours. HUGS - Janice
I get lots of heartfelt cyber hugs and pledges of help. That’s really nice and I feel like people sure are nice. And there’s nothing like the word “cancer” to put the fear of, well, death into people. But I feel like I should hurry up and get on with my surgery or something – start looking sick now that I’ve made such a big announcement out of it. But with the slow speed of genetic testing and consulting with reconstructive surgeons, the looking-sick part of this cancer will have to wait.
Stay tuned for more exciting surgical visits and tests to come! On the next episode of My Right Boob!