March 25, 2010
Well, here I am about to embark on one of the most frightening and scary adventures of my life. It all started on March 5 when I went to see my internist for a routine physical of blood work and to convince her to get a scan of my entire back from top to bottom. I have had a lot of neck and back pain for many years and I finally decided that it would be a good idea to get it officially looked at. During the course of this routine physical she said "let's do a breast exam". I figured I was already there so why not. She had already handed me the usual forms for a mammogram and blo0d work. All of a sudden she stopped and said "you've got a lump. I'm changing this to a diagnostic mammogram and an ultra sound on one side." OK. So I dutifully made an appointment and went in. My appointment was for Wednesday, March 10. After the normal mammogram and the ultrasound they came back in and said I needed an ultrasound on the other side. OK. Then they came back in and told me I had a mass on each breast and it really looked like cancer and they were really sorry and did I have any questions. All I could even think to ask was "on both sides?" There have been very few times in my life when I have felt like I was kicked in the stomach but this was right up there at the top of the list. I think the last time I felt that way was when I was called to be Relief Society President.
Before I left I had to make an appointment for biopsies on both sides. That was done on Monday, March 15. On Tuesday afternoon, March 16 they called me to tell me that the biopsies were positive for cancer and I needed an MRI. On Thursday, March 18 I had the MRI. The next day they called me to tell me that they had found more cancer on the left side. I have no family history of breast cancer. There is really very little history of any cancer on either side, so this was just not something I every thought I would have to deal with. I figured I would die of some other old age disease, but not this. And definitely not at the ripe old age of 57!! Talk about your mortality hitting you between the eyeballs.
So, here I am on Thursday evening, March 25 trying to write about this experience. It is amazing how many people I have run into who have either had this, are in the middle of it, or had a good friend or family member with breast cancer. I have come to the conclusion that it is almost epidemic. I have received so many words of encouragement and comfort I am speechless. Everybody started sending me the names of doctors and hospitals for me to contact. One thing I have come to realize is that in this day of modern medicine, it is up to you to pave the way for your own treatment. One of my good designer friends who is in the middle of this told me that, and I didn't quite understand it, but I do now. I went over to St. John's hospital in Santa Monica last Wednesday, March 17 and met with Dr. Rengal. He is a cancer surgeon. He answered a lot of my questions and gave me some things to think about. I also made an appointment at City of Hope with Dr. Laura Kruper. Both of these doctors came highly recommended. I am so grateful that I live in southern California with several premier cancer centers, all within an hour's drive. I have decided to go to City of Hope. They are only 20 minutes down the freeway, and as one person told me, they are a one stop shop. I will be able to have the double mastectomy, the reconstruction, the chemo, and whatever else I get to have all right there. I met with Dr. Kruper last Monday, March 22. She was great, and explained a lot more things to me. I went back on Wednesday, March 24 for an ultrasound of my lymph nodes and possible more biopsies. Fortunately, I did not have to have the biopsy. They will not know for sure how much involvement is in the lymph nodes until after surgery, but at least they decided that they didn't have to do the biopsy. I am grateful for small favors. I have an appointment with the plastic surgeon next Wednesday, March 31. Then I see Dr. Kruper again on Monday, April 5. I really hope at that time they will schedule the surgery. I really need to get this done. One thing I am being reminded of is that I need to learn "patience".