It was time for my yearly breast ultrasound, which I stagger with a yearly mammogram on a 6 month rolling basis. I scheduled this for last Thursday, just before my monthly visit with Dr. Forte -- the greatest oncologist on the planet. I could tell by watching the technician's face that it was going to be a bad day. A mass was found in my left breast, the same breast where ACC was found in 2000. After a painful fine needle aspiration and an even more painful core needle biopsy, the radiologist confirmed that it was indeed cancer. My stomach dropped. Again. I've never known Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma of the Breast (ACCB) to reoccur in the original site after treatment. My head was spinning.
By the time I got to my appointment with Dr. Forte, the slides had been read and he told me that this is a completely different cancer from ACC. A totally new cancer diagnosis! We both sat there for a minute, speechless. All I could say was, "This is f*cked up." I'm pretty sure I said that several times during that appointment. He said that the pathologist thinks it's just run-of-the-mill invasive ductal carcinoma, IDC. Up to 80% of all breast cancers are IDC. Although it's a very common cancer, and I don't have to seek out specialists this time, it's a whole new ballgame. It's a whole new everything. Starting over.
Driving home that night I felt like my body has been turned into one big medical torture chamber. I turned up the radio as my long time friend read my mind.
Bruce Springsteen, Lonesome DayThe details of the plan have yet to be determined. But here's what I know so far: I'm in very good hands at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center. Dr. Forte has treated this kind of cancer hundreds of times. He has always been invested in my care and was very upset with this development. He's practically a family member. He said he was probably going to go home and cry. I was oddly comforted by that. Dr. V. Merle McIntosh is the Chief of Breast Surgery and is the best at what she does. I will meet with her on Thursday to schedule a date for surgery. She said that, with my medical history, we need to be super careful not to be too aggressive. The driving questions will be whether we can get clean margins and if the cancer has already spread to any lymph nodes. This will determine the stage and where to go from there.
Dr. McIntosh told me to bring my "folder of test results." I'm very OCD when is comes to keeping organized. I have four levels of medical records: 1. My four page Medical Summary and List of Medications for my purse; 2. My portable 5x7 notebook with all my lists and blank paper for taking notes at appointments; 3. My files for each doctor; and 4. the Big Kahuna -- my 4" binder of all my test results, divided by types of tests. I'll have to use my backpack on wheels on Thursday. The Big Kahuna is just too heavy.
So far, 2015 kind of sucks. From all I learned about breast cancer during my first six years of survivorship -- when I erroneously thought that ACC of the breast was a type of breast cancer -- this shouldn't be as steep a roller coaster as ACC has been. Hopefully, this won't set my plans for moving back too far. I need a change of scenery, that's for sure.
Armed with my Kindle, Apple iTV, Amazon Fire Stick, Fresh Direct grocery delivery and take-out menus, Sadie and I will settle into an all-too-familiar routine. It's all in a day's work.
CANcer + HEALth = CAN HEAL