Surgery date

September 15, 2015

Today we got the surgery date: 10 days away, September 24.

I had no idea what an emotional flood it would be. It is not the relief I expected; it is deep, deep grief. I am going to lose a body part. Ten days left of being whole.

This feeling has zero to do with cancer and everything to do with loss.

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Tick Tock

September 4, 2015

I’m generally a gloomer and doomer, but Friday I was oddly hopeful as I waited for the phone to ring with results of the biopsy.

Something happened in my mid 30’s that I like to call, “So now I’m dying.”  A weird ache, digestive problem, cluster headache, muscle strains; all of these things clearly meant that I was DYING. End-of-the-world. Well, no, Leah you’re just getting older. You’re not dying, your body is changing. This time would be the same thing, right? Wrong.

Around 5:30 Dr. Murphy called and told me it was cancer. He told me I needed to come back and get an MRI. It was a long weekend so the next appointment was three days away. Three. Days. That’s a long time to sit with all of the feelings that come with the words, “You have cancer.”  This will be my new reality, waiting for appointments to shed more and more light on a very complex and individual subject: Cancer.

When a doctor ends a phone call with, “we’ll have your films ready so you can bring them to your breast surgeon and oncologist”, it’s pretty surreal. Yes, he is talking to me.

Hi, I have cancer

September 3, 2015

“You have really complicated breasts”.

This is nothing I didn’t already know. They’re extremely dense and usually have a lot of fluid-filled cysts. Most of these cysts I don’t even feel.

The technology at the Elizabeth Wende Breast Clinic in Rochester, New York is fantastic. There are now mammograms that are specific for women with dense breasts.  Normal mammograms are easier to read; they’re clear. My mammograms are like a cloudy night sky. Technicians have described the films as “having a lot of noise”.

I always have a diagnostic appointment the same day of my mammograms to get a few cysts aspirated via ultrasound and needle aspiration. Today, the Doctor zoomed right by my cysts and went to my lymph nodes. This was not good.

He settled in on the left one and said, “Your lymph nodes look good, but what I really want to get a look at is this”. He moved over a long band that looked like a nebula with tiny, bright stars clustered together and scattered throughout it.

“These are calcifications. We usually don’t worry too about these when they are singular and symmetrical. But, when they are clumped together we get suspicious. We’re going to need to do a core biopsy.” The abnormal section he showed me was large, really large. It looked like 4-5 inches around the outside of the breast.

A feeling that I’ve never had before creeped in, and I knew I was going to lose my breast.