Friday, April 25, 2014

The News

"You have invasive ductal carcinoma," Dr. Iyengar said.

We were sitting face-to-face in a tiny room.  Jose, the office assistant, was present for some reason--to protect the doctor if I went crazy?  To restrain me if needed?  To pick me up if I fainted?

"We can say it's stage 1," she added.

I was so grateful that it wasn't more advanced.  

She explained that I needed to call my OB-GYN, Allison Leong, and get referrals to a surgeon and oncologist.  

I also needed to schedule an MRI.  

"Do you want it next week? Or earlier?"

Within a few minutes I was walking into the next room to have the MRI.

Into the belly of the great white whale--it was a Jonah experience.  

By 11:35 am I was out on the street again.

I sat in the car and called John, then my daughters, none of whom was available.  I left messages: "Call me."  I called my brother Bill and got a 40-minute lecture "Introduction to Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment."

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Phone Call

"I will call you on either Thursday or Friday and let you know the results," Dr. Iyengar said after my biopsy was completed.

No call on Thursday morning; finally at 4:15 pm a call from her office assistant, Jose:

"We need to schedule a time for the doctor to discuss the results with you," he said.  "When can you come in?"

Tomorrow, April 25, 10 am.  

That phone call stopped me in my tracks.

Apparently the results of the biopsy could not be discussed over the phone.  They required an appointment.

Clearly the report involved cancer.

I did some reflection for the rest of the evening.  

I wondered what stage the cancer was--it sure seemed big on the ultrasound screen.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


It didn't hurt much.  

The main thing I remember is the vocabulary the doctor used:

"shoot into"

"fire at"


This was all happening right above my heart.  I wanted to say, "Don't shoot too deep there."

Afterward Dr. Iyengar popped a little marker into the breast to show where the mass is.

I felt like a dog being provided with an ID chip.

When the technician did a post-biopsy mammogram, she said another somewhat alarming word:

"The marker will locate the mass if you need surgery."

Hmmm.  Possible surgery ahead?  Probable?

By the time I got home, I had decided to be open about having a biopsy for possible breast cancer.  One small thing I can do for all women--take the fearful thing and bring it into the open, look at it.

I posted the following note on Facebook:

Words overheard this morning during a biopsy taking place right over my heart: "shoot into," "fire at," "lesion," "surgeon," "retro mammarius space." Most biopsies turn out negative for cancer... here's hoping! Also a 1/8" marker implanted--just like my dog's ID chip.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ultrasound: Bingo

Winona Brown was doing my ultrasound, and I was stretched out on the examining table looking up at the chandelier.

Everything was friendly and relaxed, but then she said, "I'm going to call in the doctor to look at this."

I looked at the screen and saw a dark spot, like a flat loaf of bread.

Dr. Geeta Iyengar came in and conducted the rest of the ultrasound.  

"Maybe it's just part of the structure of your breast," she said. "Let's see if there's anything in the same place on the other side."

But there wasn't anything like that on the right breast.

"It's a mass of about 7 mm," she said.  "We will need to do a biopsy."

Soon I was saying goodbye to the chandeliers and orchids with a biopsy scheduled for a week later on Tuesday, April 22.

They had suggested Friday the 18th, but I try not to schedule anything but a visit to a church on Good Friday.  I didn't want them to have to work on that day either.

Tuesday, April 15, and I had seen something they called a "mass" on the ultrasound screen.

It seemed really large to me.  At home I tried to find it by probing, but it is deep in the breast near the muscle wall. I couldn't really feel anything.

I didn't tell my daughters or anyone else except my husband and my brother Bill about the biopsy being scheduled.  No use alarming anyone--it might be just a cyst or a benign lump.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Waiting for the Ultrasound

Enter Dr. Bill, my brother.  He was teaching a class in San Diego on Monday and Tuesday, so he flew down from Seattle on Saturday and visited us.

We drove up Pacific Coast Highway to Point Mugu, then back down to Santa Monica.

I told him that an ultrasound had been recommended after my mammogram.

"Don't worry about it," he said.  "Nine out of ten ultrasounds don't show any cancer."

He does general surgery for the US Army at Fort Lewis in Washington state, and in our family we all report our health crises to him to get additional information.

I was glad to hear his report, but the CA word had come up in the conversation.