From the monthly archives:

July 2009


It is strange to begin one’s day by driving to the “Magnolia Cancer Center. ”

“This place cannot be for me,” I think. My husband admits that he, too, gets a jolt at the sight of the large blue sign with white text. The cafeteria, the halls, and the waiting rooms are filled, mostly with old people. They appear to be in bad shape, moving with difficulty at a glacial pace. Their complexions are ashen or waxy, their expressions gloomy.  Did cancer or old age bring them down? Will I be the same once treatments set in?

The MRI turns out not to be scary.  I had feared claustrophobia, scared of being stuffed alive  in a steel coffin. I also worried about not being able to move at all for the better part of an hour. But the design of the big turbo machine turns out to be ingenious. Who ever came up with the design should be contacted by the airlines to re-design their chairs for better comfort.

I lie on stomach with both my boobs hanging down through two holes. My arms are held forward in a diving position. My forehead rests on a foam cushioned ledge covered by a soft cloth. My legs are bent by the knees, my ankles and shins rest on a cushion. My pelvis and stomach are firmly pressed downward but without discomfort. The room is cool, but I am covered by a warm cotton blanket. I do not have the slightest urge to even wiggle my toes during the whole procedure.

A dye is administered through a needle in my left hand. The liquid flows through my veins like a chilly breeze. The machine makes clanking sounds, like old radiators. Then it changes its “tune” and makes a fast, clicking metallic sound. How could this possibly give them perfect pictures of the inside of my boobs, slice by slice? I will never understand and I regret having spent my whole life ignoring anything science.

I am alone in the room, but hold a rubber bulb in my hand. Through a speaker I am told, by the tech outside,  to squeeze the rubbery thing should I need anything. I hold my rubber bulb, but don’t squeeze it, not once. I am perfectly fine. But as I lie there, I think of torture victims. How perfectly terrifying would it not be to be left alone in a cool room with a low ceiling and giant steel contraption without knowing why, left in a room without a rubber bulb to squeeze and where nobody would care about your screams.  How frightening to be stuffed in a machine designed to hurt you, monitored by evil people, not people who want your best!


iStock_000006424577XSmallI. Nobody in my family has breast cancer.

But: Eighty percent of  post-menopausal breast cancer patients do not have a family history.

II. I need to wait until my son’s wedding, my husbands 50th birthday, our 20th anniversary trip/my daughter’s high school graduation/until after my high school reunion.

But: What could have a higher importance than your health?

III. I need to loose twenty pounds. Hate to weigh myself at the doctor’s office.

But:  Mammogram centers don’t weigh you. Be sure you have a digital mammogram. Follow up with your doctor to get the result.  A recent study shows that seven percent of all significant findings don’t get communicated to the patient. No news may not always mean good news. Also, since most cancer does not show on a regular screening mammogram, insist on a diagnostic mammogram if you still have concerns.

IV. Work is crazy busy right now.

But: Won’t get much work done if you end up in hospice.

V. Lumps are usually cysts so no hurry to go now.

But: You cannot tell from the outside. Still check out:

VI. I don’t believe in breast cancer because I have a healthy life style.

But: You will be surprised how many skinny women with healthy life styles end up with breast cancer.

VII. I just had a cancerous mole removed and was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma. I cannot have two cancers at once.

But: some types of cancers puts you at higher risk for a second cancer.

Check your breasts. The life you save may be your own.


Bills, Bills Everywhere

July 24, 2009

The post man sprinkles me with bills. How many have I managed to accumulate, considering I have not yet had my MRI or surgery? Did their computerized billing system over heat? Reluctantly, I open the first white envelope. “This is not a bill” it reads. Then what is it? It is a letter from the […]

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My Medical History Is…Lost

July 22, 2009

My medical records have evaporated. Buried in some nuclear waste site? My “health file” at home contains a brochure regarding an ancient, and expired, insurance plan. Not a single piece of paper refers to past doctor’s visits or mammograms. Not a single reference to the benign findings of my earlier biopsy. Certainly no pathology report. […]

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Another Scary Mammogram

July 14, 2009

As I enter the semi-dark room for my third mammogram in a month,  I notice two large X-rays mounted on a back lit panel. One shows a breast with two lumps and a calcified area, all clearly circled in red. I assume this is the view of  my right breast and freak out at the […]

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The Elusive MRI

July 9, 2009

Up till now, I have played the waiting game. I have waited for the diagnostic mammogram,  for the ultrasound and the biopsy, and the biopsy results. I have waited to pick up my x-rays, waited  for an appointment with my surgeon, and for the MRI appointment. Now the time is finally here for the procedure […]

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Dr. Guru’s Game Plan

July 7, 2009

Dr. Guru’s game plan is simple enough, provided there are no complications revealed by further tests and procedures. Lumpectomy followed by radiation, followed by five years on Tamoxifen. (I don’t argue with him about  Tamoxifen. I don’t bring up  Astra Zeneca’s conflict as a maker of both cancer drugs and potent carcinogens. ) Dr. Guru […]

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Finally – First Meeting with the Surgical Oncologist

July 5, 2009

Finally, I meet with Dr. Guru, my surgeon oncologist, after a two week wait. It seems like ten light years. The waiting room is enormous, empty except for an elderly couple. I notice that they do not carry an over-sized,  brown x-ray envelope, like I do. The staff in the reception  is slow and overweight, […]

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No Self-Pity, Just Curiosity.

July 3, 2009

I am reading in the garden, pool side, when I notice the gathering clouds and hear the rumble in the distance, so I dart inside the house to lie down on the living room sofa. My husband is already napping upstairs. Claps of thunder before rain begins to drum against the tall windows as I drift […]

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