From the monthly archives:

September 2009

Breast cancer excision

“Yesterday was horrific, “ says  Dr. Guru’s assistant when I call to complain that he never called with the pathology results, as promised. “I had to snatch him to even get one second.” She lets out a deep sigh, the kind that seems to come from  the bone marrow, not from the lungs.

I feel guilty for nagging her about my pathology results. I have no problem understanding the plethora of emergencies Dr. Guru must face each and every day.

“And he is going on vacation, you know,” his assistant tells me.

I imagine the scene: Phones ringing. Faxes rattling. Lights flashing. Intercoms blaring: Dr. Guru, Dr. Guru. Line 2. Dr. Guru, Dr. Guru, OR 5. Patients, like me, but a lot sicker, clamoring for his attention. Patients with melanoma cell spreading like wild fires, begging him to intervene.

And here am I, on the opposite end of the spectrum: BC stage 1 . I am  the patient who is never an emergency. Of course, he didn’t call. With only 24 hours in each day, Dr. Guru is forced to set priorities.

And now he is going on a much needed vacation.  How long will  he be gone? Two weeks? Three?   I picture some luxury junket paid for by the scalpel manufacturer.  No, not at all. It turns out he will be gone one week, working in a summer camp for kids with disabilities.

I am ashamed, feel selfish and petty, but I must find out what was in the tumor and what will happen next.

“When will I start treatments? When he comes back?”

“You need the oncogene test first,” Joy tells me.

My blood drains: he wants my oncogene tested?  Is it not the oncogene result I was supposed to get yesterday, the day before, really? Is that not the test result I have been chasing?

Did Dr. Guru not tell me: I am just waiting for the oncogene report? But how could he be waiting for that report if I did not even have the test?

Good grief, why don’t I understand anything?


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No Pathology report .  It seems that I am off Dr. Guru’s radar screen.

Who cares? Not me! I am upbeat and sure of myself, thanks to the book “What Your Doctor Didn’t Tell You About Breast Cancer.”  I have been devouring it the past couple of days while waiting for the pathology results.

Tamoxifen — pouf — out the window  for sure.  I, for one, do not plan to  poison my body just to enrich Astra Zeneca’s corporate pockets. Now I question even the wisdom of radiation. Is that really going to be necessary?

I feel better than ever. Better even than before the  Breast “Care” Center called to tell me that they “regretted that the biopsy results were not what they had hoped.”

I grouse, around family and friends, that the service level at the University Medical Clinic is worse than  at a two star hotel. My insouciance is totally based on the assumption that no news is good news.

Instead of margins and oncogenes, I focus  on  a trip that my husband and I will take to visit old friends. The question is when? I am on the phone with our friends to figure this out.

“But what about your radiation schedule,” asks my friend M. “When can you get away?”

“Radiation,” I scoff. “Not even scheduled yet. Terrible service. No communication what so ever.” I am all bravado on the phone, but my friend M, a cancer researcher and biologist, is not amused.

“You have to take your care into your own hands,” he says. “Nobody else will do it for you.”

His words stick.

Of course. Who could care more about me than me?

Right then and there, I decide to step up my level of “care.” But how? Not only don’t I have the pathology report from my July 14th lumpectomy.  ( I do  not  even have the first pathology report from the Breast “Care” Center .)

It is as if my pathology report has nothing to do with me. Everyone can read it, but me.

I have no idea if I have the oncogene. I have no idea what my margins are. I have no idea if I need chemo, after all. Or when it would start. I do not even have an oncologist!  How  can I take charge of my care when I don’t even know what my breast cancer care is supposed to be?

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Procrastinations on Pathology Report

September 17, 2009

Friday. No news on the oncogene.  No news from Dr. Guru’s office all day Monday. Finally, I call his assistant just before closing time. “We are waiting for your pathology report,”  she says. “Have you been to post op yet?” “Yes, I had my ten second post-op  a week ago.” It seems like his office […]

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What Oncogene?

September 15, 2009

Dr. Guru calls at 9 AM. Less brusque than during post-op a few days ago. (Less stressed out, I suppose.) “No cells in the margins.” What are the margins? He does not say and I do not think to ask. (Before the tumor is removed, the surgeon inks a line around it. A clean margin […]

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The Ten Second Post-Op Consultation

September 13, 2009

Monday morning, 7 AM as usual, I am back at work after my Friday lumpectomy. I feel a bit listless, like walking in chewing gum. My brain is gauzy, but I have no pain.  The week-end has been one long folk fest filled with visitors and forced relaxation. The worst  now is not being able […]

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Queen For a Day: Participating in My Own Wake

September 13, 2009

Dr. Guru meets with my family in the waiting room. Big grin, face mask dangling around his neck, arms raised, two fingers on each hand formed into the V for victory signs.  No cancer in frozen lymph node section. So far everyone agrees. Big wide margins. Some  heard only “wide” margins, but not “big wide” […]

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Discovery: A Gene Not Responsive to Radiation

September 4, 2009

A cancer research team in Lund, Sweden has found a new a gene profile that can help oncologist better determine when lumpectomy followed by radiation may not be appropriate. The newly discovered gene reveals whether or not a tumor will respond to radiation. Women who have tumors with this particular gene will in the future […]

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