Are My Cells Undifferentiated?

by Maggan

in Anxiety & Fear,Diagnosis,Pathology,Prognosis

Three days have passed since my diagnosis. When office work slows down, I feel panicky and restless. I debate whether to leave the office, but instead I turn to Google and type in “ductal invasive carcinoma” and “undifferentiated cells.”

It turns out to be extremely bad news.

Undifferentiated cells are abnormal looking cells that have changed from their origin and spread into the general cell population.  They tend to be the most aggressive of cancer cells and carry a “poor prognosis” meaning they are hard to stop from proliferating.

I am wired and my hands shake as I turn off my computer. Without changing voice mail, or forwarding my calls, I leave the office. I don’t wish anyone a good week-end. As far as I am concerned, my week-ends are ruined for all eternity. Despite the summer heat, I am chilled to the bone and I actually shiver as I walk along the broiling cement path towards the parking garage.

My husband looks up from his laptop, a bit surprised by my early arrival,  then he notices my ghostly expression and immediately stands up and puts his arms around me. In tears, I tell him about the undifferentiated cells, about how scared I am. He holds me, feels so solid and calm that I relax.

“We’ll get through this,” he says. “You will be OK. Why don’t you call the radiologist at the Breast “Care” Center to find out the exactly what is in your pathology report.”

My finger trembles as I dial the number. I am scared, angry and confused. Do I have a good prognosis or not? Or was the talk of good prognosis and slow growth just standard bullshit to minimize the bad news so Dr. Dork could get off the phone without having to deal with a hysterical patient?

“She is working in a different location today. A nurse will call you back.”

Within minutes, a physician calls. He calmly reads: infiltrating ductal carcinoma. He annunciates the key words: “moderately differentiated cells” He repeats Dr. Dork’s mantra: A good prognosis.

Moderately is good news, a lot better than poorly differentiated, and incredibly much better than undifferentiated. Of course, well differentiated would have been better. But my pulse slows down and my hands feel less clammy at the thought of those cells inside my boob being moderate.

But I am still shell shocked and I feel exactly as I once did when I, by seconds, avoided a head on collision at high speed.

I never ask him to send me a copy of the pathology report. How stupid is that? And why did he not offer?

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