No MRI results. No pathology report on the calcification in my left breast. No surgery date  – yet – to remove the cancerous hazelnut in my right breast. Five weeks have passed since I received my diagnosis. Five weeks since I was told I may have lived with breast cancer for a whole decade. And it is still there.

I am stressed. I am short with people.  I can tell – even without a mirror – how my whole face looks dour and unpleasant. My tone is whiny, my words cranky.

I sleep poorly at night. My insomnia is, in part , because I cannot stop myself from reading “cancer books” at bedtime. (I try to stay away from the internet at night. Once you enter that galaxy you might as well disappear into a real black hole in outer space.) After a life time of ignoring anything medical, I am obsessed. And confused.

I read about the predictors that constitute high risk for recurrence. Breast cancer cells like to escape your breast and sneak away via your lymph node system. They metastasize most commonly  to the bone, the liver, the brain, and the lungs. With both hands I press my neck and explore my  arm pits to check for signs of swollen lymph nodes, just like my doctors now do first thing I meet them.

Suddenly, the bone in my foot feels tender and painful. At first, I try to tell myself it is from my new shoes.  But then I manage to talk myself into that my breast cancer has metastasized to my bones. Normally, it does not start in the extremities, I have learned. It starts in the ribs, the femur, the shoulders, not your toes or ankles. I feel a bit better. Then a stitch in my side becomes metastatic breast cancer to my liver. A mild pain behind my ear becomes a brain tumor. A cough and I am sure it has spread to the lungs.

I lie in my bed at night and imagine the cancer cells floating around inside my body, nibbling at my organs, like guppies darting around in an aquarium, nibbling at their food.

My pendulum swings between knowing that I am completely ridiculous  and knowing that I, despite all odds, could be stage IV. This is the stage about which Dr. Susan Love  in her Breast book says: Take care of your affairs and make plans for how to live  in the time you have left.

But I don’t make any plans or take care of my affairs. I just continue to read scary statistics and get high on the anxiety fumes.

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