Area of Concern (Part 1)

pink folder rule.jpg

I am not going to be one of those women who blogs about her breast cancer experience, I'm just not.

Ok. So this is how it happened. I went in for my annual mammo. It was August 29 - 5 days after my 52nd birthday. Yes, I'm a Virgo but I really hate that because I don't really like Virgos - I see them as wimpy, and certainly neurotic - so, anyway, I tell people I'm a Leo cuz I think Leos are strong and cool and stuff. Technically I'm on the cusp, so when I tell people I'm a Leo it's more of a white lie than a full-blown lie. It's not like I tell them I'm a Pisces or something!

So, because I have "dense" breasts, I always have a mammo and a full breast ultrasound. The full-breast ultrasound costs more but, hey, I'm worth it. Usually (like for the past 12 years!) they do the imaging, then I sit in the lounge and don't watch the talk shows on the TV and don't eat the cookies on the tray, and wait for them to come tell me to get dressed and go away. But this day, they called me back into the ultrasound room, where the radiologist did another pass on my left boob and told me that there is an "area of concern." Well, that and that she wanted to do a biopsy.

About a week later, they do the biopsy and the next day my ob/gyn calls me with the good news that it's negative. Then, a couple hours later the radiologist calls me and says that yes, while it's negative she's not happy with that answer because it doesn't jive with what it is she saw on the imaging. The result is "discordant." She gives me the name of 2 breast surgeons and tells me I need an MRI. I choose the surgeon named Kim cuz, well, that's my name too and I figure she must be cool. Just kidding. I chose Kim because two friends recommended her highly. Kim orders the MRI - which was delayed like, FOREVER, because of trying to time it with the menstrual cycle I'm not having. The MRI comes back and there is the "area of concern" plus, it has a friend - a smaller area of concern. They want to do a surgical biopsy - also known as a lumpectomy which, of course, makes it sound that much more badass.

I have the lumpectomy and I'm kind of miffed because the anesthesiologist didn't say goodnight to me but, whatever. Of course it's on a Thursday afternoon, not to mention Halloween, so I have to wait through the weekend for the results to come back. Also, my boob feels like someone slugged me with a sledgehammer and it looks like someone slugged me with two sledgehammers. On the bright side, my girls scored on Halloween so we have a lot of candy in the house. Monday comes and goes, no results.

Tuesday, noon, I get a call from Kim. I'm going to call her Kim because, well, I've never liked my name Kim but I figure if someone as cool as Kim (girl crush) has the same name as me then maybe it's not such a bad name after all. She tells me it's fucking cancer. As in, cancer. She asks me to come to her office at 2. So I do.

My darling hub meets me there and, because it's conference week and school gets out at 12:30, I have my 10YO in tow. BTW - she was a panda for Halloween. The panda gets to wait in Kim's office and gets started on her homework. That's the kind of girl she is. Hub and I go into the exam room. Kim comes in followed by a stranger. The stranger is carrying a thick pink folder with "Santa Barbara Breast Care Alliance" printed on the front. When a stranger comes into your exam room with a pink folder, it can't be good news. It wasn't.

Mind you, it wasn't HORRIBLE news, but my girlcrush surgeon Kim looked at me square in the eyeball and said "So, what I'm telling you is that you have a diagnosis of cancer." I looked right back at her, square in the eyeball, and nodded like, "yes, I know." After all, I had known it was cancer for all of two hours so it had totally (not) already sunk in. I may have been imagining things but it seemed that she was staring at me - into my goddamn soul, Annie - like I had some sort of reality impairment or that I didn't hear her or that maybe I just didn't get what it was she was saying to me. It seemed that maybe she expected me to burst into tears or throw plates or something but I didn't. I just sat there and nodded and listened. She told me that she wanted to do another lumpectomy, aka "partial mastectomy," that would be followed by 6 weeks of radiation. She drew diagrams of my breast on the back of the pathology report and jotted down the names of Radiology Oncologists and Medical Oncologists that I would need to talk to.

That was November 5, 2013.


Stand by for Area of Concern (Part 2)