pop goes…

the core biopsy machine!

my breast gained 2 more titanium biopsy markers and some bruises on thursday. in fact it’s super swollen and the color of eggplant still today, with the steri-strips caked on. all completely normal, but all completely BS IMHO.

the second opinion surgeon called at 10pm last night with the biopsy results (my doctors work crazy hours, which is both awesome and depressing). it turns out the distant calcifications sampled are cancer in the duct (DCIS) along with plain calcifications. my decision is made: single mastectomy with reconstruction.

the good news is that based on the tissue sampled, it appears the invasive cancer is gone. that means the chemo took care of the nastiest and most aggressive of the diagnosis, and according to the doctor, this is the best indicator we have for long-term survival. we’ll wait until the final pathology comes back from surgery to confirm this, but i’ll take a good news nugget for now. and since DCIS does not contain rapidly dividing cells, the chemo isn’t meant to kill it anyway.

thanks for all your support with this. straight up, i’m thankful the decision was made for me (on many levels, including the one where chemo has knocked the wind out of my decision-making sails writ large: what do i eat for dinner? dunno. which route do i take to my appointment? dunno. black yoga pants or black yoga pants? dunno.).

even though this piece of information was critical to the decision, i had to be talked into the core biopsy in the end by the surgeon. i wasn’t up for another invasive procedure, and by thursday morning, was leaning towards a mastectomy anyway. i also remember a woman telling me that the biopsies were worse than surgery for her, because you’re awake, nervous, and uncomfortable, if not in pain. you also can’t lift a gallon of milk for a few days afterwards and should limit activities for a week (e.g., no yoga). the surgeon convinced me with some cheesy line of “information is power” and used my name “information is power, meaghan.” i’m a sucker for that pithy and direct approach.

to tell you a bit about the core biopsy (disclaimer: all of this, as you know, is my experience. it doesn’t mean you would ever experience the same thing, so i don’t want to alarm anyone). it’s different than a fine need aspiration, which was the ultrasounded-guided biopsy i had when first diagnosed; that takes a handful of cells. the core biopsy is guided by a mammogram and takes tissue. so picture this: me (bald still, of course), laying face down on a table elevated to the ceiling, with my right breast dangling through a small square hole, compressed like a pancake in a mammogram machine for 2 hours, while a needle first gives local anesthetic and then goes in and out taking tissue samples and making vaccuum cleaner sounds, before making a popping noise when it inserts the little biopsy clip. all while i am to lay perfectly still. sure, the doctors were sweet and one even rubbed my back around minute 72. but holy shit that was uncomfortable and painful and alarming all at once.

when one of the doctors was holding my breast afterwards for ~15 mins to minimize bleeding, we got to know each other pretty well (i have zero dignity and/or privacy any more about my breasts…it comes with the territory). she was asking if what they said about the core biopsy being “uncomfortable” was accurate. um, yes. she was also surprised to learn it’s incredibly painful. in school and residency, they learn the bicarbonate in the anesthetic is supposed to minimize stinging (it didn’t) and that the anesthetic itself will totally numb everything (it doesn’t). not that i wish this procedure on her or anyone, but i do wish the doctors would know what their procedures feel like (my first opinion surgeon said clearly the whole contraption was designed by a man. agreed). even laying all contorted on the table and having the compression is damn uncomfortable. the lady before me had to cancel her procedure because she couldn’t even take the table part shoving up on her sternum (i got this tidbit when they told me what a good patient i was and i asked what a bad patient would be).

when they told mike it would be at least 2 hours and i got a hospital-grade wristband, i knew i was in for something. not my idea of an awesome afternoon. i was pretty unprepared for it and had planned this whole awesome and active weekend to celebrate being 2 weeks out of chemo and turning a corner physcially. instead, i came home with puncture wounds, gauze, ice packs, and an ace bandage around my torso.

i got mad. like really mad. like fuming and crying and snotty. and decided i wasn’t going to let cancer take away my weekend, because it’s already taken away so much else.

fuck. that. shit. (sorry mom and dad, but sometimes it really has to be said).

so i got a fancy dinner out, champagne at the top of the mark, dirty in a mudrun, our yard spiffed up, goldenboy pizza after more champagne at gino and carlo, and superbowl sweetness in the east bay, all with mike, friends, and cancer survivors (thanks for all the fun, y’all) (treat yo’self!!!). at the mudrun with BAYS, we danced and laughed and threw mud and did all the obstacles. the dude controlling the run’s heats asked if there were any cancer survivors in the crowd, and it was my first big public moment at identifying with this and being totally happy about it and screaming like a teenager (the dude was also super cute, so that helped….sorry, mike). sure i was ace bandaged up and sore, but feeling alive again counts for something way more.

as my dad says, that’s the scoop boop.

one thing about this blog that delights and fascinates me to no end is that so much of my world is here. i am lucky to know all of you–from respected colleagues and partners to new cancer survivor friends, university roommates, high school coaches, and childhood and SF playmates. it’s kind of like the biggest wedding ever, if that makes sense. i hope you get as much enjoyment from each other’s posts as i get from them.

i also have so much to process and share that i miss the blog when i don’t post regularly. that’s probably saying many things, but mostly how helpful it is for me to have you all here.

i started surgery prep already today and am in the process of saying goodbye to my right breast. while it betrayed me in so many ways, i like to think of it apologizing at how it got confused and it messed up, for reasons that we will never understand. and it’s time for it to leave me and for me to let it go. while that may be too woo-woo for some of you, it has real depth for me and is helping me grapple with a permanent physical transformation. february 19 is the big day. we’re going to tahoe this weekend with friends to celebrate being done with chemo and to enjoy a mastectamoon (thanks, sarah–brilliant). then back and ready to keep gaining a distance from chemo and a closeness to being done with another big step.

see you again soon,

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