I had my first lumpectomy for breast cancer on Valentine’s Day, less than ten days after my initial diagnosis.
When I met with my surgeon, Dr. M., she showed me the x-ray of my tumor, and it was not what I expected. Instead of a round mass, which is what I always thought breast cancer would look like, I saw a streak of white, like a bolt of lightning, traveling through the lower part of my breast and up towards my nipple.
Even knowing exactly where the tumor was, I still couldn’t feel it. Without a doubt, that sucker would have been there growing for a long time if I hadn’t gotten a mammogram. (Some time later, my husband, Michael, and I went back to the Kaiser receptionist and thanked her for being so persistent about rescheduling the mammogram after my eye appointment.)
It might sound strange, but the occasion of my lumpectomy was a cheery one. My sister, Kris, was there with heart shaped balloons to celebrate the holiday. I tried to joke around with my stoic surgeon without success. I even had Michael take a picture of my boob, knowing it would never look the same. Despite the fact that I was “going under the knife” I was happy that we had caught the cancer and were going to get it out of me as fast as possible. I knew that I’d recover quickly and be back in the classroom in no time. My biggest was question was, “When can I start running again?”
Everything went smoothly. Dr. M. was happy with the surgery. I was bandaged up and sent home before you know it. And then, again, I started to wait for the pathology report. Beginning to wait—what a paradox. But I wasn’t worried. It never, ever crossed my mind that my surgery wouldn’t be a complete and total success, and that this little experience would just be an inconvenient blip on the radar of my life.
Until I got the call from the Dr. M.’s assistant. There were no clear margins. They would have to operate again. And this time, might I consider a mastectomy?
Whoa! A what? A mastectomy? Hold on just a second . . . Hadn’t Dr. M. felt confident? Didn’t we ALL feel confident that I was done with this whole cancer thing? How was I going to tell Michael, my sons, my sisters, my dad . . . I hadn’t been successful. It didn’t work. We were going to have to try again.
I decided to go for a second lumpectomy. Baby steps, was my thinking. Little by little. No use in taking off the whole breast when I could possibly get rid of this mother f@*ker with just a tad bit more scooping.
How fast could we do it?
In less than two weeks.
Good . . . let’s go! Let’s do this!