Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Alien gets a name

The day after my surgeon called, Rebecca and I were sitting in his office as he tells us that The Alien is in fact a "Ductal Infiltrating (DCIS) Estrogen Receptive Tumour."

So The Alien has a name and we are scheduling a double mastectomy for the earliest possible date available on Dr. Bill Williard's calendar.  I distinctly remember that both Rebecca and I were relieved that Dr. Williard would be my surgeon.  The physician who initially excised my tumour had worked with Dr. Williard's group but had left to pursue work elsewhere.  Rebecca and I both felt much more trust and faith in Dr. Williard from the first time we met with him.

Dr. Williard is the primary surgeon of the Northwest Surgical Group, a division of South Sound Surgical Group in Olympia Washington working out of Capital Medical Centre.
3920 Capital Mal Drive SW Suite 201, Olympia, WA 98502

Suddenly the world seemed to have come crashing down onto my life. Rebecca and I spent the mercifully short time between diagnosis and our surgical date in what Patrick McManus described as "Linear Panic."  I was frightened but the central theme of my emotional state at the time was one of utter confusion.  I mean, listen to the media regarding breast cancer.  What do you hear?  Breast Cancer Research.... for your wife, your sister, your mother, your nieces...  Search the internet under breast cancer and what do you routinely find?  Photos of women, women of all ages, young women, middle aged women.  What you very seldom see are photos of men on these sites and information about male breast cancer is even more difficult to find.  The myth seems to be "men don't suffer from breast cancer."

Where did I fit in this puzzle?  Surely there has to be some mistake.  I am not anyone's mother, sister, wife or niece.  This can't be happening to me, there has to be some mistake..... doesn't there?  But no, there was no mistake.  I had breast cancer and, as it happens, a rather aggressive and dangerous cancer at that.  What was interesting and truly wonderful for me is that given the size of the tumour it had been growing in a milk duct for some time. (Yes, men have those too.) Most such tumours of that size would have erupted through the membranous wall of the duct and become a much more invasive cancer, placing me at much greater risk. 

So, there I lay, stretched out on the gurney, my stomach in knots and still in denial; covered only in a surgical gown and warm blanket, Rebecca and I waiting for Dr. Williard to come in and talk to us prior to surgery.  We discussed the options.  One breast?  Both?  Should we do a prophylactic procedure on the left?  On the right, the site in which The Alien had taken up residence, was a foregone conclusion: we would do a full blown radical on the right to include sentinel nodes adjacent to the site.  I struggle even now to remember the specifics of that discussion.  It is odd how such earth shaking news and the aftermath of a cancer diagnosis can distort time and muddy one's memory....or at least it did mine.

When he came to speak to us after surgery, Dr. Williard was pleased to tell us that of the four sentinel nodes he had removed and sent to pathology during the procedure, none had shown any sign of cancer cells. 

I was discharged the next day and went home in a daze. Recovery was no picnic and not for the faint of heart. I would have gone nuts had it not been for Rebecca.

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