Monday, January 11, 2016

Just A Little Bit ...

... of cancer.

I've sat here staring at the white page for a while now.  I'm not sure what to write.

But those were the words that turned everything surreal.

"Just a little bit of cancer." 
Less than a week out from my boring, smoosh 'em session, a nurse from Spectrum called to let me know that my mammogram showed some asymmetric tissue and they wanted me to come in for further images.  The next afternoon. 

No problem.  I know multiple people who have had to do the same. So, the next day, I again donned the stylish wrap half-gown (in plum this time) and allowed another stranger (extremely nice) to position my body and breast, and then I held my breath, and repeated the process several times.  The staff at the Betty Ford Breast Center in Grand Rapids are incredible.  And they don't send you home after taking a few images.  They have you wait while a doctor examines them in case more are needed.

More were needed.  So they took more.  And I waited.

The doctor requested ultrasounds of both breasts.  And, no, I didn't have to set up a new appointment and return again.  They did the ultrasounds while I was still there.  And the doctor reviewed them immediately as well.

I just wasn't expecting the results.  "Just a little bit of cancer." 

I had watched the screen as the technician tried to find the tiny spec showing up on the mammogram of my right breast.  She never did.  The report officially says my right breast is "unremarkable." 

                           Oh, if I had a nickel ....

She had then moved to my left breast.  My words a few seconds after she began, "Well ... that's a bit different."  Even I could see the black hole (at least that is what it looked like to me).  It's only 11 mm across.  Tiny, really.  Of course, it seemed massive on the screen. 

"Just a little bit of cancer."

So surreal.

It still is.

I'm not so much frightened as I am annoyed.  The doctor ordered a biopsy then went on to explain that the cancer is small - hence, "a little bit" - and immensely treatable.  I worried aloud about my Ireland trip in September (again, surreal), and he replied that, barring any unforeseen complications, he believes this will be in my "rearview mirror" by that time. 




Now what.

Oh, biopsy, right.  Let's schedule that.  Tomorrow morning? Let's do it.

So I returned to the Center Thursday morning where five core biopsies were taken from "the mass" and two from a suspicious looking lymph node under my left arm. 

Again, the people at Betty Ford are incredible.  I didn't feel a thing.  Actually, I found myself staring at the ceiling where some designer had installed a light panel that looks like a blue sky complete with a tree branch covered in blossoms.  Meanwhile, the doctor, nurse, and ultrasound technician all prepared me for the biopsies. 

"Does anyone here watch The Walking Dead?"  -- my all important question.

The answer was yes. 

                                "I'm just going to look at the flowers." 

     [Psst. Don't click that link unless you know what I'm talking about already 'cause SPOILERS.]

Chuckling from the watcher.

The area was numbed and then the doctor used ultrasound to guide her to the exact locations.  I heard several clicks as a hollowed needle took samples from the area but felt nothing.  Yay, Novocaine!

Then the waiting game began.  They had hoped that the results of the biopsies would be received in time to call me on Friday. 

They weren't. 

Hey, do you know what makes a winter storm weekend even longer?  Waiting for confirmation that you have breast cancer.

Just a little bit of breast cancer.

This afternoon, I finally received the call confirming it.  As in ... about an hour ago.  The good news is that the testing on my lymph node was negative! Yay!  The bad news is that I have cancer. 

Just a bit. 

Again, even with the diagnosis, I'm not scared; I'm annoyed.  And that's a good thing.  As they've told me, this is small, it is early, and extremely treatable.  And, it is small, it is early, and extremely treatable because I did not put off my mammogram any longer than I did.  I am so lucky. 

I am blessed by living in Grand Rapids with such easy access to the excellent nurses, doctors, and specialists at the Betty Ford Breast Center and Spectrum.  I am blessed to be catching this so early.  I am blessed to have excellent insurance.  I am blessed to be surrounded by incredibly supportive friends and coworkers.  And I am blessed to have family who are willing to drop anything if they are needed. 

So I am annoyed with just a little bit of cancer.  But I am blessed immeasurably more and look forward to the day I see this annoyance in my rearview mirror.




  1. Sending you just a little bit of prayers. Thanks for sharing. Here's to cancer in the rear view mirror. xoxo

  2. Praying for you. I had that feeling last summer when a growth on my shoulder was skin cancer. In one procedure it was three then out. But still a little bit of cancer. Please keep us posted. I will be praying.

  3. Wow! Sending a little bit of love your way.

  4. Havent talked in forever but usually enjoy your hi-larious fb posts. Now this. Thinking of you & sending you good juju (and a few prayers too)...
    K. Kosky

    1. Thanks Karen! Right now I wouldn't mind going back to that little office in Holland 😉