I had been in a hopeful place, imagining my body restored to health and every part of me remaining intact. But now, with DCIS and the stage 1 cancer diagnosis, reality bites—really, really hard.
I met with the surgeon last Friday. She didn’t mince her words. About 4.9 centimeters or two inches of tissue needs to be removed based on the February mammogram. That’s almost one quarter of my breast. Five centimeters is the cutoff point for lumpectomy, so I’m on the borderline of needing a mastectomy.
Once the lump of tissue is removed, it will go to the pathology lab for testing to make sure all the DCIS and cancer have been removed. If the margins aren’t adequate, I go back under the knife, probably for a mastectomy.
A mastectomy is unacceptable to me. This whole thing is unacceptable. Grappling with it has brought me to my knees, figuratively speaking, but I’ve come to see that ultimately we have to let go of how we want things to be or how we think they should be and be with things as they are. This human life is humbling.
There’s more to the surgery story. Because of the tiny tumor that is invasive (one-sixth of an inch in size), what are known as the “sentinel” lymph nodes also need to be removed. These are the first 1–5 nodes that drain lymph fluid away from the breast. If cancer is detected in the sentinel nodes, more lymph nodes may need to come out. How many I don’t know.
My surgery is scheduled for August 22 on an out-patient basis. The surgeon says I’ll come out looking like Dollie Parton, wrapped in a big, thick vest that holds everything together and aids the healing process. I’ll have a prescription for pain medication and will take a few days off from my freelance writing assignments and take it from there. Radiation and hormone therapy are standards of care post-op. It’s yet to be determined if they will also recommend chemotherapy. Current thinking is that it will not be required, but the final determination depends upon the pathology results and what is known as oncotype testing which reveals the likelihood of a recurrence.
I am holding out one small bit of hope. On August 15, I have a first-time visit with a holistic physician who has successfully healed cancer patients with intensive natural treatments. I’ve come to terms with the need for surgery but who knows, maybe he’ll turn my head around. I do know that he offers alternatives to all of the post-op treatments (radiation, hormones, chemo) and I’m totally on board for that.
Times are uncertain, but then they always are. I’m just getting a big dose of it right now. Hoping for the best.