This blog post is the eighth in a series about my (and now, my twin sister's) preventative breast cancer screening journey that began in July 2019. The first post is about my first mammogram ever; the second post is about my consultation at Mayo Clinic's Breast Clinic; the third post is about my stereotactic core biopsy at Mayo Clinic's Breast Clinic; the fourth post is about my diagnosis with "Stage 0" DCIS breast cancer; the fifth post is about my in-person DCIS diagnosis at Mayo Clinic, beginning thoughts on my surgery timeline, and discovering that my twin sister might have breast cancer, too; the sixth post is about my twin sister's invasive ductal carcinoma clinical stage 2A breast cancer diagnosis; and the seventh post is about my breast MRI and two ultrasounds to investigate "suspicious" spots on my right breast and liver. To keep tabs on new posts, sign up for the "A Daily Miracle" email list at this link.
"It might be a facade, but how do you stay so calm and collected during all of this?" "How is your husband handling all of this?" "Have you seen a therapist about all of this?" "How are your parents doing?" "Your little sister is getting screened soon, right?" "Go after this just like you do with sports. You'll have good and bad days. Stay strong."
When I last wrote, I had just completed a breast MRI and two ultrasounds to investigate "suspicious" spots on my right breast, lymph nodes, and liver. My liver was cleared as "just a cyst," but I was called back to Mayo Clinic for lymph node biopsies and an MRI breast biopsy to get a sample of a "2.6 x 2.2 x 3 cm at posterior depth" “BI-RADS: 4: Suspicious” area and another 1.2cm area in my right breast, which in the MRI report was described as: "MRI biopsy can be done, but may be technically challenging due to the far posterior medial location of this nonmass enhancement."
When my doctor called to go over my results I asked her what exactly "technically challenging" meant. She said that just meant it might be harder to get to. I asked if that meant it would be more painful of a process. She said probably not. I said I would make sure to be mentally prepared for a day of needles. She said that would be good, and that there was only a 20% chance that my enflamed lymph nodes are anything concerning. I asked how her knee was doing (she thought she may have torn her ACL while walking her dog last week). She said, "Oh, it's much better! Nothing was torn. It was just the <insert technical medical terminology here>, you know?" (No, I didn't know.) "It popped out and popped right back in!" (That I understood.) "Oh!! That's great you have such a resilient knee!" She said she would call me as soon as she got the results of my biopsies next week. I said that sounded great. "Good luck!" she said. After I hung up I thought that was funny. I guess a bit of luck would be good.
(Spoiler alert: For those who don't want to read all the way to the end of this 6,470 word post, one of those spots in my right breast ended up being "more DCIS" -- which they think also accounts for the other two spots. There is a VERY small chance that one or both of the other two spots that weren't biopsied could be invasive, but the doctors do not expect that and they will figure that out when I go in for my double mastectomy in less than 2 months.)
Keeping the faith
The day before I went in for my biopsies I heard a sermon on the radio by Pastor J.D. Greear about “intercessory faith” and the importance of surrounding yourself with faithful people because when our faith falters, others will be there to hold us up and remind us of God's faithfulness. The sermon also talked about having enough faith to believe in miracles. The sermon also talked about how Jesus is always praying for us to succeed: "Jesus was praying for me before I came up to preach this sermon. He's praying for you, too. So how can we really ever fail?" he said.
The night before I went in I read an article about a journalist, Kate Pickert, who wrote an article about her breast cancer journey that began at age 35. She wrote a book called Radical: The Science, Culture and History of Breast Cancer in America, and she was interviewed by a bunch of media outlets about her book including NPR. In a nutshell: Kate was diagnosed with DCIS but went back for more imaging and found hers had become invasive and had spread to her lymph nodes. As she was quoted in NPR:
So at that point, I knew that I was going to have surgery but I didn't think that my life was at risk. And it was only two or three weeks after I initially went to the doctor and had an MRI that my doctors discovered that I had two invasive tumors and that the breast cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. And after that, I had a series of scans to figure out if the disease was metastatic, if it existed in other parts of my body. And lucky for me, it did not.
That was a great story for me to read before going in for my extra imaging, ha!! My cancer could still be invasive. Ack! God knew! I did not.
My MRI breast biopsy
My husband offered to drive me to my day full of biopsies and we hit the road early Tuesday morning (that's us at the top of this post with the statue of the Mayo Brothers outside of the Gonda Building. It's a ritual for us to take a selfie with them during every visit!). We arrived 5 minutes before my 8am checkin, just in time to complete a Pokemon Go raid in the Gonda Building lobby (are we the only 30-year-olds who still play Pokemon Go?). We sat for 20 minutes and then my name was called. I said bye to my husband and went back with the technician who walked me to a changing room. I was told to undress and put a gown on and while I was dressing to put on a 4 minute video about what exactly an MRI biopsy was and did. Actors acted out the procedure on screen, which I couldn’t help but compare to the stereotactic core biopsy I had on August 30th. This one looked much more complicated (and it was as you’ll see!). When the video was over I was instructed to crack my door open which I did. Then a nurse knocked and came in.
“I’m here to start your IV,” he said.
“Great!” I said.
He asked what I did for a living and where I was from. He grew up here in Rochester and said “I’ve actually never left this town!” Then looked at me. “Wait. Really?” I asked. “No!” He laughed. When he left he gave me the call button for a nurse if I needed anything before they came to set me up for the test. He commented on the call button which featured a 1950s-style woman with pigtails and a nurse hat: “I’ve never seen a nurse wear a hat! And this is a woman with pigtails! How backwards is that!” “Gender role norms, right?” I said. “Whoever designed this button obviously never saw Meet the Parents! Thank you Greg Focker for making a way!”
Next, one of my doctors came in.
“Hi, I’m the doctor who will be doing your procedure today. There will be one other doctor in the room with me,” she said. “Have you done one of these before?”
I told her all about my stereotactic core biopsy and my twin sister who also has breast cancer only hers is invasive.
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” she said. “We’re going to take some pictures first to make sure the spot we’ve identified—which is about 1.2cm—is still there. If it’s not there, we won’t biopsy.”
Oh yay! Maybe the spot would be gone?? And maybe we wouldn’t have to biopsy?? It would be a miracle!! But I had to ask:
“My doctor said there are 3 areas of concern on my right side, so we’re only biopsying one of those?”
“Yes. There was a discussion and due to the fact you are doing a bilateral mastectomy we wanted to figure out what spot would be best to go after.”
“And you figure if you only do one of the spots it will count for all the spots?”
“Yes. The doctors decided because you’re doing a bilateral mastectomy to go after the one spot that picked up the most contrast. The larger spot wasn’t creating a mass.”
I was concerned because the bigger spot is what I was worried about. Because it was bigger. And my twin sister has invasive stage 2A ductal carcinoma. And one of my cousins had DCIS on one side and two spots of invasive breast cancer on the other so in my humble opinion we couldn’t be too careful!! So I made a mental note to send a message to my doctor in the patient portal which I did two hours later:
“I just got done with my breast MRI biopsy and I wanted to send these questions to your portal before I forget them: There were 3 areas of concern in my right breast and the radiologist let me know they were going to biopsy the 1.2cm small spot and not the 2.7cm spot 2mm from my chest wall because the radiologist said the 2.7cm spot wasnt picking up as much contrast as this other 1.2cm spot and the 1.2cm spot was easier to get to but my question is: What if the bigger 2.7cm spot is invasive but well never know before surgery cuz it wasnt biopsied? Then I have surgery but find its invasive and still need chemo but cant have it till after I heal from surgery and there wont be any cancer left to measure to see if the chemo worked on shrinking the mass? I know I'm probably freaking out for nothing because of my sister's diagnosis but wanted to make sure we're covering all of our bases with this sneaky DCIS! Can't wait to hear results!”
Then we headed into the MRI exam room.
Getting situated for my breast MRI biopsy
There were two technicians in the MRI room to help me get situated.
I laid down on the super narrow table. Fit my chest into the two chest holes.
“Can you stretch out your arms above your head?” a tech asked.
“Sure!” I responded. Then I couldn’t help but ask:
“Oh yeah! That’s an awesome ride where you lay prone?”
The technicians looked at me laying on the table, talked amongst themselves, took some measurements, then one of them said:
“This is kind of like yoga too. Or zen meditation. You eventually get to lay there and hold your breath! But right now we’re going to ask you to do something a little weird: can you do like a downward dog so we can get a pillow under your hip?”
I was skeptical that I’d be able to pull that off but I did my best to hold a plank for them to put a pillow underneath me without slipping off the skinny table while an IV was in my left forearm. I considered 10 seconds of my plank a success.
“You’re doing great!” they said.
Then they had me shift up toward the ceiling with a wedge under my left chest / shoulder. Then they instructed me to set my face in a padded hole. Earplugs were inserted in my ears by technicians. Then I was moved back into the MRI machine. With the earplugs in, I could only hear about 30% of what was happening.
“We are going to push you back into the MRI machine now, okay?” a muffled voice said. “Here’s the panic ball, and here is the IV cord. Keep this around your thumb and don’t move!! We are going to see if they can find the spot they’re looking for!”
I heard footsteps leaving and a door shut. I heard the little gnomes building a village around me or going to war again just like in my MRI last week. Minutes passed. My cheekbones started to fall asleep. My shoulder started to get sore. For some reason Ryan Cabrera’s “Take it All Away” was stuck in my head. I hadn’t heard that song in over a decade. But it was very relevant for my current situation: "You can take it all away // I don't need it // Underneath, I'll still be the same."
There were probably about 10 minutes of photos. Then silence. What if they can’t find the concerning spot on the images just like the radiologist said?? I thought to myself. It would be a miracle!! I could be a miracle patient!! I thought about the intercessory faith sermon I’d heard the day previous and how important it is to have faith in miracles. I started praying. HELLO JESUS!!! I have faith that you can take all my cancer and spots on the images away and I could be a miracle patient!!!
“The doctors are discussing!” a voice said through the monitor.
“Sounds good!” I said.
Then I heard a door open. The table started moving out of the MRI machine.
“So we are going to have to find a different position to take some more pictures,” the tech said. I lifted up my head from the hole and looked around—instead of 2 technicians, there were now 4 technicians in the MRI room with me.
“Is this what the pathology report meant by ‘technically difficult’ procedure?” I asked.
They laughed. “You could say that!” they said.
So apparently they were having trouble getting the images they wanted—there’s still a possibility the spots were gone, I thought!! But either way I had to shift my entire body over to the side of the MRI table and they told me the right side of my chest needed to be dropped into the left side of the exam table. My left shoulder angled up, my head was resting on its side instead of face down in a hole, and I could see everyone and everything. Then they said they needed to back me into the MRI machine for more pictures.
Uh oh, I thought to myself. It’s one thing to back into an MRI machine feet first with your head in a hole staring at the table and not know what’s happening and quite another to literally watch it happen. I felt my pulse quicken and I got a little anxious. THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR ANXIETY, I thought to myself. But I kind of had to pee. And I knew I couldn’t get off the table cuz my IV was hooked up and the techs had already spent over 45 minutes trying to situate me on the table and I was backing in for my second round of MRI images. And the techs keeps saying how important it was for me to not move. Which only made me more anxious.
“Are you doing okay?” one of the techs asked.
“Sure am!” I answered. Usually “fake it till you make it” works for me. I'll never know if it would have worked this time because as the words came out of my mouth I realized my hip was hitting against the top of the MRI machine as I was being backed in.
LOL. I was going to get crushed to death by the MRI machine while surrounded by technicians at Mayo Clinic without even knowing if Jesus had taken my cancer away like I’d asked and like people were praying for. It was a scene straight out of Final Destination.
“I think my hip is...”
“Is your hip hitting the side of the MRI machine?”
“Stop the machine!” a tech said.
It stopped. It spit me back out. The technicians shifted the table down a couple inches and shifted me a bit and adjusted my blankets and sent me back in. This time I fit in the tube but my hip and left side were angled up right against the MRI tube wall. Okay, so I was against the wall, but I didn’t fear for my life.
“Are you okay in there??” the techs said.
“I’m good!! Take the pictures!!” I said from my position wedged against the MRI machine wall. All while the right side of my chest was compressed in a hole beneath me.
“Okay! Don’t move!!” Footsteps pattered. The door to the room opened and shut.
I made friends with my anxiety as I shut my eyes and listened to Ryan Cabrera in my head. More gnome hammer smashing went on for 10 minutes. Then the machine spit me back out.
“Okay, so we got the images we needed, and the doctors will be coming in now,” one of the technicians said as she came over and put her hand on my back. “It’s very important to stay very still. I know it’s hard, but try not to move your head. You wouldn’t believe how small movements impact the images and their measurements. You’re doing great.”
I still had to pee. My neck hurt. My arm was falling asleep. I tried to forget.
The biopsy begins
One of the techs set up a floodlight pointing straight at my face (and my chest, obviously, for the doctors to see exactly what they were about to do). I swear it had to have come from America’s Most Wanted and was blinding me. I was staring right at it because that’s the way my head was facing and they told me not to move. So I was stuck in a mug shot about to be cut open. The techs wheeled over what looked like a giant toolbox from my dads garage complete with a screwdriver, large silver scalpel and drill and syringes on display on the top. Ah, those are for me!, I thought to myself. And that's what the doctor meant when she said I would likely hear her "talking shop" in the MRI room. Great!
The doctor came in scrubs. She said, “Hello again! Can you describe to me the procedure we’ll be doing today?”
“A biopsy of a suspicious area in my right breast!”
“Are we all in consensus?” she asked the room.
“Yes!” The chorus of technicians responded.
First came a syringe. “You’ll feel a poke and some burning in 3, 2, 1...”
YIKES! It burned!
“I have a tattoo on my foot which is usually great preparation for needles but every poke is different!” I exclaimed. “That hurt!”
“Here, take my fingers!” A technician said as she placed a few of her fingers in my grip. “Squeeze as hard as you need.”
“There will be one more poke,” the doctor said with another syringe in hand.
That one hurt too. It didn’t help that it was right in the center of my right breast. Cancer sucks.
“You shouldn’t feel anything after this!” the doctor said. And out came the large silver scalpel. I really hoped I would feel nothing. The doctor went in and started cutting stuff.
“You’ll feel a tugging but nothing sharp. If you feel anything sharp, tell us right away, okay?”
It was all good until I felt something kind of sharp. "That was a little sharp," I said.
"Pull back!" one of the doctors said. The sharpness went away.
"Is that better?" the technician asked.
"Yep, it's gone now!" I said.
The scalpel went back into the cart and was switched out for the screwdriver. More tugging sensations. My arm above my head was falling asleep. I had a crick in my neck. I wondered what time it was. I noticed there was no clock in the room.
"Okay, we're going to send you back into the machine for more pictures now to make sure we're in the right spot," the doctor said.
The technicians came and reminded me not to move. I went back in the machine. This time I fit fine.
It spit me back out, they re-set the light, and pulled a long extension cord over with what resembled a miniature chainsaw with drill bit at the end. The doctor was holding it. I'd been upgraded to a chainsaw treatment!! It was like the movie Saw just in time for Halloween!!
"So we've identified we are in the right area and we are going to take some samples now," the doctor said. "You'll hear the biopsy machine starting up now, it's a dull buzzing."
I had earplugs in still. Everything sounded muffled. It was like the dentist only worse.
"1... 2... 3... 4... 5... 6... 7..." the doctor was counting something.
"The doctor is counting the number of samples she's getting," the technician said.
I didn't feel a thing. That was awesome.
"That's 7. Lavage!"
What is lavage? I wondered.
"Let's get more pictures," the doctor said.
I have to go in again??? I thought to myself.
Back in I went! More photos with the gnomes. It spit me back out.
"We're going to take a few more samples, then we'll insert the tag," the doctor said.
They did the same thing with the chainsaw drill bit thing for a few more "takes." Then they inserted the tag.
"You did great," my doctor said. "Good luck with everything," she said.
Off she went. The technicians cleaned me up, held pressure on my wound, and asked how I was doing.
"How long have I been in here?" I asked.
"Oh, it's just about 11am," the technician said.
Wow! 2.5 hours since I was originally called back!
"We're going to wheel you down to Gonda 2 now," one of the technicians said. "Do you have anyone here with you today? We can have them meet you on Gonda 2. How are you doing? Can we get you juice? Crackers?"
I was a little dizzy so I asked for juice. The juice was delicious. I hopped in a wheelchair and let them know my husband should be out there waiting for me! Then I got pushed downstairs to a nurse bay where I had someone press on my wound with bandages for 10 to 20 minutes to make sure all the bleeding stopped. We talked about our families, her kids, her two sets of twin sisters (one set is fraternal, one set is identical, but the fraternal ones look more alike than the identical ones!), my dogs, my twin sister with breast cancer, my baby sister's forthcoming preventative breast cancer screening, and my nurse's career at Mayo Clinic which spans 40 years (WOW!). After I got all bandaged up, I was wheeled downstairs to have a mammogram to make sure the tag they'd inserted was in the right spot (it was). Mammograms aren't very fun after being cut open but it was "light compression" and my technician was very nice.
Then I went to a discharge room where I received ice packs from another nurse and was told they found my husband and that he would be waiting for me in the lobby. She told us to get some good lunch at a place down the street called Chester's. She said she looked forward to seeing me again in a couple of hours for my lymph node biopsies. Mayo technicians and nurses and doctors are the best. I said thank you and that we would go to Chester's and would be back soon. I headed out to meet my husband. It was noon. My MRI breast biopsy had taken 3 hours. Now I'd done both a stereotactic core biopsy and MRI biopsy. Up next: two ultrasound-guided biopsies of lymph nodes in my armpits!
My lymph node biopsies
My husband and I went to get lunch down at Chester's, which was down the street from the Gonda Building in downtown Rochester. It was great. They had gluten-free banana cream pie (pictured above) which was RIDICULOUSLY GOOD. (It's not on my current clean eating diet but it hit the spot given the fact I was being a pin cushion for a day.) We got Dunkin' Donuts black coffee on the way back because I was so tired I felt like I'd been hit by a bus. We checked in for my lymph node biopsies and I headed back with a nurse. I got changed in another changing room and watched Windy City Rehab in the waiting room.
When I walked into the fine-needle biopsy room, there was another narrow table, two nurses, and an ultrasound machine. Sure enough, one of the nurses had helped me earlier that morning after my MRI biopsy!
"Don't worry--this one will be much easier than your MRI biopsy," she said.
They started looking for the enflamed lymph nodes--the one on the right first. They had me turn up on my side and put my right arm above my head, holding a pillow to help with the positioning. Then two doctors walked in.
"Hello!" I said.
"Hi! I'll be doing your procedure today. So what do we have here?" he said.
The nurses and doctors talked for a bit and used the ultrasound wand to find the problematic lymph node. While they were looking, I told them all about my diagnosis, my twin sister's diagnosis, and our little sister's forthcoming preventative breast cancer screening. They couldn't believe it. The other doctor in the room has 2 1/2 year old twin daughters. He said his wife likes to dress them alike but he just lets them grab whatever is in the closet that they think looks good.
Still searching for the lymph node several minutes later, my doctor said, "This is going to be tricky."
Ah, yes, just what I like my doctors to say before they poke me with a needle, I thought to myself.
"Sorry for all of the pushing around--we are having trouble getting a good look at this," my doctor said. "You're too skinny! It keeps getting away!"
"That's what I get for being skinny and healthy! Cancer!" I said.
"No, being skinny and healthy is actually a great thing, just not right at this exact moment," my doctor said.
"Ah, this is good," my doctor said. "We've got it. Okay, so now you'll feel a pinch and a burn."
The pinch hurt, but not as badly as the MRI biopsy pinch that morning. Then it was numb.
"That's all you'll feel. We're going to put the needle in and take a few samples now. Then it will be all over," my doctor said.
And it was over before I knew it.
"We'll have you turn onto your other side now, just scoot toward me so you don't fall off the table," one of the technicians said.
The doctor chimed in: "There's a first time for everything but we definitely don't want you being a trendsetter for throwing yourself off the table."
"But I'd love to be a trendsetter for other things," I said.
The other side went as smoothly as the first--the shot was a bit painful and finding the lymph node was a bit tricky (thank you divot-armpits), but the doctor identified the spot and got the samples.
"Great job," the doctor said. "I don't anticipate this being anything, but I'm glad we're doing it," he said. "We'll have results within a few hours."
"Best wishes to you and your sisters," my doctor said.
One of the technicians walked me back to the changing room and asked how I was doing, how my sisters were doing, and how my parents were doing. "I can't imagine how hard it must be for all of you, but at least you can do it together," she said. "I'll be thinking of you guys!"
She patted my back and sent me off to go. Mayo Clinic doctors and technicians are the best.
Another call with my doctor (MY LYMPH NODES ARE ALL CLEAR!!!)
My husband and I were about an hour from home when my phone rang with the infamous 507 area code. I knew my doctor told me my lymph node biopsies would be back quickly but I had no idea they would come back that quick! Sure enough, it was my doctor.
“So your lymph nodes came back negative! There is nothing to worry about there!” she said.
“Praise the LORD!” I said.
“That’s right!” she said. “So that’s good news for your liver and now for your lymph nodes! Let’s keep that coming!”
“Agreed!!” I said. Then I asked if she’d received the message I sent about the breast MRI biopsy in the portal.
“I saw a message had come through but I haven't opened it because I knew I’d be talking to you right now,” she said.
“Okay! I'll try to synthesize as best I can. First of all, the breast MRI biopsy was something else,” I said.
“Did it hurt??” she asked.
“No, it didn’t hurt so much as it was long! I was in there 2 1/2 hours!” I said.
“I know,” she said.
“Well, now I’ve had every breast cancer biopsy Mayo has to offer! I’ve exhausted all our options!”
“So, my question: Basically I’m wondering why they only biopsied that one site instead of the bigger site,” I said. "What if they find out the other spot we didn’t biopsy is invasive?”
My doctor said: “It’s unlikely that the two spots are different. They look very similar in the images we have. Worst case scenario would be we go into surgery and find the larger spot we didn’t biopsy is invasive but that is highly unlikely. Based on the images we have they are very similar in composition. We are expecting it to either be DCIS or a fibromyalgic (sp?) change.”
“Okay, so I’m freaking out for nothing. I will just stay tuned for your call!” I said.
“I plan to have results by Thursday and I’ll give you a call as soon as I do,” she said.
“That sounds great! Thank you,” I said.
“Is your sister starting chemo soon?” she asked.
"Yes!" I told her all about how my sister had decided to go to Mayo and had sent a message to her peeps and she’s scheduled to come in 3 weeks, after her egg banking is complete at a local fertility clinic.
“That’s great,” she said. “I’m glad they’re doing that.”
“We’re all really thankful she chose to do chemo with you guys,” I said.
“Definitely,” she said. “Well, I'll give you a call as soon as I have those results.”
“Awesome!” I said. “I look forward to figuring out what’s going on.”
“Have a nice night.”
Waiting for breast biopsy results
So I knew my liver was clear. And I knew my lymph nodes were clear. My doctor said she hoped to have my MRI breast biopsy results by Thursday and she’d call me as soon as she did. I didn’t get a call on Thursday. So I knew it would be on Friday. This felt a lot like my initial DCIS diagnosis: I expected a call Thursday but got one Friday instead. So it was only fitting I would have to wait! On Thursday night as I was driving to worship rehearsal at church Rick Warren was preaching a sermon on the radio:
“I used to think life was full of hills and valleys, good and bad times,” he said. “But then I realized that’s not true. Life is two rails running parallel: one good and one bad. When things are going well in your life there is always something you can be working on. And when things are bad in your life they’re never all bad. It’s important to always find the good even in bad situations. People ask me all the time, ‘How do I know God’s will for my life?’ I answer by saying it’s good to start here: God’s plan for your life is in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” That is a command. To give thanks in everything, good and bad.”
This hit me hard. Mostly because I always have been one who prefers happy stories and happy endings. But as Rick Warren preached, “You don’t have to learn how to be happy. But contentment is learned. You have to learn how to be content in all circumstances. In poverty and luxury. In pain and in health. We can use Paul as our example.”
And then one of my friends texted me: “I’ve been praying for patience for you.” Being patient. Waiting. Two things I hate. But that I know are important in helping me cultivate a godly character. And, as I was thinking about all of this, Pastor Rick was talking about the importance of meditating on things that are true and right and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Pastor Rick also put a line in there about how God didn’t create any two people the same and he needs us to be us and not try to be someone else. “No two snowflakes are alike. Not even identical twins are exactly alike. We all have our own fingerprints and footprints. God needs you to be you, not a carbon copy of someone else.” That was encouraging to me because even though my twin sister has breast cancer, too, our journeys are unique and God has specific plans and purposes for each of us along the way. ;)
My second DCIS diagnosis
I got a call Friday at 1pm from my doctor.
"I know I promised to give you a call Thursday and didn't, so I'm sorry about that," my doctor said.
"This happened last time too, so no worries!" I said. "When I got diagnosed last time it was supposed to come on a Thursday but came on a Friday instead so this is only fitting!"
"Oh! Sorry!! So, we found some more DCIS," she said. "All things considered, this is a good thing, as there's no sign of invasive disease. And we think the other spot is DCIS as well."
"That's great news!!" I said. "But there's still a chance it could be invasive and the only way to tell will be during surgery?"
"That is highly unlikely--we really think it's all DCIS--but yes."
"What does this mean for timeline?"
"I'm probably going to message your surgeons and see if there's any way they have dates for you sooner than December," she said.
"Do you have a cold?" (she sounded like she had a terrible cold.)
"You tweaked your knee last week and have a cold this week!" (I'm convinced she's the best doctor in the universe, but she is only human after all!)
"So I have a consult scheduled with one of my surgeons on November 1st. I should just plan on that and we'll go from there?"
So I have one confirmed spot of DCIS on my right side, which means breast cancer is attacking me on both sides. But as far as they know based on the imaging and tests they have so far, they think all three suspicious spots on my right side are the same thing (DCIS) and are not invasive so I shouldn’t need chemotherapy. They will know 100% when I go under for surgery. Right now I’m scheduled to meet with my surgeon November 1st and have surgery December 3rd, but my doctor is seeing if she can push that all up for me to get an operation date in November instead of December 3rd. Stay tuned, and thank you for your prayers :)
An encouraging thought I've had recently is remembering an especially compelling prayer of intercession that was prayed at Oxford University's Christ Church during an evening service my husband and I attended in England last month: “Lord, bring us to touch, bless and be wounded if that’s what it takes for others to be healed...bless us with urgency as now is the needed time. May your Spirit breathe into us your joy, healing justice, and forgiveness.”
So it's been my (and my sister's) prayer that all of this--dealing with cancer at age 30--is somehow a blessing that allows us to get to know God as our Great Physician and somehow points others to Jesus. This prayer was echoed by one of my best friends who texted me on Wednesday night, while I was waiting for my test results:
“Was just working on catching up with my Bible Study and was listening to the lecture tonight. We are studying Acts 5 - the apostles were flogged, but afterwards they rejoiced and the church kept growing.
Thought of you guys and everything ...this is a quote from our teacher... “Are we praying make it go away versus how do you want to use this situation to spread the truth about Jesus in this difficulty. God is sovereign and allows all kinds of things into our lives because He wants to use us to put Christ on display. God allowed the apostles to suffer deeply, the result was that the church grew. God’s ways are not our ways.”
Love how you guys have been so public with your journey and are putting Christ on display. Praying that God will bring some of your family, friends and peers to want that peace and strength you have from knowing Jesus as your Savior.”
"Amen sista!!" I replied.
All of this is incredibly encouraging, but doesn't make the waiting for test results and knowing my sister is going into chemotherapy and knowing I'm going into a major surgery in the next two months easy. At least it's an affirmation that 1) We aren't alone in our suffering and 2) God is good. Waiting for results still sucks, but I can look back and say above all else I'm thankful for early screening. I went from my first DCIS diagnosis on September 6th to my twin sister getting diagnosed with invasive stage 2A breast cancer on September 30th back to me potentially having invasive cancer in my right breast, potentially having cancer in my lymph nodes, and potentially having metastatic cancer in my liver on October 10th back to having DCIS again--only this time, it's showing up on both sides of my chest, as of today, October 18th. DCIS has been called "jumpy" and "tricky," and doctors really don't know what causes DCIS to leave the milk duct and become invasive vs. staying in there forever, so I have to have peace with the fact that God is the only one who knows what my future holds. All we can do is trust God, trust our doctors, and roll with the punches. (Oh, and the fact that Mayo Clinic's Breast Clinic is amazing and basically the best in the world doesn't hurt, either.)
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