Sunday, May 26, 2013


Well, I made it through this MRI!

All my prep paid off. I wasn't laughing through the insertion of the IV, but I wasn't whimpering and tense, either. Also, I should remember that insertion of an IV catheter doesn't hurt as much as a shot does. I think that's because injection doesn't happen at the same time the needle is inserted. By the time I got the injection, I was safely in the MRI tube, where no one could hear me whimper.

I brought my Nook with me for some reading material in case I had to wait, but as it turned out I didn't wait in the outside waiting room at all. Instead, I waited in the MRI area, where electronic devices were prohibited. I guess the strong magnetism can wipe out the memory, which would suck.  The next time I have one of those, I should bring some actual paper reading material. As it was I had to make due with People (Ashley Judd is getting a divorce!) and Architectural Digest (pretty!).

I have had two MRIs before, one previous breast MRI and one for low back pain. Each time I was offered a choice of either music over headphones or earplugs, and I chose the earplugs both times. This time they had Pandora (as opposed to a commercial radio station), so I decided to try it.


I knew the machine was loud, but without the earplugs it was REALLY loud, especially in the upper registers. Klaxon is the word I would use to describe it. I got through about three of the half dozen scans they were taking before I pushed the panic button and stopped the machine so I could ask for earplugs. I was starting to fear I was going to have hearing damage (I already have some hearing loss in the upper registers. I don't need more).

It's a good thing I didn't wait any longer. When the technician pulled me out of the machine she said she had been just about to inject me with the contrast fluid. If I had stopped after she injected me, I would have had to reschedule and go through the whole scan again. I would have been royally pissed!

Life was much better once I had earplugs.  I was able to relax and meditate. I did two types of meditation. One was The Microcosmic Orbit, which is a method of concentrating on circulating energy around the body. The other was to silently repeat my calming mantra with each breath. It was really interesting that when I performed either of these meditations I was able to relax, but as soon as I stopped the concentration, I became agitated and anxious to be done. This is the power of meditation. It calms the nervous system, making difficult situations easier.


That was Tuesday. It's Saturday now, and I haven't heard anything about the results of the MRI or gotten a call for another consultation. They didn't tell me how long it would be for the results, but I assumed I would hear something by the end of the week, at least. Monday is a holiday. If I don't get a phone call Tuesday morning I'll call after lunch and ask when I can expect the results. I still don't have a date for the surgery. I'd like to have that so I can plan when I need to take off work.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Upcoming MRI

The next step is an MRI coming up in two days, on Tuesday. My breast tissue is so dense that the doctor wants to do an MRI so that she can better see how large the area of cancer is in the right breast. The MRI should also provide more information about what's going on in the left breast, as well. The biopsy of the left breast showed atypical cells, which aren't currently cancerous. The mammogram and ultrasound showed the presence of a mass, but it really is pretty difficult to differentiate it from the surrounding tissue.

Not only does dense breast tissue make it more difficult to see cancer, but studies have shown that having extremely dense breast tissue (which I have) increases a woman's risk of getting breast cancer. Numbers I have read have indicated between 2 to 6 times the risk of breast cancer over a woman without dense breast tissue. Yikes! No wonder I have breast cancer!

I have had a breast MRI before. That time I had an IV containing a liquid that helped show contrast in the imaging. I have a fear of needles, so for the past couple of days I have been doing visualizations and practicing relaxation techniques to help me be calmer when the IV needle is inserted. I'll be armed with a breathing technique, a calming mantra to chant in my head, and a visualization of the fear floating away from me.

My favorite, though, is simply talking to the fear. I thank the fear for keeping me safe from harm (and hard drugs), that this needle is important, and safe, so I don't need to be afraid of needles right now.

I hope this all works. I'll need these relaxation techniques again for the surgery.

The MRI machine itself shouldn't be an issue. It is loud, and I'll be in a closed in space, but they will let me listen to Pandora over headphones. I'll just listen to the Yoga Radio station and meditate. Shouldn't be bad at all.

One step at a time. That's how I'm doing this.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Telling people

The hardest part so far about having breast cancer was the week between when I knew the biopsy was positive for breast cancer and the consult with my doctor, when I found out how treatable they thought it would be, and what the treatment plan is likely to be. That week of knowing but not knowing was hard. I decided not to tell people at work, which meant I had to answer everyone's questions of "How's it going?" with a generic "Fine!" My weekend plans? Probably going to be low-key.

I was also trying really hard not to worry, to think about the cancer as little as possible. Trying not to think about it seemed to take my short-term memory with it. I ended up forgetting almost everything! I would forget to bring things I needed with me to meetings. Forget to pick up the paper I had just sent to the printer.  Once I meant to go to the kitchen at work and walked into the bathroom instead. It was pretty bad.

Once I met with the doctor and nurse practitioner, and found out the basic treatment plan (surgery, radiation therapy, probably no chemo (thank gods!)) I started telling people. I posted about my diagnosis on Facebook. I got an overwhelming amount of support in the comments on that post. People told me how strong I was. They sent me energy and prayers. I felt all their love.

The most remarkable comments were from folks who I had known in high school, but hadn't spoken to in years, telling me how strong they perceive me to be. "You are a force of nature," wrote one woman. Another wrote, "I know you'll come out on top. You always do!"

These people knew me at a time in my life when I didn't feel all that strong. I certainly didn't feel like a "force of nature"! I know myself to be strong now, I've worked hard to be so. But 25 years ago was a different story. I felt lost and confused, as you do when you are 22. I had great friends, and certainly was happy much of the time, but I certainly wouldn't have described myself as always coming out on top. I wonder if they saw in me then the adult woman I would grow into? Or if what they have seen of me online over the past couple of years informs their thoughts?

I have been telling people at work that I have the most contact with, as I have the energy to. Mostly one-on-one conversations, though I did tell the workgroup I lead all at once. Everyone has been amazing with giving their support and sympathy. Also, too, I have been surprised at how many people I know have been effected by breast cancer, either they themselves are survivors, or someone they know is. I have heard the statistic that 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 women will get breast cancer. That's a lot of women!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Finding out

This blog has been languishing for months, but now I think it's time to resurrect it. I thought it was going to be a blog about my yoga practice, but now I guess it will be a blog about breast cancer. And yoga.

So yeah, I have breast cancer. It was caught on a routine mammogram on April 1st (ha!) and confirmed with a needle biopsy a week later. Five days after that, at 10:15am, I got a call at work to go over the results. Positive for cancer in the right breast. The left breast came back showing atypical cells, which could be pre-cancerous, and will require additional testing.  

For almost a week, that's all I knew. I had breast cancer, but I had no idea how bad it was or what the treatment would be. That made for a long and nerve-wracking week.

Finally, this Wednesday, I met with the surgeon for a consult. The cancer is of a very treatable sort. Chances are good the cancer is at Stage 1. This is very good news. I will most likely not have to have chemotherapy. Very very good news.

I will have surgery, probably in early June. Because I have very dense breast tissue, the doctor wants to run an MRI scan before the surgery to get a better idea of the size of the area that needs to be removed. That is planned for May 21st. The results of the MRI will guide the surgery options.

I was presented with a choice: either a lumpectomy on the right breast and radiation therapy (5 days a week for 6 weeks), or a mastectomy and no radiation. I was surprised that they appeared to give these two options equal weight. A mastectomy would remove all the lymph nodes, carrying a risk of lymphedema, which is good to avoid.  Of course, if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, I will have to have them removed. I will be injected with a radioactive dye before the surgery. This dye is taken up by any cancerous lymph nodes, which would be removed during the surgery.

I will also have to have surgery on the left breast to remove the atypical cells, and investigate the extent of the affected tissue. At this point what’s going on there is an unknown. This surgery could be done at the same time as the lumpectomy on the right breast, or could be scheduled for later on. 

I have good days and worse days, but overall I'm doing well. I am doing my best to breathe through this. I have decided that worrying is a waste of energy, so I'm trying to do as little of that as I can. I am strong. I am surrounded by a loving and supportive husband, and the support of many friends. I will get through this.