Friday, June 10, 2011

You can't hurry, love.

When you tell people you have cancer (again), you get all sorts of reactions. Some start to cry, some immediately move to hug you (I'm a hugger, so I kinda dig this one), some start to talk really fast and ask lots of random questions, some have a mini-nervous-breakdown and have to be managed by you (this is a most undesirable outcome) and some swing into "action mode." These are the people who urge you to "get it out immediately!" or "get rid of them!" (the breasts). They want to know, 3 days after your diagnosis, what your plan is.

Well folks, in the world of breast cancer, nothing moves that fast. Because unless you have inflammatory breast cancer or some other unusual case, breast cancer moves pretty slowly, so you can take your time figuring out your plan of attack. For example. Last time around with this, I took time to assemble and meet with a team at MGH (and that included a surgeon, a radiation oncologist, a medical oncologist and a social worker), get a second opinion on my pathology at a different hospital, and interview a corresponding team at Dana Farber. I knew I was going to be seeing these folks for years, and I wanted to love them. I was diagnosed on November 5, 2001 and I didn't start chemo until the second week of December. And I didn't finish up radiation until the end of July. We won't even get into how long it took to grow my hair back.

So let's take a deep breath, shall we? This go-round, it took 10 days just for the first pathology report to come in. And the only reason I had the MR-guided core needle biopsy a week after the suspicious MRI was because they want to time it with your menstrual cycle, and I was still in the zone. Now I wait 'til the 16th to meet with my dream team again - a 5 hour meeting where we'll merely skim the surface of pathology and options and next steps. My oncologist won't even be there that day. So that'll leave seeing a plastic surgeon, my oncologist and who knows who else before we move forward in any meaningful way.

I predict nothing too exciting's going to happen before latter part of July. So for all you slice 'em, dice 'em folks, you're going to need a hobby to keep you busy, 'cause quarterbacking my case is going to be dull for the moment. Get that bag of kettle corn/Cheetos/baby carrots and sit back and watch the (freak) show.

These are tough decisions. There are lots of factors to weigh, both short- and long-term. The benefit of experience in these matters is that I know that taking time and weighing options tends to lead to happiness in ultimate decisions. As in most life matters, really. And that's my most "simple" ultimate goal. To be happy and cancer-free, again.




  1. Oooh, a 5 hour meeting. Good times!

    But, I'm glad to hear that you'll have the dream team's undivided attention--time to rumble.

    Focus power--we'll all be waiting to her the plan on the flipside.

  2. Ok, you are taking me right back. I remember feeling like I had to reassure everyone when I had my recurrence. I was rather dumb-struck by some of the ignorant comments (from family no less) and you would think that I wouldn't be shocked by these reactions after 10 years of helping others with this disease but I was. I guess I felt like I had already educated them once damn it so why were they being so insensitive! I ended up spouting back a lot of reassuring crap to take care of them (or just shut them up) when I wasn't sure what was going on or what I wanted to do. I reserved going to the "scary place" only with my Thrive insiders (could not have done this without you girls) who provided me the space and time to get real with it. In some ways, going through it the second time around is harder because we know way too much. And our patience is fried.

    Here's hoping you can tune out the chatter that you don't want to hear and give yourself the space and time you need. Though it is counter to your usual modus operandi I urge you to try to be a little selfish right now rather than being your usual selfless self. Sending you a virtual hug.

  3. I'm so glad you shared this, Sarah. I think it's so helpful to all of us to know how to be a good friend. I promise you will never need to reassure me-I won't have a nervous breakdown. (being a Yankee, I prefer the internal nervous breakdowns). And who knew you were a big hugger? Not I! So I will overcome my stoic ways and squeeze the heck out of you. ;) watch out! I am sorry you have had to reassure people. They'll be fine. Focus on whatever YOU need to do, SuperWeeble. Love you, aim

  4. Let me know if you ever want to hear about the pros and cons (my perspective only) from a double-mastectomy / implant kind of girl. I'm more than willing to share my experiences. (keeping this short to make sure it posts...thought I had written something before but it's not here, so not sure if I'm one of the "unalloweds" you spoke of earier!)

    Thinking of you as always!