This coming 4th of July, I will celebrate the independence of a small tumor from my left breast. Talk about life’s curveballs! Not something I ever expected — colon cancer runs in the family, not breast cancer.
Although the guidelines have now changed, I’ve been getting regular mammograms every year for at least five years. A couple of years ago I was called back for an ultrasound as they found an abnormality; I was totally freaked out, but fortunately it was for naught. So when I got called back after my May 16 mammogram, I wasn’t concerned. (My breast tissue is dense, so it can be hard to read with just a mammogram).
During the ultrasound the doc was a tad concerned about one area (appeared as shading), but not particularly so. He said it very well could be how the breast tissue was formed, but he recommended getting a biopsy “just in case.” Again, I wasn’t concerned. Hell, I even scheduled the biopsy three days before a 50-mile race! (My über expensive yet highly supportive bra earned its keep: I ran a 30-minute personal best.)
They said I would likely get my biopsy results two days later. Friday came and went with no call, but I wasn’t worried. Monday came and went, and I decided if I didn’t hear by Tuesday afternoon, I’d call. My darling and I were sitting on the couch Facebooking Tuesday morning when the phone rang; my heart jumped into my throat when I heard my doctor’s voice. (Typically if it’s good news then a nurse calls). Once I heard the word “cancer” come out of her mouth I pretty much became oblivious to anything else she said. (It was like the adults in a “Charlie Brown” cartoon: “WAH WAH WAH WAAH, WAH WAH WAH WAAH.”)
I had to have her repeat what I had; she used the terms “infiltrating lobular, low-grade” and “in-situ.” She had made an appointment for me to meet with a breast cancer surgeon that coming Friday (the 13th, no less.) I hung up the phone and burst into tears. As I dialed my sister to inform her, my darling turned to Dr. Google with the information we had. As I blubbered to my sister about having cancer, he’s saying, “It’s not cancer!” Rather, it was “lobular carcinoma in-situ (LCIS),” which is not considered a “true” cancer. However, it means you’re at a greater risk for developing cancer in the future, so regular screenings and hormone therapy are recommended.
This information helped relieve me a bit, and I decided to hold off on telling my other siblings and my mom until after I met with the surgeon. But the waiting was the worst part (patience is not one of my virtues). It also gave me time to turn to Dr. Google myself. I kept coming back to the word “infiltrating;” while “in-situ” means “in place, “infiltrating,” well, means the exact opposite. My worries returned but all I could do was wait to meet with the surgeon.
Turns out I had both LCIS and “infiltrating lobular carcinoma” (also called “invasive”) of the left breast. It’s the second most common type of breast cancer (after ductal carcinoma). Fortunately it was VERY low-grade (stage 1A), requiring only a lumpectomy and most likely just radiation therapy rather than chemo. I had the lumpectomy yesterday, and the surgery went well. The surgeon will present my case to a “tumor board” for recommendations on my ongoing treatment, which I should hear about within a week. I’ll then most likely have at least three weeks of radiation, 5 days/week.
Overall I’m in good spirits and am happy to have the damn thing out of me. However, my emotions have been out of whack — I would start crying for no apparent reason — but now that the surgery is over I’m feeling much better. It was definitely more of a “Fuck — this is inconvenient” sort of sadness/fear than a “I’M GOING TO DIE!” sort. Once I was diagnosed I made the decision to pull out of the IMTUF 100 at the end of September; it’s a much more gnarly race than Cascade Crest and I knew the training for that would be physically and mentally taxing. However, I had hoped to still be able to run the White River 50 at the end of July and the Waldo 100K in mid August. But given my radiation won’t start for a couple of weeks, I pulled out of Waldo yesterday as that was the deadline for getting a partial refund. (White River is also in question, but I should be able to defer. If I can’t run, I’ll volunteer at an aid station. I will, however, run the Tunnel Marathon next weekend; it’s only 26.2 miles, after all 😉 )
I’m confident this is merely a blip. I had been feeling a bit burned out lately (since Cajun Coyote I’ve run three more 100-milers), so this forced break will be good for me. I’m already thinking of other, less strenuous, adventures for the summer, possibly hiking either the Enchantments or the Wonderland Trail. Cancer can’t hold me back!
So ladies — please get your boobies checked, or at least be diligent in doing self breast exams. (My darling has promised to help me with mine 🙂 )