I love my breasts.
When other people are talking about nipple piercing I automatically shield mine and feel compelled to cradle my chest reassuringly.
Inconveniently there is a ‘no speed’ zone around my breasts. This is pretty tricky when I am dating someone. If they move too fast towards my breasts, they run the risk of getting hurt. I can’t help it, my elbow or fist have a mind of their own when it comes to upholding the breast speeding law.
My breasts are also the only part of my body that I am confident about. Even when they put on a bit of weight, I have never called them fat.
I moisturise them obsessively.
I am vain about my breasts. I would totally take down Snow White if hers were fairer than mine.
The night before my surgery I lay in bed playing tetrus as if my life depended on it. Lauren asked me to turn off the light and put my phone away.
As soon as I did, I burst into sobs. In the dark my body rocked back and forth, my tears seemed to come from deep in my stomach. Nothing or noone could make it stop. There was no consoling, no cheering, no looking on the bright side that would help. Lauren sat behind me holding me, as feelings of loss, grief and things being out of my control came in waves. I was terrified. I was scared that I would be marked and I would never be able to forget I had cancer. I feared that everyone I would ever have sex with would no longer just see my breasts and think sensuous things, but instead look at them and think of disease. In the midst of a wail I retorted to Lauren, “See what happens when you make me put my phone down.”
After a night of little sleep we woke up, late. We got showered and dressed in under four minutes.
I spoke with my surgeon before the lumpectomy. I asked if she could make it as pretty as possible and under no circumstance could there be a mastectomy. I was on my phone right up until the doors of the operating room when Bethany unceremoniously took it away.
The surgery went smoothly and my surgeon was happy. I was achey but delighted to see that not too much was gone and my nipple wasn’t pointing off to the side, which I have seen on lots of other pictures of lumpectomies.
I was also excited to see the end of this whole cancer process was in sight. The oncologist told me if they do the lumpectomy and there isn’t any cancer left that I won’t need to do more chemo. I started to imagine not even needing radiation and heading back to work and being able to go home to London. Not needing radiation was completely wishful thinking, but I just felt so positive that the cancer was all gone and I all I would need is to find a great piece of research to show I didn’t need more treatment.
After a lumpectomy the tissue gets sent to pathology to analyze. They dissect the lump and look to see if there is any cancer left. They also want to make sure if there is cancer that it is in the middle of what was taken out. The doctors don’t want it near the edges because that would indicate there was more left behind. The medical phrasing for the best result is ‘clear margins’.
I was expecting to hear my surgeon say, There was no cancer left, and the margins are clear. I barely comprehended when she said, “The tumour was 9mm and the margins were close but not clear”. She explained that I had some DCIS floating near one of the margins. DCIS is ductal carcinoma in situ, which I believe means stationary floating cancer. She said that she met with the radiologist and that they want me to have a mammogram in just over a week and then go from there.
I have a million questions about this result that I don’t have the answers for. I don’t know if the floating cancer cell was a left over from when the tumour was larger or if they think I have more floating ones just hanging out. I don’t know if radiation will zap any floating ones that might be left (in which case I am never going to get out of it). I don’t know if I will need more chemo (which will entirely suck as my hair is actually a long 5mm right now). I don’t know whether I will have to have another surgery or if I will be as lucky with my nipple facing forward on a second one, and I don’t know how a mammogram will help since a mammogram didn’t catch the tumour at 2.5 cm in the first place.
I did have a fantastic result in the cancer shrinking so much. The pathology report isn’t awful, it just wasn’t what I wanted or expected. There is a big ‘please hold’ in knowing what is going to come up next in terms of chemo, surgery and radiation.
While holding I forsee a lot of late night angry birds, solitaire, tetrus and soduku.