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February 10, 2017
Why am I writing this story? As you read along, if you continue to read along, you might think this story too insignificant to tell. It isn't a scary story, or a spectacular story. In fact, the cancer the story is about is very tiny; in fact, it almost isn't a cancer, at all. It is a DCIS--Ductile Carcinoma in Situ, a cluster of cells, about the size of the tip of my little finger, completely contained within a milk duct, and it probably has no plans on being a problem anytime soon. In fact, if I didn't know it was there, I would probably live the rest of my life not knowing it was there. But, I do know it's there, and sometime within the next ten years, more or less, if it's not removed, it could become a problem and that is why this story begins.
My oncology surgeon told me that, if I had to have a cancer, this would be the kind of cancer to have. It is not terribly fast growing, it is only mildly positive to estrogen hormone, it is very small and caught early, and it is completely contained, so I don't even need my lymph glands tested. Furthermore, a recent genetic test, that he called for, revealed that I have no genetic markers that caused this. I don't need chemo-therapy, I may not need radiation therapy. My surgeon will remove it with a lumpectomy--taking an approximately one-inch lump out of my breast. It will be a day surgery, and after a few days, I will be able to return to my normal routines. I may need to take an anti-estrogen pill for five years, and be closely monitored for five years, but my estimated survival rate, at least my survival of cancer, is about 98%. Not bad; I'll take it.
Of course, this is all based upon what we know before the surgeon takes out the offending lump. They could find that it did invade through the duct, or that it is more aggressive than they thought. Then, radiation therapy may be recommended, or even a mastectomy. Worse-case scenario, but they are obligated to prepare me.
No matter what the outcome, the story begins when I receive an e-mail that tells me, after a mammogram, that I must come back for another one, and then a phone call that tells me that I must come in for a biopsy. All of a sudden, I have entered the women's world of breast cancer. Immediately, I feel united with every woman who has ever begun this scary journey. So far, my story looks like it will have a happy ending, but every time I get a little bit of good news--very small, completely contained--I think about the women whose news is not so positive, and, if anything good can come of this experience, it is that now I understand more of what they go through.
I write this story to reassure all my friends and family that by all indications, I will have a full recovery, and that I promise to keep you informed. Also, to encourage women who are afraid to get their regular mammogram, that knowledge is power. I had no symptoms, and would not have known about this relatively harmless DCIS, if I had not had a mammogram. My prognosis might not have been so positive five years from now. Get your mammogram, please, because I care about you!