Saturday, June 27, 2009

When the "if" becomes a "when"

Yesterday, my partner came with me to see Dr. Khoyratty, an oncologist at Minnesota Oncology. It's been about six weeks now since my surgical biopsy and four weeks since I first learned that the cells taken out have started going awry ... a diagnosis of "atypical ductal hyperplasia." I had been struggling through incredible fatigue and with the help and guidance of my acupuncturist have felt like a million bucks in the past four weeks! The fatigue is gone however the weight loss continues despite my efforts to increase calories and intake. Last week I saw my primary doctor who ran more lab tests on me --- testing for liver disease, hepatitis, allergies, etc, etc. In less than a year I have lost 30 lbs, which for someone who was never really overweight to begin with is a lot of weight. I weighed 109 lbs last Friday. When I got on the scale at the oncologist's office yesterday morning, the numbers 107.5 popped up. More weight loss??? Part of me would like to believe it's discrepancy in the scales and that I didn't lose any weight.

Dr. Khoyratty was absolutely wonderful. The staff at Minnesota Oncology was wonderful. Both my partner and I felt like they really cared, and Dr. K's nurse came in first and told us to take as much time as we needed with Dr. Khoyratty. She had a chance to review the pathology report from my surgery. Just as my surgeon had taken the time to explain the process and stages of how normal cells becomes cancer, so did Dr. K. What resonated for both my partner and I was when she said my cells have started changing shape and size and will become cancer, or DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma InSitu) - where the cancer cells are contained with the duct. If not caught at the DCIS stage the cancer cells cross over the lining of the duct and become invasive. My partner asked her to repeat what she said ... is it 100% that they will become cancer? "Yes", she said, "it's a question of when." She also assured us that if cancer is caught in the early stages it is curable.

My partner had also been pushing for an MRI to be done now, and to not wait 6 months after my surgery which is what was recommended by my surgeon. What if they missed abnormal cells? What if they didn't get everything? Six months is a long time to let cancer cells keep multiplying. Dr. Khoyratty concurred (my partner jokes that she didn't need to go to medical school to know that an MRI needed to be done NOW!;-). Dr. Khoyratty would not wait six months. She would have an MRI done now. She also felt abnormality in my left breast, beyond what I thought was simply scar tissue from the surgery. The excessive, unintentional weight loss and abdominal pain was also of concern to her. She recommended a PET/CT scan which is where my entire body will be scanned for cancer. I am leaving for the Philippines next week to bring my mom back to the States so she can see doctors here. Her health has been deteriorating. I am scheduled for a breast MRI next Wednesday before I leave, and after I return from the Philippines will go in for the PET/CT scan. My partner and I meet with Dr. Khoyratty again on July 17th to go over the results of the MRI and PET/CT scan.

It became clear to me yesterday, that it's no longer a question of if I am going to get cancer, it's a question of when. These upcoming tests will also tell me if the "when" is now. In the past week I have learned from my mom of a close family friend dying of cancer. I also found out my childhood bestfriend's younger sister also died of cancer at the age of 42 years. I will see my childhood bestfriend when I return home to the Philippines next week.

The hard part of all of this, is the cognitive dissonance I am experiencing.... I feel absolutely great. My energy level is back to normal, my life couldn't be better, i feel strong physically, and I have made a conscious effort to bring balance back into my life and not "sweating the small stuff." I have also come to realize (through stories of others) ... that feeling good/looking great does not mean that one does not have cancer. Cancer truly is the "silent killer." Today though I choose to focus on the positive. I am doing everything I can and there are some things simply out of my control. Whatever the outcome of these tests are .... I will be okay. Regardless of when I hear the words "you have cancer", I am blessed to have been given the gift of the wake up call.

The time to live, the time to really appreciate life and your loved ones, for ALL of us, is NOW, not tomorrow. All we have is today, and it's up to us how we choose to live our lives.


  1. May we all heed your last two sentences. Your health is in my prayers!!

  2. It is never easy to hear the word "cancer" associated with your own name. You want to get mad and ask "Why?" But we cannot question the unfortunate things that happen to us without questioning the wonderful things, too.

    I admire your courage through this. When I found out about my diagnosis, I was angry. And somewhat selfish. I couldn't believe that this was happening to ME. I had always taken such good care of myself, but I was sick anyway. How unfair. But, I eventually came to realize that this was my wake-up call. I began to re-evaluate my life and came to the realization that I was putting way too much emphasis on things that were, quite frankly, just not that important.

    You will be strong through everything, I can already tell. And no matter what the outcome of your scans, you have taken this experience and used it to your advantage.

    I will be thinking of you, and hoping for good news.

  3. Marilou, you are surrounded by positive karma and wonderful people and creatures that care so much about you and will help you. Your words and actions speak to so many of us. It is quite clear that your partner will let nothing slip by in your care! If you need to add horses to your physical and mental therapy, just let me know - they work wonders.