Friday, October 23, 2009

Ebbs and flows

Back in May as I met with my surgeon after the excisional surgery to remove the lump in my left breast I was confronted with the realization that cells in my body had started going awry. Normal cells are consistent - uniform. Cancer cells are random -- they are the rule breakers; they would be running red lights and driving on the wrong side of the streets. At the end of May, I was told my cells had started some random patterns ... "atypical" cells is what they call it. The official diagnosis in my files: "atypical ductal hyperplasia ... atypia and her family history put her at an elevated risk." Options given at that time were "surveillance", hormone therapy or double mastectomy. I chose surveillance.

In mid-May they removed a 3.5 cm lump. In January, 2009 it was barely noticeable ... my surgeon was the one who noticed it. I pretended i knew what the heck she was talking about but I couldn't feel it. Then months later after the death of our dear friend Elaine to breast cancer I was prompted to check ... wow! i could now feel it and it had grown! A week later I was in surgery ... despite all the tests (mammograms and MRIs) saying there was nothing, my surgeon insisted we remove the lump and have it biopsied. For that I am grateful.

Now, 5 months later, here I sit again with a new lump that has grown in the same spot. Over the past few weeks there is noticeable growth. Having to deal with digestive challenges i've had lately, I try to ignore that the lump is back. And it seems to be back with a vengeance. Yesterday, at the strong nudging by my partner, I call my surgeon and talk to her nurse. I know i'm not scheduled to go back till January for another MRI. There's a lump, i tell her nurse, and it feels like the one I had back in May. "yes, it's growing.... best guess, it's about 3.5 cm."

I find an article on the Breast Cancer Research site. A diagnosis of ADH (atypical ductal hyperplasia) indicates an increased risk of invasive breast carcinoma ... 4 to 5 times that of the general population ... the risk is great for premenopausal women (approaching sixfold). The risk is further increased if the patient has a first-degree relative with breast cancer (10-fold risk). My surgeon told me in May I am at high risk. I have all the factors that put me at high risk. Back in May my surgeon assures me she removed the entire lump. I had hope I would be one of the lucky few and the growth would not come back.

There's no denying it now though ... the growth is back. I had a few worry free months from my health. I am grateful for a few months of calm water. Next Wednesday I see the gastroenterologist to deal with digestive issues and the unexplained weight loss. I also wait for a call back from my doctor/surgeon to see what my next steps are regarding the growth/lump.

Life is full of ebbs and flows. Like an ocean, life comes with high tides, low tides, raging waters, calm waters .... what's on the surface can scare us. Yet below the ocean's surface, in what is known as the twilight zone (more than 600 feet below the ocean's surface), while storms may be raging above, there is a stillness, a darkness .... having once been an avid scuba diver, I imagine myself resting in this stillness. It's a zone too deep to receive sunlight. It's a zone where animals have learned to adapt - some even make their own light with special organs in their bodies called photophores. I imagine myself absorbing the wisdom of the animals, and like these animals who have learned to create their own light, I create my light with hope. For now, I choose to rest in the twilight zone. Hope is my regulator. Hope is my oxygen. Hope is my buoyancy compensator - my life jacket. Hope is what will enable me to surface up into the sunlight zone and to weather the storm.

We all find our calm, our peace in different places. For me, the ocean and animals, are what pull me through the raging storms of life. They will see me through this next phase .... they always have and they always will.

"Hope" is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops - at all -
- Emily Dickinson

1 comment:

  1. Hello Marilou!

    I wanted to let you know about an interesting cancer blog a group of cancer patients have been working on.

    A fellow tongue cancer patient was sent home to die. There was nothing more that can be done. Cancer survivors ask him life altering questions.

    Please read: Dead Man Talking

    Peace B