The Breast Antenna

I am beginning to feel popular.

A couple of times a week, I have been getting calls from people with kind voices. None of them have been heavy breathers. They simply want to give me information or set up an appointment.

I am not sure what to say when people ask me how I am doing. Do I say that I am sick? Do I say that I am fine, which for me, is a blow-off, term. Or do I say, other than the cancer and prolapsed uterus that is driving me to distraction, I am fine.

When I think about it, “How are you doing:” a very common question, is not one that can be easily answered. Do you want the long version, the one that includes being hacked off because someone at Lowe’s messed up a phone number, causing a refrigerator not to show up, after waiting at home for 4 hours? Do you mention that you feel like someone put a plunger between your legs and it is sucking your uterus and innards to not have the merriest of seasonal parties? Do you tell them that you have quite a few people on your mind who have serious medical issues or haven’t figures out how to live in this weird, world? Do you regale them with your Texas sheet cake frenzy?

Do you tell them this stuff, plus the fact that you think over half the world is nuts and the other half, is cracked … except you and a few of your close friends?

Nope. I think not. Of course, it might be sort of fun to do that and see how soon the person who asked, bolts, stage-left, and declines all future calls. There is something enticing about that.

The thing about cancer is that you aren’t sick until you are.  I have also learned that these cells that I have in me, the ones that showed up on my high-tech, 3-D mammogram, could or could not grow out of the place they, appear, to be contained in.

The thing about cancer, is that it can be contrary, unpredictable, or in lay terms, a real asshat.

So, we dread the word. And when you tell people that you have “cancer” as opposed to strep throat or a bad gall bladder, you are placed in that, egad, she has cancer. After two-seconds of people listening to you and the story of how you found out, they immediately, turn the conversation onto them. You can feel the shift in the conversation and you can actually see the other person’s brain cell going across their forehead , like one of those crawlers that go across TV screens. “Ut-oh, I better get that mammogram. Did you feel the lump? Oh no. I have had this pain in my right boob. Probably cancer. Oh, nutmeg.”

It is human nature. I have done it. Most of us can only give others, a certain amount of our attention, because there is something in us, the survival instinct, that makes us think of ourselves.

But back to the wire antenna and the plethora of calls. I am now scheduled for my pre-op. That is where they want to make sure you are alive and reduce  the chances of you dying during surgery, and messing up their stats.

Also, I signed up for a random study. The way the doctor finds the tumor, and begins carving out a golfball size pieces of your tenderloin, has been by inserting an antenna into your breast. You arrive at the hospital a few hours prior to your surgery. Your breast ins numbed and then a wire, I assume, with the help of ultrasound, is guided to the tumor. The antenna sticks out  of you, I guess like a flag on a kid’s shopping cart, and you keep it there so the surgeon doesn’t accidentally, remove your ear.

The newer version, which I was told, allows the surgeon to access the tumor a bit easier, is a radioactive bead that, with a needle, is placed at the tumor-site. It is implanted a day or so, before surgery. That method allows the surgeon 360 degree access to the gremlin.

I was told that I will have the antenna. Earth to Susan, come in, please.

I have been told that this wait of about a month, won’t make any difference. The cancer took a long time to get there and so, in the scheme of things, all is cool. Of course, I had seen a YouTube video of some doctor saying that biopsies, themselves, risk allowing the cancer spread. And I have pictured that one cell escaping from one of the four needle insertion wholes from the biopsy. Why do I have that in my mid? Because. Just because.

Another call I received this week, was from the genetic counselor. It was said that it might take 3 weeks for results. It only took a week. The results? Of the 42 genes that they tested, 26, being breast cancer related genes, all were negative. That is great news. One of my daughters asked if the gene for National Honor Society, was positive.

It was a negative.

Right now, this cancer business is just a word. I told one of my sisters that the hardest part, so far, has been trying to find a parking space at the hospital.

But if I let my brain flip forward, to January 8, I am not quite so cavalier. That is when the clock of treatment begins. Surgery in January. Four to six weeks of radiation, five days a week. And then, Tamoxifen … for years.  Rest a month after radiation, and then get a hysterectomy.

For someone who is not wild about commitment … my winter and spring are pretty well, booked.

I will not be wearing pink. I will not be carrying a tote bag with the breast cancer awareness pink ribbon. I don’t think getting breast cancer  is something I want to wear on my sleeve. It is not embarrassment. It just is a part of my life. My words are my awareness to others. Those I will share.

At my meeting with the surgeon, one of the wonderful women, said that I was not a breast cancer survivor. It was supposed to make me feel better.

It didn’t. I didn’t like it, at all. A diagnosis is not survival. There is something disingenuous about it. I still have cancer cells in me. I have not survived treatment. I have only survived diagnosis. The rest remains to be seen.

Even in my life, as a whole, I don’t see myself as a “survivor.” I see myself as a participant. While I am alive, I will participate. To just survive, isn’t the banner I choose.  My banner will read, “She lived.”

At least … until I die.





One Comment Add yours

  1. Pat says:

    I love it when I’m asked if I’m still in remission. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t have cancer, it was removed. But I just tell them yes and they retreat.


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