Well, at least for a little while. After two agonizing months of waiting, the final pathology reports that the cancer is Stage 1. That’s 1 out of 4 with 1 being the best. Actually, negative cancer is the best, but we can’t be too picky, can we? Stage 1 means things are still in the early stages and the lymph nodes are clear. The prognosis is good, so I’ll probably ease up on the death posts. Maybe.
What I’ve learned through my extensive, exhaustive Internet research (and a few brief conversations with my doctors) is that there are two general types of breast cancer: invasive and non-invasive. Obviously, the first kind is worse. I’m lucky because although my tumor was alarming in size, the vast majority of it was a contained kind of cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ that generally stays within the milk ducts. Sometimes, however, a tumor may start out contained, but then things get rowdy with the music and the keg stands and the action starts to spill outside the confines of the frat house. That’s what mine did. It had just recently blown a gasket (26 gaskets to be exact) and started to invade the surrounding tissue in a very shallow but aggressive fashion. You know the type. First base is simply not enough. That’s invasive ductal carcinoma, the nasty stuff, and the leading cause of death in women of my age group (35-44) in the U.S.
So, due to the small but vigorous areas of invasiveness, I’ll be doing chemo July through September followed by a year of Herceptin. Because if you pass out neon condoms at a frat party at 10 p.m. and take an aerial photograph round about 2 a.m., you never know exactly where on campus you’re going to see the blinking.
Have you done a self breast exam recently? Once or twice a year is better than nothing. Mammograms aren’t effective screening tools for women under 40 because our breast tissue is too dense. We’re on our own.