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A call from the doctor

I got a call yesterday from someone wanting to schedule an ultrasound of my breast. I was sure there had to be some kind of misunderstanding, since I already had an ultrasound of my breast last month, but no, there was no misunderstanding. My cancer surgeon, Dr. Arnaout, ordered another ultrasound after seeing the results of the MRI.

I knew this couldn’t be good. I called the Womens Breast Health Centre and left a message on the nurses’ line, asking that someone call me back to explain. Then I called GC and he came over and waited with me for the phone to ring. While we waited, we tried to think of non-fatal explanations for the doctor wanting another ultrasound.

“Maybe,” suggested GC, “the tumor has vanished!”

A couple of hours later Dr. Arnaout herself called.

She told me the tumor is twice as big as they thought. It’s 1.9cm.

But that wasn’t the worst news.

The worst news is that there’s another area of concern on that breast, exactly opposite of where the tumor is. It’s about the same size as the tumor, but it’s not a tumor. I think she described it as a “non-masslike enhancement of suspicious disease.”

Now, anything I can say about that would be speculative because I’m not sure what it is exactly and my efforts to look it up have not yielded anything useful. I do know it’s not a good thing. (I should have grilled the doctor while I had her on the phone, but I didn’t want to take up too much of her valuable time and I figured I could look it up later, and besides, I was in a bit of a state of shock.)

She went on to say that instead of dealing with a 1cm area as we previously thought, it’s a 5cm area. And that means we’re looking at a mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy.

My gut feeling is it also means a greater risk the cancer has spread to other parts of my body, and therefore I’ll have to have chemotherapy as well. But she didn’t say that.

She did say it’s possible the MRI was wrong. Apparently MRIs are greatly influenced by hormonal fluctuations, and I had mine at a particularly hormone-rich point in my cycle. Therefore, the MRI might have seen something that wasn’t there. And that’s why she has ordered the ultrasound – to see if it confirms what the MRI saw.

I asked her about the results of the bone scan and other imaging tests, but she didn’t have those yet.

Meanwhile, the appointment on June 1st has been rescheduled to June 8th.

I got off the phone and looked at GC, who had gathered enough from my end of the conversation to know the news was bad and that we were moving beyond lumpectomy to mastectomy. It was a grim moment, and it demanded a little levity.

“Do you think one-breasted women are hot?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said, and then he wrapped his arms around me and we both started laughing.

The rest of the day was spent in that weird hyper-emotional space that envelopes you when you’re absorbing horrifying news. I felt the same way the day I found out I had cancer. Terror, in waves. And all kinds of other feelings in the spaces between the waves.

32 comments to A call from the doctor


    One breasted women are indeed hot.

    Sensding lots of love your way big sister!

  • This is going to be a tough time in your life, Zoom. Thank you for sharing the details with us. And thanks to GC for being there with you and saying exactly the right thing. Thinking of you daily if not hourly.

  • XUP

    I’ve been doing some digging since you told me about this and it sounds to me like MRIs frequently turn up “suspicious masses and non-masses” that don’t necessarily mean anything and are more often than not benign. One of the main drawbacks of the MRI breast scanning seems to be that it produces false positives. So, try not to think the worst. I’ve sent you an email, too.

  • I think that one-breasted women are plenty hot but, then again, I have an – ahem – bias, listing a little to the left myself.
    The problem with MRIs is that they do sometimes seem to highlight problems that aren’t really there – hope that proves to be the case for you.
    And laughing=good – as you seem to know. xo

  • Keep body-surfing, ma’am. On the waves, and in between…

  • Julia

    We are thinking of you and wishing you good news when you get it. You can’t really do anything until you know so you might as well distract yourself until then. It would help if the weather cleared up! I’m sorry I can’t fix that either.

  • Linda Anne

    Zoom – thinking you of every day. As I read this post, I could not help but relive a scare I had three years ago. I had a mammogram and was called back in to have one breast re-screened as they had found something suspicious. I waited three weeks until the re-screeing and was told it would only require one picture. The nurse came back, not once, not twice, but three times to take another picture. On the last one, I freaked out and started to cry, believing the worst. When the nurse came back, she took me aside and told me in confidence that the radiologist told her to tell me that there was absolutely nothing there, but that I would have to wait for the official report. It turned out to be a blip in the system which had produced a large shadow on the first x-ray. I am sure that the same things happen with MRI’s etc. Keep doing what you are doing and your are amazing for sharing this with us.

    Cheers – Linda Anne

  • J.

    Thank you so much for sharing your news. I think about you all the time, wishing that this would all just go away and I’m with Abby. Thank GC for being there too.

  • I’m glad you have a great guy like your GC to make you smile. Remember to be thankful for all the great things in your life and you WILL make it through this!

  • I’m so sorry to hear the news, Zoom. I’m glad to hear that GC was able to be with you for the news. We’re all pulling for you out here in the ethers!

  • Convivialiddell

    The wonderful thing about MRIs is that if you pick a random person off the street and send them to get a full MRI, you’d probably find enough suspicious looking anomalies to keep the lab techs busy for a long time. But I’d rather have a false positive than a false negative. Keep hoping and I’ll be praying for you.

  • How stressful, zoom. I hope it turns out to be nothing.

  • Kat

    Well zoom the only thing I can add to the above is that I am keeping you in my prayers for strength to go through this. I only hope for the best for you.

  • Gwen

    I am so glad GC and Duncan are there to love you through this Zoom! {{HUGS}}

  • Leanne

    You may not need to have chemo, if the cancer hasn’t spread. My mother had a mastectomy a number of years ago, and when they did it, they also removed a number of lymph nodes to be tested. She was told at the time, that if they were cancer-free, she wouldn’t have to have chemo. They were, and she didn’t.

    Thinking of you daily!

  • Lo

    Thinking of you.
    REading the story you are sharing.
    Sending hugs

  • Carmen

    Yes, Zoom, Amazons are hot! After all, these warrior women did remove their right breast in order to use a bow more accurately! And as for GC…yep, a sweetie for recognizing the hotness of Amazons!! We are with you in this!!!! Hugs!

  • Carmen

    ps…remember that Julia Child had breast cancer in the 60’s, at a time when the cure was less certain. She lived well into her 90’s!

  • What Coyote said so eloquently, that’s my sentiment too…

  • Nat

    Here’s hoping it’s all just blurs on the MRI… or at the very least a touch of good news.

  • deb

    Love you lots…one breasted, two breasted, however you choose to be breasted….

  • I too am thinking of you lots and keeping my fingers crossed that the MRI was on crack that day. Sending all good thoughts your way, zoom!!

  • mosprott

    We’re all thinking of you, pulling for you and willing the bad away.

    Be good to yourself, and let us worry for you.

  • Donna P

    Thinking of you everyday. Thanks for sharing your news. You are an inspiration.

  • Jen G

    I agree – you are an inspiration. Which may or may not help you to be so brave. But you are also brave. And waaaaaay sexy!

  • Lysanne

    I have been reading your blog daily for about a year (since harlot mentioned you). I don’t comment often, but I wanted to tell you that even if I don’t know know you, I think about you everyday and hope for the best. I send you lots of positive energy.


  • redfraggle

    You write about this with such honesty – I’m thinking of you sending you positive thoughts, all the while admiring your insightful writing and your wit. My grandmother had a mastectomy and she is 80 years old, alive and well. I don’t know if knowing stories like that helps with the worry but just in case – there it is.

  • Thanks everybody. You guys are keeping me afloat throughout this experience, you know that?

  • Arden

    Lots of love and purrs beaming your way, through the dogcat channel! *big hugs*

  • Mary

    Oh, Zoom, My sister has been left-breasted since ’91. She continues to teach middle school and college classes, travels all over the world, and enjoys every minute. You have some rough patches ahead of you, focus on being well, don’t be afraid to laugh, cry or scream. Fight and know you are in so many people’s thoughts and hearts.

  • Thinking of you every day. Hang on, hang in.
    As others have pointed out, MRIs can be mistaken.
    You have so much positive energy pointed your way – may those waves overcome the bad waves.

  • Em

    I’ve never seen you, and I think you’re amazing. Boobs, or no boobs. I always thought, if/when I got breast cancer, I’d want to get rid of the whole breast (if not both) just for peace of mind. Plus not having to wear a bra would be awesome!
    We’re all so much more than our boobs. :)
    Hang in there. Whatever the results of the test, you’re strong and can get through this.