Carrying on

This again

This again

I had my repeat mammogram yesterday. It was my right breast that was in question, and initially seven additional views were taken. Those of you who are of the female persuasion are only too familiar with this procedure, but for the rest of you, here is a precise description of a mammogram copied from (italics mine):

“You stand in front of a special x-ray machine. The person who takes the x-rays, called a radiologic technician, places your breasts, one at a time, between an x-ray plate and a plastic plate. These plates are attached to the x-ray machine and compress the breasts to flatten them. This spreads the breast tissue out to obtain a clearer picture. You will feel pressure on your breast for a few seconds. It may cause you some discomfort; you might feel squeezed or pinched. This feeling only lasts for a few seconds, and the flatter your breast, the better the picture.”

Ironically, after coaching you into an awkward position, and then squeezing your breast so hard you think it might just pop, the technician advises you to ‘try to relax’. Yup. Thats the same line repeated at our other annual exam, the pap smear. In both situations, relaxation is simply inconceivable.

After a sufficient amount of squashing I was ushered into a special waiting room while the radiologist reviewed the films. Morning television, a pile of tatty magazines, and, curiously, a large collection of Chicken Soup for the Soul’s. And a reassuring sign that read “We compress because we care.”

Soon I was joined by another woman; a real Chatty Cathy. The first thing out of her mouth was “Do you have breast cancer?” I was momentarily mystified, but then I realized that my lack of hair is a potent signifier. So I told her that no, I had lung cancer. Her next query: “Oh, and it spread to your breast?”. Oh my. After telling her that I hoped not, her final, and I suppose inevitable, question was, “Did you smoke?” I was relieved when my name was called and I was spared from further conversation.

It was but a brief respite, and I was returned to the waiting room after two further (and even flatter) compressions/impressions. Fortunately Chatty Cathy’s nose was buried in a magazine.

When I was fetched again I was led to a far room for ‘privacy’. There was no way this was going to be good news.

Sure enough, The findings were as follows: “Diagnostic views of the right breast including spot magnification views were performed demonstrating a cluster of suspicious looking amorphous calcifications in the right central medial breast. A second grouping of calcifications is noted within the right superior breast. These 2 groupings appear to contain morphologically similar calcifications. The breast tissue is heterogeneously dense, which may obscure detection of small masses. There are no dominant masses seen with the right breast.”

The radiologist explained further that these were ductal microcalcifications and that worst case scenario, she felt they might represent a ductal carcinoma in situ.

Tomorrow I will meet with Dr. Shaw for a scan review (I had a chest CT scan on Monday) and then my third round of chemotherapy. On Friday I will return to the Avon Breast Center at MGH to meet with a breast surgeon and to schedule a biopsy (80% of breast biopsies are not positive for cancer–I’m hoping mine will be one of those).

And just to make things more interesting, this is the regional forecast for Friday:

Never a dull moment…

32 responses to “Carrying on

  1. Shot eh. I guess there isnt anyway this can be something other than bad news? If there is even a sliver of a chance, I hope it comes your way.

  2. That should have said shit not shot!

  3. Shit or shot Gail; I should have added that 80% of biopsies show no cancer (I will now). I have some significant risk factors (including the fact that my mom is a breast cancer survivor), but my fingers are crossed that this shall prove to be just another bump in the road (one way or another).


  4. You continue to amaze me….since I found your story about 8 months ago, I have hung on your every post. I pull for you constantly. YOU are continuously defying the odds. This time I hope the odds are right!! 8 out of 10 are NOT cancerous!! I’m going to be thinking good thoughts! Please know how much so many of us admire you! 🙂

  5. You are in my thoughts and prayers Linnea. You certainly handle “bumps” in the road better than nearly anyone I know, but isn’t it time for the road to be smoothly paved for you? That’s my prayer. Huge hugs sweety!

  6. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
    Lots of hugs,

  7. praying too

  8. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Linnea. The odds are in your favor. I’ve beaten the odds so far and so can you. Stay dry and warm as the big one approaches. Down here in PA where I live, we are just on the edge of the impending “storm of century”. Hopefully it will be rain only.

  9. Oh my. I agree with Karin and Lynne and all others who are amazed with your courage and ability to keep riding the waves so graciously. Pulling for you in every possible way, Linnea! Travel safe if you head through the storm, but I think you are more formidable than Nemo is.

    • I somehow missed the storm being named Nemo—rather whimsical. Fortunately, we were spared damaged and graced only with lovely snow.


  10. I am so sorry to hear this news. I am right there praying with you, that you are a part of the 80%. You are an incredibly strong, rational woman.

  11. After my last mammogram (2012), I received a phone call to go in for further imaging of my right breast. I mentioned it to my clinical trial team in Denver and not only did they ask why no one had mentioned giving up mammograms and pap smears, they said it was best to remain in the position of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. A new malignancy would forever disqualify me for clinical trials! I heard this from others later, but it had never occurred to me, and in fact I’d heard that the combination of lung and breast cancer was relatively rare, although I’ve actually seen a few of these folks on forums. When I found the lump in my right arm earlier this year, I hesitated to mention it. Now it’s larger and begun to ache occasionally. Strangely, it didn’t light up on my last PET scan, go figure. So I’m very sorry to hear any news that your breasts may be harboring disturbance. Your plate is full enough! Gah!

    I pray you are in the 80%!

    Much love, Jazz

  12. Dear Linnea, I’ve been following your blog for months. And my thoughts and prayers are with you.

  13. Linnea, your poster is one that I had in my counseling office for years before I retired, it carries that positive vibe that helped. I’m praying for you to be part of the 80% with that breast, as I’ve had the same issue in the past, scary but benign. Steve was given an All Clear report on his brain scan this week, PTL, and is continuing the Alimta/Zumeta infusions every 3 weeks for the NSCLC. Your bum ankle is just icing on the cake, no doubt. Positive thoughts and prayers for you and the East coast today. Stand Strong, Hedy

    • Hedy, you were ahead of the trend then (Keep Calm and Carry On). It is such sensible and stoic advice, and certainly works for me. Good to hear that Steve got the all clear on the brain scan (woohoo!). One less current worry is worth a lot. Strong thoughts to you as well…


  14. Prayers always Linnea, enjoy?? the snow.

  15. Speechless, really. I feel for you on every single level. I remember writing in my journal, verbatim: “If one more person asks me if my husband smoked, I will punch him or her right in the face.” Smiling on the outside, of course. And having been smushed more times than I care to remember and with call-back ultrasounds etc etc. I can only echo what everyone else is thinking and feeling.
    Only the best and brightest hopes for you, Linnea.

    • Joan, somehow refraining from querying someone about their smoking history has not yet made its way into common etiquette. I would never ask an obese person if they ate too much, nor would I ask someone with cervical cancer if they had been promiscuous. It is a curious phenomenon that it remains open season on lung cancer…

      And thanks as always for your continued friendship.


  16. Wow! Linnea nature is hammering you. Only the most positive of thoughts going out to you from snow free South Central Pennsylvania.

  17. Linnea,
    It just does not stop. In addition the storm is just literally “piling on”. I hope the mamo result is a false alarm.
    Once again you are a trail blazer. I assumed -incorrectly – that with all the scans we get a mammogram was just a habit not a necessity.
    Good luck.

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