The Certainty of Uncertainty

This week I became part of a club no one particularly wants to join – women with breast cancer. Here’s how it came to be…

I had just returned happy and energized from three days of communication training in DC when I got the news – my annual routine mammogram was abnormal and I needed to come in for more tests. It was hard not to freak out – my mom had her first bout of breast cancer when she was not that much older than I am today. Still, these type of follow-up appointments are very common, and usually all is well.

So with rational thoughts and a pretty high level of calmness, given the circumstances, I went in for the second mammogram and the ultrasound. I spoke with the radiologist afterward, and he pointed out a small shadow that looked suspicious. Small is almost an overstatement – I’m talking about a tiny little dark area with some bright white dots. But it was enough that he wanted me to have a needle biopsy. I walked out of his office with a next-day appointment for a needle biopsy and a week-later appointment with the surgeon, just in case.

Do the very words “needle biopsy” make you feel slightly sweaty and nauseous? Yeah, me, too. And no, they don’t give you Michael Jackson happy juice to get you through the procedure. But the staff at Kaiser was so kind, reassuring and, well, almost motherly, that it really wasn’t so bad. The technician who was running the ultrasound machine while the radiologist was poking around with a needle held my hand throughout. The lidocaine took care of any pain, and then it was over. I was treated with kid gloves afterward, as I got another mammogram, and then bandaged up and sent home.

And then the waiting game began. Six very long days later, I went into see the surgeon. I pretty much knew what was going on because no one called to say, “Hey, good news, Mrs. McKenzie! No need to see the surgeon; the biopsy was benign!” So the day before Thanksgiving, I waited to meet with my doctor. Where while the news wasn’t good, it really wasn’t all that bad. Here’s the scoop:

  • Small tumor, under 1 centimeter
  • Caught very early (couldn’t even be felt at this point)
  • Likely stage 1
  • Choice of lumpectomy or mastectomy – my choice
  • Lymph nodes to be biopsied during the surgery
  • Surgery this coming Friday (I chose a lumpectomy), followed by radiation treatment and hormone therapy

As my surgeon said to me, “Terry, you’re not going to die from this.” Good to know.

The maybes are over now, and dealing with the reality has begun. And while I know that all will be well, what I’d really like to do is just turn the clock back to when I returned from DC, bouncy and energized, without a care in the world.


13 Responses

  1. Early detection is the key, thanks for sharing and looking forward to hearing that it all goes well on Friday.

  2. Glad to hear this was detected early, Terry. All the best!

  3. Thinking of you this week , Terry. Stay strong.

  4. Thinking of you this week, Terry! I can relate about trying not to freak out. For me, it was a big deal when I became older than my mom every was, now my kids are both older than I was when she died. Treatment and detection has come a long way since those days!

    Good luck this week and take care of yourself!

  5. Terry, I’ve always admired your ability to move from ambiguity to more clarity, and to take action no matter what the certainty is. I’m thinking of you and hope Friday goes smoothly. Sending a virtual hug and will give you a real one next time I see you soon.

  6. Terry, Thinking about you and wishing you well. Glad they caught it early. Take good care!

  7. Wow, Terr. So sorry to hear this. I will keep you in my prayers and am nearby if you need anything. xoxo

  8. Terry, you are awesome and invincible. I knew that the moment I met you at Sun all those many moons ago. I am sending you the most positive thoughts I can muster and I know you will be FINE!

  9. Terry —
    Rachel directed me to your blog. So sorry to hear you’re going through this. But with early detection and the positive energy you bring to everything, you’ll get through this in amazing style. You’re in our prayers. xx, Kathleen (and Jim) Scott

  10. Yea for early detection! Will keep you in thoughts and prayers … Confident you can kick this in the tushie.

  11. Terry: So glad you caught it early and at a relatively beatable stage. Randy and I are thinking very good thoughts for you. Stay positive and strong…you know, as you always do. :Kevin

  12. You have always been strong, and amidst all the uncertainty there will be moments when you won’t feel strong – the good news is the circle of fans, family and friends will embrace you with some extra strength, to address any gap, at any time. Thinking of you, still admiring that strength!! Hugs from Colorado.

  13. Hi Terry, I am sorry to hear this news, but I thank you for sharing it. When I met you, my first impression was that you were not only smart and funny, but also strong and resilient. That same strength that impressed and inspires me (and it’s safe to say everyone who’s met you) will carry you through as you beat the hell out of this and regain your health. I’ll be cheering for you! Kathy Moses

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