Saturday, January 19, 2013


My Father's Garden - Summer 2006

On the 23 of August we went to the Women’s Breast Health Centre again to meet with Dr. Surgeon (obviously not his real name) about the MRI results.  This was my Mom’s birthday.  She would have been 67 on that day.  It’s kind of weird that so many dates have been significant ones for me.  Finding the lump on June 3 was the day that Louis had died.  I had the mammogram on my wedding anniversary on July 4.  I was getting the MRI results on my Mom’s birthday.  Dates have always been something that I remember well and there have always been important things that seem to happen around them in my life.  Maybe I just notice those things more than other people might or maybe its coincidence but I believe there is something more to it than that.  Here’s two more noteworthy dates.  My Mom died on Good Friday and the day before Mike’s birthday.  I had a miscarriage between my two kids and the due date had been August 23 for that pregnancy – my Mom’s birthday.  I went on to have Tasza and she was born on my birthday on February 21.  Life and death seem to be intertwined in these dates.  Weird.  But I digress.
Manitoulin Island - Summer 2006
Anyway, we were waiting in the pastel colored room for Dr. Surgeon to come in and go over the MRI results.  I’m still not a fan of the pastel colors.  I doubt I ever will be.  When he arrived he got right to the point and told us that the results were not what he had hoped.  What?  Apparently I was the perfect example of why he likes to do MRIs before making any decisions on surgery procedures.  The MRI showed quite a bit more than the mammogram had.  Huh?  Now what?  Change of plans.

Dr. Surgeon drew some diagrams for us so that we could try to visualize what he was going to tell us about.  We were getting into some technical stuff here.  So, basically you need to imagine the breast as a circle divided into four quadrants like a clock. The MRI showed the cancer to be mainly in the left upper-outer quadrant of the breast.  The results had words like “well visualized” and “rapidly enhancing”.  It measured quite a bit bigger than the size that the mammogram showed.  The MRI noted that the mass extended higher into the upper-outer quadrant and also lower into the lower-outer quadrant.  The mass was bridging the two quadrants.  Holy crap!

Below this dominant mass there was a second pattern that was very suggestive of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).  DCIS is when the cancer cells are confined to the ducts in the breast.  They have not yet spread to other tissue in the breast or other parts of the body such as the lymph nodes.  I mentioned this on an earlier post in the description of the biopsy results as intraductal carcinoma.  It’s the same thing.  “In situ” means “in the original place” so in other words it means that the cancer was not outside the ducts.  That was a good thing.  There were also a couple of lymph nodes that looked a bit bigger than normal.  Not good.

Gore Bay Marina - Summer 2006
So the overall findings strongly suggested multicentric disease involving both the upper-outer and lower-outer quadrants of my left breast.  Multicentric means that there is more than one centre so with multicentric breast cancer there are two or more tumours in different quadrants of the breast.  It is also sometimes called multifocal.  Additionally, there were enlarged lymph nodes that could represent metastatic involvement.  This means the possibility of the spread of the cancer to other parts of the body.  I had now changed to a BI-RADS 6 category which simply means that I had a biopsy-proven malignancy of the breast and that appropriate action was to be taken.

My right breast was fine.  Well that was good news.

All of this medical stuff was really a lot for us to take in at one sitting.  Dr. Surgeon kept checking to make sure we were okay and understanding everything he was saying.  He didn’t want us to have an information overload and not get all that he was explaining.  I think at the time we kind of understood but we were also somewhat in a daze.  He told us how sorry he was that we were now going to have to take treatment and surgery in a different direction than originally planned. 

I was so glad that we had done the MRI.  Now we knew what we were dealing with.  If Dr. Surgeon had gone ahead with the lumpectomy then there would have been cancer left in the breast in the other quadrant.  That would mean it could have spread throughout my body and I would be sitting back in his office in a few months or years or maybe I would be dead.  Now we knew.  I was also very thankful that the right breast was fine.  At least it was confined to my left breast.  Well I hoped so anyway because that mention in the MRI report about metastatic involvement really scared the crap out of me.

I will forever be grateful to Dr. Surgeon for ordering the MRI as that decision most certainly saved my life.

A Change Will Do You Good - Cheryl Crowe


  1. Hey Tracy!
    I'm glad you had such an amazing Dr. taking care of you, too!

    I remember very well finding my second lump. Fortunately it was after we succeeded in having two children naturally. But it was such a shock. You really shouldn't have to be told twice! I can fully imagine the feelings you would have gone through with the initial diagnosis and then being told the second time that's it actually a bit more than we realised. At least, as you said, you found out before you'd undergone any treatments.

    Anyway, just wanted to say hi, again, and thank you for being so courageous in posting your story. I think it has had even more impact for me this week as I struggle to come to terms with the reality of Lance Armstrong and the lies and deceit that he had been part of over the past number of years. I used to look at him as a great example of courage and over coming this disease, but I don't think I can respect that other side of his character unfortunately.

    From now on, I think I'm gonna use you as my role model "cancer graduate" if you don't mind! :-)

    Lots of love,

    1. Hi Walter - Yes I sure am glad to have had such amazing doctors and healthcare workers. I was very lucky. It must have been quite a shock to find that second lump. You are so fortunate to have had your two beautiful children and I am very happy for you and your family.

      Thank you for reading my story and it means so much to me that it has made an impact on you. Then I have accomplished my goal. I agree that it must be a struggle for you and so many others trying to make sense of the Lance Armstrong debacle. I have been feeling like that as well. I guess the one role model that I always have in mind is Terry Fox. He was a true hero in my mind.

      Walter my friend and my co-cancer graduate I thank you for your kind words. Take care!

      Lots of love,

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Hey Lana - I can't see your comment so just saying hi:)


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