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Diagnosis, psychosis and a little self-hypnosis

I found a small, pea-sized lump in my left breast at the start of 2011.  An ultrasound showed that the breast was fibrocystic - non-cancerous cysts, and nothing to worry about.  In June 2011 I became pregnant with our third child and asked my physician if the lump would affect breastfeeding, to which she replied, no.  She advised that the lump would grow with the pregnancy due to hormonal changes, so I was not surprised when it did just that.  Several weeks in to my third trimester however, the breast itself started to change shape and seemed to be getting smaller while my right breast, in anticipation of a newborn's arrival, was growing steadily.  It was right, and the other was wrong, so wrong!  After consciously ignoring this (la la la, I can't hear you!) for about a month, I finally requested a follow up ultrasound.  This time a solid mass was detected, so a biopsy was ordered.  I was 38 week pregnant at the time, and although we'd hoped to have it done before our baby's arrival, Imogen came one week early. 

The biopsy was done when she was just 8 days old.  I had to stop breastfeeding for 24 hours as the anaesthetic used for local freezing was contraindicated for breastfeeding - or so I was told.  There was much debate over this by the hospital staff, and I later confirmed that I could have in fact safely continued breastfeeding.  Thankfully, Imogen took the bottled breast milk (I had expressed in preparation for this) and returned to breastfeeding the next day without missing a beat.

I got the call from my family physician on March 21, 2012.  "Your biopsy results are in.  Please call us, or actually, just come by this afternoon or tomorrow morning and we'll squeeze you in".  I already knew what she was going to say.  Results showed a large, cancerous tumour in my left breast and cancerous cells in the lymph nodes.  My reaction (silent, and in slow motion) was "oh crap, not the lymph nodes". 

Next came a breast MRI.  As luck would have it, it had been scheduled for the evening of March 21, so off I went from the biopsy results straight to the MRI.  Again, breastfeeding was halted for 24 hrs and Imogen stepped up to the challenge and embraced the bottle.  The MRI machine was very futuristic and I felt overwhelmingly blessed to be in the presence of this magnificent diagnostic monstrosity, free of charge.  The technicians told me it would be loud, but wow, it was LOUD.  Although not normally claustrophobic, I did have to come up with some creative ways to pass the 40 minutes I was inside the pod.  The clangs, drones and beeps reminded me of late-90's Euro techno, so I naturally closed my eyes and imagined dancing in the discotheques of Portugal with my (then) blue-haired, eyebrow pierced husband.  Worked like a charm.

I was sent for further scans (bone and CT) to confirm whether or not the cancer had spread.  More breastfeeding interruption... Imogen was starting to sense a pattern.  The CT scan gave the "all clear" (yay!) on my chest and abdomen but the bone scan detected something (boo!) as bone scans tend to do, so I'm to have a spinal MRI to confirm whether or not it is simply an old, healed fracture.  As I now know what to expect with the MRI, I plan on getting decked out in my favourite clubbing clothes - a shame it's scheduled for Sunday afternoon, I imagine I may make the technicians feel a little under dressed.  Will keep you posted on those results once they are in.

The pathology and MRI reports indicate that my tumour is ER/PR positive and HER2-, a very good thing indeed as it should respond very well to treatment.  With the diagnostic phase mostly done, I am somewhat relieved and eager to enter the treatment phase.  Oh, and a little freaked, if I'm being honest.  I'll delve into that in my next instalment, which we'll call, Well isn't this a treat?

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