My Square Boob

​My breast is a little squarish looking. Sorta lopsided, but not noticeable in a bra and not so bad you’d be ashamed to show it to an understanding partner.

It’s still darker than the other and still hurts even one year later. The surgeon says it’s not the surgery, but the changes happening inside the breast because of the radiation.


Time for another xanax refill.


Mondor, No It’s Not A Lizard

​I developed something called mondor syndrome. Nobody but my surgeon had ever heard of it. Basically, you develop a big varicose vein under the breast. It feels like a cord. It develops as the result of breast traumas, like surgery. It didn’t hurt, but was unpleasant to touch. My doctor told me to take an aspirin a day. Eventually it resolved or became small enough so I don’t notice it when I shower.


Negotiated a shortened series of radiation treatment down to 6 weeks. It’s really scary, but only lasts a few minutes. 

First they set you up by photographing your breast. Then they tattoo it where the cancer was, but you can’t see it. Then they stick you in the machine to get exact positioning. They make a plaster cast of your torso. That’ll come in later.

The treatment is loud. Or at least that’s how I remember it. Loud clicking noises. I watch the graph on the wall. You hold perfectly still. Your arms are up and over your head and you hold on to a pole.  

You can’t miss a day. I came down with the flu and out of concern for chemo patients, I asked to be given a masked and washed my hands like crazy. They didn’t want me to touch the sign-in pens.
They have bowls of greasy stuff in sample tubes to put on your breasts. Trust me, you’re going to need it. I also bought a bunch of other more creamy stuff. Slather it on. Your breast is going to fry. It’ll look like you tanned, but you can blister. I started to blister and crack in the crease under the breast just as it was ending. Two more weeks and it would have been really painful. I was given silver sulfate cream to help heal.

Be prepared to be tired. It’s a weird kind of tired. I can’t explained it. I felt tingling and my mouth single and tasted like steel. My tongue felt fizzy, like I was dipping it in soda or seltzer water.

Group Meeting

My  first group meeting.  Lovely ladies.  I almost feel like a fraud.  My cancer is “only” a Stage 0, albeit a Grade 2.  Everyone is nice, though.  Noone compares notes (mine is worse than yours).  Everyone is supportive.

One woman frets that she’s always eaten healthy and exercised.  Another that her son is not there for her.  Another that’s she’s alone.

No, I shouldn’t use the word “fret”.  They don’t fret.  They….  I don’t know the word to use.  They don’t complain.  They don’t just recite the facts of their case.   They simply tell their stories.  There’s no self-pity.  No why me. No sorrow really.  Not even fear that I can detect.  They tell their stories with humor, goodwill toward others, welcoming.

Cancer is simply a part of who they are, but not all they are.

Time for Some Medication

While I believe in mind over matter the power of self-talk, sucking it up, putting on one’s big girl panties, dealing with it, turning that page and all that big tough love stuff, the cheese is definitely slipping off my cracker.

Big mistake, reading a New York Times article on today, well, basically, the bottom-line is nobody knows what they are talking about.  Nothing but contradictions out there.  One study says this and another says that.  Wading through all of it, here’s the takeaway – they’re buying you time.

That’s it.  They’re buying you time.

Time measured not in decades but in five year increments (if you’re lucky) or if you’re not so lucky in months, weeks, even days (my brother was given three months – he made it to four).

So as the cheese was definitely slipping,  I gave in.  I called my doctor and asked for some Xanax.   First, the doctor decided he would give me a few.  As I blubbered on, it he upped it and finally decided on giving me thirty.

My eye is twitching.  I haven’t had a twitchy eye since 1978 when I left my husband and moved way across the country to start life anew with an eight year old in tow and a salary of $9,000 a year.


More Surgery!


Arrrgh, apparently the Margin Probe (a device that is supposed to help the surgeon determine your margins are clear (no cancer is left behind around the incised tissue).

Too close for comfort, my surgeon says.  He usually the analogy of barn doors and horses.  So back I go in again August 21.  The swiftness with which I’m being reschedule scares me a little.

I think the cheese is starting to slip off my cracker.



I go for surgery soon (August 7).  I picked my surgeon because he is one of only two that uses a device called a MarginProbe, which is supposed to assist with identifying clear margins when lumpectomy is performed.  Yep, I’m going with a lumpectomy.  Everything I’ve read so far seems to make sense that a lumpectomy is the way to go.  My DCIS is not wide-spread, but localized and I believe I’m a good candidate to get everything out.

The surgeon mentioned radiation and taking tamoxifen for the next five years.  Really, not looking forward to that.  I’m okay so far.  I’ve been assigned a nurse navigator.  So far, so good as far as emotions go.  However, I find that cancer, no matter the diagnosis or the stage is never easy.

DCIS is considered Stage 0 but has a grading system of low (1), medium (2), and high (3).  I’m a Stage 0 grade 2.  As my surgeon put it, we want to remove the DCIS rather than waiting to see if the horses are going to break out of the barn.  Given that I grew up with a grandpa that said things about barn doors and escaping farm animals, I’m okay with that analogy.

However, I’m nervous about the surgery and afraid that I’m not going to wake up or wake up some kind of vegetable on a breathing machine.  I feel like I need to clean up stuff I don’t want people to see or maybe download a will on the internet and draw up one right quick.

To read more about the MarginProbe, go here.

The First “Scare”

About twenty years ago I had my first mammogram. I just knew it would result in the dreaded callback. I have a reliable gut for these kinds of things.  I don’t think I quite grasped the full impact of the callback or of being told the reason was because calcification was present. I wasn’t clear on why calcification might mean cancer presence. Noone ever said “DCIS” (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ).

I was taken into a darken room where a very nice, kind, and concerned doctor spoke with me very gently. He showed me the white speckles on the scan. They were impossibly stark, but inwardly I shrugged. So? I thought. There was a nurse present. She looked so distressed, I reached over patted her hand and told her everything would be alright.

I went home and asked my husband what should I do if I have cancer and he said take off your breast. Of course.  I liked that. It was a concrete plan. A plan of action. A plan to solve a problem. I like problem solving. It sounded good to me. If I have breast cancer, I’ll get my breast removed. Voila, no more cancer, another life’s problem solved. Bip, bop, bam, my daughter’s done my mom would have said. After all I’ve solved problems, like changing my sister’s diaper at the age  4 and a half, all my life.  If there’s a poopy diaper, you change it, problem solved. Cancerous breast, you take it off and keep on trucking, problem solved. I even had a long range plan, forsake ever getting Lipo or a tummy tuck, I’m keeping my belly fat for my future new boob. New boob and a nice flat belly, problem solved.

We need to do a biopsy I was told. They placed a wire in my right breast and then a lumptecomy was performed.  No cancer was found.  I had one followup, only saw a nurse, you pulled my bandage off with two fingers, dropped the soiled bandage in the garbage can on the way out, and that was basicaly it.

Two years later I wondered what had happened. What were they looking for? Why hadn’t I fully understood? I’m an intelligent person. I do research. I asked my new doctor and she explained more fully, but, again, the term “DCIS” was still never mentioned. I still didn’t really understand, but I know I insisted on yearly mammograms, despite the controversy as to whether they do more harm than good. Is there too much radiation exposure or because medicine now finds abnormalities that would go unnoticed in the past. And because if that (and money), women are overly aggressively treated.

In 2011 there were more than 230,000 new cases of DCIS diagnosed. DCIS is Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. Ductal means the breasts’ milk ducts, carcinoma is cancer, in situ is Greek for in place or non invasive the cancer that is still contained within the walls of the ducts. DCIS is considered stage 0 cancer. It is graded 1, 2, or 3 (low, mid, high).