Biopsy Results Are Out (Part 2)

Wow, you know how it is when you’re going through a period of shock revelation (like breast cancer), every other day or half a day could be a new episode in your life? This is how soap opera writers must think:

9am-3pm Theresa feels a pain in her breast.

4pm  Theresa visits the doctor, who says there is something under the skin of the breast. But what is it?

Tune in tomorrow for the continuing adventures of The Young and The Breastless. (sorry… couldn’t resist… You can tell I’m delirious.)

So anyway, this afternoon Mr Threez and I head to Dr Hoe’s clinic at 4pm. Of course, we only had to wait 75 minutes, listening to the worst pap on loop. I mean, I don’t know where they found the CD from, maybe it was “Best ’90s Love Songs” or what. Check out the playlist:

Tiffany: “I Get Lost”

Expose: “Your Baby Never Looked Good In Blue”

Toni Braxton: “Unbreak My Heart”

And Westlife. And 98 Degrees. And New Kids On The Block.

Forceful hurling of chunks.

In a bid to assuage my pain I Tweeted my predicament only to have “friends” offer to buy me The Best Of Tommy Page and the Firehouse fans among them asking if I’m going to the concert.

Anyway, finally, after that US military-style torture (did you watch The Men Who Stared At Goats?) we are ushered into the chamber of doom, where my mammograms are clipped against the lightbox. I must say my breasts look bigger on film.

Dr Hoe shakes our hands hello (don’t ask me why, but he is the sweetest), and proceeded to tell me that yes, the biopsy shows that I do have cancer.

The tricky thing about biopsies is that, the doctor takes samples from what he hopes would be a representative area of the growth. But the cancer cells in one area could be a different stage from the cancer cells in another area, and if he missed taking a sample from that area, then you could actually have a stage 2 cancer in some parts but have proof only of stage 1 cancer from what the biopsy shows up.

Okay that’s in my laywoman English.

So what we could see was that the 6 samples of tissues showed the cancer seemed to be still pre-stage 1, or what they call DCIS – “ductal carcinoma in situ” ie cancer in your milk ducts only. This is known as non-invasive cancer.


But only when I have my surgery to remove the cancer will the pathologist be able to tell if the cancer is actually invasive or further along than we all thought.

We stand around my mammogram staring at the “mass”. There is a dark area about 3cm wide then there are many white dots in the X-ray, and these are micro-calcifications. They are indicative of very early cancer (from what I can understand).

So it’s obvious I will need to go for surgery to remove the dark area and all the white dots.

“We can do several things,” says Dr Hoe.

“We can do a wide excision, what they call a lumpectomy.” He can take out the mass plus 1-2 cm of breast tissue around that, to make sure he catches all the cancer. This method is the most ideal as it “saves the breast” and I don’t need to go for plastic surgery to reconstruct a boob.

“But looking at your film—” he pauses. I don’t like “but” and I don’t like the pause, “you see these white dots very near your nipple? If I cannot do a wide enough excision, it may not be safe. In that case, we would have to sacrifice your nipple. We will do a full mastectomy.”

Ugh. Those were the words I did NOT want to hear. I dread losing my nipple, I really do. I know it wasn’t my kids’ favourite when they were nursing but still, it’s a nice-looking enough nipple, and besides, God made it and it’s mine.

But okay, as they say “Lose a breast, save a life.” So I focus on the important stuff—staying alive and keeping my promise to Middle B that I will jaga her kids when she and her hubby wants to go for a holiday. Seeing that she is currently 9 years old, that means I have to stay alive for quite a while more.

So here was what will happen:

1. Dr Hoe would first attempt a lumpectomy. If it is successful, he would just close up the breast after, and let the tissue grow back. But with lumpectomies, it’s accompanied by radiation treatment. Also, if he cuts too closely to the nipple I might get this deflated breast which won’t be the best looking thing. Upside: I keep my nipple.

2. If he cannot save the nipple, he will do a mastectomy. He will remove the nipple, then make an incision next to the nipple and remove all the breast tissue, leaving a hollow in the breast with just the breast skin left. Then, the plastic surgeon will go in and do my reconstruction.

Now that I know my choices, next is making an appointment for a PET scan (this is a full body scan for any trace of cancer that might have already grown elsewhere), and then to meet up with the plastic surgeon to discuss how to get me a new tit.

Mr Threez and I leave the clinic elated by the Stage 0 biopsy results, and for me, the fact I didn’t have to hear Chynna Philips bleat one more second over the sound system is a big plus.

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