Mortality ‘n Stuff: A Letter From the Front

If Cancer is a battle, this is my letter home, written in a fetid trench with bullets whizzing above my head and a tang of mustard gas mixed in the air with smoke and death.

trench WWI

Dear Loved Ones,

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Thinking some pretty heavy thoughts about the human experience. About life and death. Big picture philosophical stuff, sure, but also MY life and MY death.

Oh! I imagine you saying. Don’t do that! It’s important to stay positive! To think healing happy thoughts!

Fuck that. I have a right–I’d even argue I have an obligation–to ponder these things. And lest you think I’ve been turned morbid since being diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in March, I submit that I’ve always been this way. I was the kind of child that lay awake at night worried that if I fell asleep my heart would stop beating. That cried over the Earth’s fate to be eaten up by the expanding sun in a few billion years. That worried that I had no real agency…that myself, my family and everyone I knew were just dolls in a giant gorilla’s dollhouse.

Stopover in a Small Town

So. I’ve been thinking about death. And the way I want to spend the time I have. To be clear, I don’t think my death is imminent. I fully expect to be alive in five years. I will either be healthy and cancer-free, this nightmare behind me. Or the cancer will be back and I will be doing this shitty dance all over again. Maybe it’s the months of being worn down by chemo, but my gut tells me that this fucker is going to get me in the end. Maybe it’ll take ten years. If you belive that just thinking that thought is going to make it come to fruition, I will point to my long-held and quite firm belief that I would one day be Mrs. Bruce Springsteen and/or write the Great American Novel.

I may feel differently in a year or even a month! But today, I no longer feel confident in a long happy retirement cruising the country in an RV with Gunny. Or hosting Christmas dinner for a rowdy table full of grandchildren. On the upside, I also don’t foresee a lonely cat-food eating dotage.

So let’s say I don’t get the Golden Years. If I have a decade or so, what do I want that to look like? What becomes important?


The first thing on my list is family and friends. In making sure I nurture the most important relationships and let each person know how much I value them. I want to make a positive difference in each one’s life. Not for any kind of payoff…so they remember me kindly or whatever, but because love and friendship are the opposite of death.

The next one is doing important work. For me, that doesn’t include pushing video games on teenagers, or ghost-writing for executives, or parting anyone from their money. I’m not sure if it includes writing mystery novels. They’re important-ish to ME, but what do they add to the world? What I’m looking for is something that makes a positive impact on people. Even in small ways. I’ve been thinking a lot about the people who work in medicine. Who help people every single day–even if it’s just making an appointment or helping them navigate their insurance. Maybe I’ll end up writing books but volunteering at the hospital. My marketable skill is obviously writing, but I’m not sure if writing medical stuff would fill that need to make a difference with people. It feels more like I need human contact.

Define necessity

“Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” I first heard this poem by Wordsworth in tenth grade, in Mr. Saari’s Humanities class at Sammamish High School and it’s stuck with me. You wouldn’t know it to look at my stuffed-to-the-rafters apartment. In fact, just glancing at the books, gadgets, Funkos, LEGOs, t-shirts, shoes, DVDs and just….bullshit all around me you could definitely say I have laid waste my powers. And I’m done with it. I’m not sure what “job” will occupy me, but here’s what I’m not going to do: bust my ass hustling for more money so I can buy more shit. It’s empty. It’s meaningless. The idol of commercialism has feet of clay and I’m done playing the game.

Maybe it’s a sign of middle age, or maybe my subconscious knew I was ill before I found the lump in my breast, but in the last year I’ve been pondering the concept of the “Bucket List.” Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got places I’d like to see and things I’d like to do. But I’m not sure I see the point of checking things off. Do people think that when they die they submit their punch card and the more punches they have the better deal they get in the afterlife?

gamer at the pearly gatesFirst off, I don’t believe in an afterlife. I think this life is what we get and then you’re done. You’re just gone. If I’m wrong and there’s some sort of conscious existence and I am allowed to watch over my family and protect them…AWESOME. I will be a diligent and devoted guardian angel/ghost/whatever.

Satan-In-The-Lake-Of-FireIf I end up in a lake of eternal fire? Well I guess that alleged deity of love and forgiveness will have the last laugh. But, if death really is the end, what does it matter if I visited Angkor Wat or learned to play the violin, or rode the Orient Express? Beyond the temporary happiness those experiences would grant during my lifetime?

angkor_wat_stock_i_by_mysticbubblesz-d4vka6tThe meaning, I believe, is just that: moments of happiness. It’s not the punch in your card or the photos on Facebook or the future conversational coup, it’s the right now when you’re standing there in front of it and the mystery and majesty of an ancient temple complex washes over you and you’re awed simultaneously by human achievement and frailty. That’s an awesome feeling. But so is driving to the grocery store on a sunny summer day with the wind in your hair and your favorite song comes on the radio. Just for a moment your heart is full. And what’s important to me is to pause. Just stop for a second and go “Yes. This is good. I am happy right here right now.” Because happiness is a series of moments. It’s not a rung on a ladder or a stage you finally achieve when you have everything and everyone you desire.

What all of this boils down to I suppose is that I have decided that the meaning of MY life is being kind, doing good, and recognizing and acknowledging happiness. That’s it.

Also, I’m thinking about getting a dog.




10 Good Things About Having Breast Cancer

Well, I feel sort of like an asshole for my last couple of posts. I absolutely do want to give you the straight dope, but I don’t want to freak people out who are just starting treatment, or worse, be any part of someone forgoing chemo.

So, herewith, ten things that are GOOD about having breast cancer.

1. I discovered that I have so many more people that care about me than I thought. So, so many. Legions. I remember saying six months or so ago that if I threw a party, I’m not sure anyone would show up. Now I know that’s not so. And that is a precious feeling. That is eye-wateringly profound. Up there with “To my big brother George, the richest man in town.”


2. This has been an unusually hot summer in the Pacific Northwest, and my bald head keeps me nice and cool. Ahhhhh.

3. I have been amazed at the kindness of strangers and their courage in just asking. From the checker at the grocery store who leaned forward and said, “I didn’t know you were ill,” to the waitress at my favorite restaurant who asked “Are you having some kind of treatment?” and the gymnastics mom who sidled up next to me and said, “It looks like you’re going through something.” It’s totally okay to ask. It’s obvious that I’m bald. And I really do appreciate the concern. It means a lot to me.

4. The generosity of friends and acquaintances. I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s still amazing and I’m so very grateful. I’ve received so many thoughtful gifts, it’s just stunning. And some are from people I would never expect. Like friends of friends, or folks I’ve never met in meatspace. It’s crazy. Just yesterday I got this in the mail. I mean, GOSH! Thank you, Ms Nonymous!


5. The Pink Palace of Breast Cancer. And yes, I am talking about the pink ribbons and the pink everything and the whole month of October. I too, got super annoyed with Susan G. Komen and the Planned Parenthood debacle. And I felt mild outrage about pink products being sold when only a tiny fraction of the profit went to breast cancer research. But you know what I’ve learned? That shit WORKED. The “awareness” and the research money and all that? It’s why I’m going to be just fine instead of dead before the age of 50. Breast cancer has probably the most sophisticated and targeted therapies of any cancer now. Women are living because of this. So sneer all you want at that grody hue of ribbon, but it got the job done.

6. Not having to shave! I’ve mentioned this one before too, but my gosh, a whole summer of not even having to give a thought to the state of my legs is super awesome. Shorts? Sundress? Sleeveless top? ALL DAY EVERY DAY!

7. The encouragement I’ve received about this blog. I love hearing praise from, well, anyone, honestly! But the comments from women who are going through the same thing right now just KILL me. In a good way. They’ve said that they don’t feel alone now and that this is exactly how they feel….damn. What more could a writer ask for?

8. Watching my kid turn this into a laugh. “Show them your bald head, Mommy!” “That’s not her real hair. She’s bald from the chemo! Hahaha!” Well, how can you feel like a tragic figure when your six year old is busting your chops in public?!

9. The good days are SO good. When I feel energetic, or hungry, or nothing hurts? That’s some good shit. And I have learned to savor every single one. Will it last when Turdy is left in the dust behind me? I hope so.

10. The sisterhood of survivors. I can’t even tally up the network of ladies who have offered their phone numbers to chat anytime. Who have been through it and have served up real talk. Who donate books to every new BC patient at my surgeon’s office. Who tell me stories about their sister or their mom and just get it. Women can be nasty to each other, certainly. Humans in general can and will be shitty at times. But man, if I have to be a member of a club, I couldn’t find one more supportive and life-affirming than the breast cancer sorority.

The Good, the Bad, and the Not-so-nice

The Good

Great news! I do not carry the breast cancer gene! Dr. Boobcutter called me himself to tell me. While it’s always good to not have a gene that’s trying to kill you, let me tell you why this is extra-awesome. It means my family can rest easy as well. My mother and aunts and daughters of course, but also my son and brother and any future grandchildren or nieces and nephews. The dudes, too? you ask. Yes. Men who carry BRCA1 or BRCA2 are more likely to get prostate cancer, and can pass the bad gene to their offspring. You can read more about the gene here.

Let’s pause a moment to celebrate this turn of events.

happy dog

The Bad

I had a whole day to share the good BRCA news with my family. And then the next day I notice that I have a new message in the online charting system for the hospital. It’s a message from my oncologist Dr. Cappucino and it says that my cancer is HER2 positive. The thing we did not want.

NOTE: I’ve noticed that in this odd side trip in my life that as much as I try to fake myself out and prepare for bad stuff, I’m not very good at it. I told myself (for what–three weeks now?) that the HER2 would probably come up positive. But I guess I didn’t really believe it, and it hit me pretty hard. This was my low point–worse than when Dr. Movie Star told me it was cancer.

Dr. Cappucino’s note went on to say stuff about chemotherapy and stuff. But first, a reminder on what the hell HER2 is.

HER 2 comparison

Does anyone else find it funny that the breast cancer cell totally looks like a boob? The tweet length dealio with this antibody is “HER2 makes cancer grow like a motherfucker. Kill it with chemo.” If you’re a science nerd like I am, read this article about how the National Cancer Institute identified the role the antibody plays and how to stop it. This treatment is cutting edge–one of the drugs was only approved in 2014. This is iPhone 7 shit.

Anyway, Cappucino is recommending Herceptin and Perjeta as part of my chemotherapy. (Don’t read the side effects, Christa, don’t you… ACK! My heart!) He also mentioned that there’s a clinical trial at my hospital that might be a good option for me. He said to give him a call if I have any questions.

I haven’t called him. I haven’t seen a doctor in two weeks. I’m still waiting to make the breast MRI appointment because I still haven’t gotten my period. Which is several days late. I know I’m not knocked up, so either I am more stressed than I have ever been before (a distinct possibility) or my body has declared “fuck you” and has thrown itself into sudden menopause. It’s REALLY starting to piss me off.

angy turdy tumorBeyond waiting, the thing that’s irritating me is the possibility of getting chemo/hormone therapy before surgery. It’s not uncommon, it seems to be very effective, and yet I feel like I don’t want to do it that way. For one thing, Turdy is fucking annoying me. He’s shape-shifting inside my tit, and as he is both HER2 positive AND according to his Ki-67 levels 50% of his shitty little self is in mitosis, he’s probably GROWING. You can almost see him from the outside now, in profile. He’s lumpier than before. He might be flipping me off. I want him OUT. I am starting to feel empathy for the crew of the Nostromo.

The Not-So-Nice

A friend asked me this weekend, how did I get this? Was it maybe the 30 years of drinking Diet Coke? Someone else sent me an email about how refined sugar causes cancer in rats. Did I eat too many sweets and give myself cancer? Well, I don’t know. No one knows. Do people need to make this my fault in order to feel safe themselves? Is chaos so frightening that blame must be placed on me? I also smoked cigarettes sporadically between kids. I know that’ll help give you lung cancer, but does it have a link to breast cancer? As far as what I did to summon breast cancer (according to the risk factors) I know I did some things right:

Had my first child before age 30
Breastfed my babies (2 of them for over a year)
Didn’t take oral contraceptives (they make me crazy)

Does all that outweigh the things I did wrong? Obviously not. But hey, is it necessary to know why I got cancer? Must we assign blame? Mightn’t it be like an unlucky roll of the dice or being struck by lightening? Do I need to be judged for this illness, or can we just move forward and fight this fucker?

Telling a young child about cancer

What should we tell our five-year-old daughter about my cancer? What is the right thing to say so that she will understand but not be terrified or confused? How much can her Kindergarten brain handle?

My husband and I spent a lot of time in the days since my diagnosis thinking about these questions. And there are plenty of resources that exist for just such a dilemma. The National Cancer Institute has a great page on talking to kids about cancer. But me, I tend to put stock in personal experience. So I asked around in the discussion boards at There were some women that said Allison is too young to be told anything, which pretty much no one agreed with. It was so refreshing for me that none of the differences of opinion led to threats of rape and death. I think I’ve been tainted by gaming forums forever.


I feared two things: That Allison would completely freak out and never have another happy carefree moment in her life and/or that I would at last break down and cry about this cancer shit, causing a domino effect in which everyone in the family was weeping and rending garments.

The plan, as of Wednesday was to keep gathering intell and formulate a plan of communication. So basically the plan was to make plans at a future date. It was like being back at Microsoft.

Now, my daughter is on the melodramatic side and always has been. Combine that hard-wired tendency with the knowledge of mortality that arrives around age four and the burst of super-emo in kids around six when the desire to be independent struggles with the urge to still be a baby. Let’s just say Kid 3 and I have already had several tearful conversations about how someday Mommy is going to die. And every time I wanted to promise her I will never die but of course what kind of shitty parent does that?

So, this all had powder keg potential. I knew it had to be done, but maybe I could wait until I was going in for surgery? Or maybe even hold off and tell her if/when I lose my hair? These were the desperate musings of a professional procrastinator.

Wednesday after school she came home wearing different clothes. She’d had an accident. This is a kid that never has accidents. Like maybe once or twice when she was three, and nothing since. My mom instincts told me that it was time. She’d heard us talking, she knew something was going on and no one was being straight with her. We were treating her like she wasn’t even part of the family. It was time. I didn’t even discuss it with my husband.

I pulled Allison onto my lap and said, “I want to tell you something.”

I see Gunny’s eyes widen.

“Mommy has a yucky thing in my boob. Right here. And a doctor is going to get it out and make me better. Okay?”


The yucky thing has a name. Its name is cancer.

“I heard that word before.”

“It’s not like a germ, so you can’t catch it like a cold, okay? You’re not going to get it and Daddy’s not going to get it. The doctor will fix me and I’ll be fine, okay?”

She started to cry. “I’m worried!”

I don’t know what I said. Mommy-murmurs of “It’s okay, I’ve got you” probably. We dried her tears and had some cookies. Because the ladies at had advised it, I sent her Kindergarten teacher this email:

“Dear Mrs. Kindergarten,

I just wanted to let you know about something going on in our family that might effect Allison’s behavior at school. Last week I was diagnosed with breast cancer (it’s early: stage IIA) and yesterday we told her that I have a “yucky thing” in my boob and its name is cancer and that the doctor is going to get it out. And that she can’t catch it.

So, we wanted you to be aware in case she starts talking about cancer or boobs or acting out in some way.

Thanks for understanding. You’re very important to Allison.”

The next day Allie brought home a picture she’d drawn for me. I got an email from her teacher saying that Allison had come back from lunch upset and they talked about what was going on at home. Mrs Kindergarten told Allie that her own grandma had the same kind of owie and the doctors made her better. Then she gave Allie some extra time to draw a “love note” for me.

Allison drawing

For the next couple of days Allison was extra clingy and required many many cuddles. We had a sleepover one night in her bed and watched Barbie Princess Power. She cried a little and threw herself on top of me wailing “I’m worried about that boob thing!” On Friday before her dad walked her to the bus stop she asked me if I’d be here when she got home. She thought maybe it was the day the doctor was going to cut the yucky thing out. I assured her that I will let her know when that happens.

As for the picture she drew me, I keep it in a Spider-Man folder with all my test results and insurance approvals that I carry to my various appointments. So she’s always with me. Because I love my life and my family desperately, but this little girl is why I’m needed on this planet.

Suddenly, cancer

Six days ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Dun dun dunnnnn.

How did this happen? Beats me. All I know was that I discovered a lump, waited a month to see if it went away, and then showed it to my primary care doctor. She sent me for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound.

*NOTE* I’m 46 years old and I’ve never had a mammogram. A few years ago—maybe even before I turned 40—a study came out saying that the benefits of regular mammograms before age 50 didn’t outweigh the extra costs, anxiety, and false positives. There are other schools of thought that disagree. Because this one helped me avoid the tit-press, it is the one I chose to believe. Me, to my doctor: “I thought I didn’t have to have them until I’m 50. Doctor: *eyeroll* (She’s cool, and I’m paraphrasing). The lady who actually operated the tit-press rolled her eyes the same way.

So, there was the lump on the mammogram, all nice and bright. It existed. An ultrasound revealed that it was solid. If it had been fluid-filled it would probably be a cyst and therefore no big deal. But although 80% of these solid boob blobs also turn out to be no big deal, you gotta stick a needle in them to be sure.

Me, to radiologist (who looks like a movie star, btw): “Can you stick a needle it in right now?”
Radiologist: Naw, I think we’ll set up an appointment.

So, because I’m a regular taker of ibuprofen and aspirin for headaches and whatever else hurts (but not my boob, which had no pain until I found the lump and then “felt” (I say, because I’m pretty sure it was psychological) like a spikey burr of potential death) which are blood thinners, I had to wait five days until the blood thinners GTFO’d.

*NOTE* Intra-parenthetical parentheses, Christa? Really? Shut up. I have cancer.

The biopsy was scheduled for Monday, March 9. I spent most of the days in between the two appointments lurking in the forums at and consulting Dr. Google. That, and playing iPhone games and watching TV. Nothing else got done. Nothing. The kid would have starved to death if my husband hadn’t been doing everything. At this point, my older daughter becomes suspicious. I’m waiting for phone calls and casually mentioning doctor’s appointments, two things she knows I hate. So, I admit (with the preamble “Don’t freak out…”), that I found a lump yadda yadda and we we’re checking it out and no big deal.

During the biopsy, there are times that I am just chilling in the room, lying on my side, staring down the blob on the ultrasound. I’m memorizing it. Because I’ve been told I will not have the results of this biopsy until Thursday. If I’d had my phone with me, I’d have captured it for future perusal, but all my stuff was in a locker in the dressing room thing. I looked deep into its tumory soul and I did not like what I saw there. It looked like a soft-serve turd, complete with a fuck-you swirl like Bob’s Big Boy hair. In the lines and shadows I thought I saw an evil little face. I drew it for my older daughter like this:

Dr. Movie Star came in, gave me a shot to numb up my boob and then stuck a little hollow needle in the tumor three times—each time withdrawing a tiny chunk with a ka-chunk sound like a stapler. They bandage me up and send me home where I convalesce on the sofa with more binge-viewing. My plan is to wait out the results this way: distracting myself with other people’s drama.

After a lazy day on the sofa, I’m awake until 3am, doing research on my phone next to my snoring husband. I Google stuff like “characteristics of benign tumors,” and “ultrasound differences between benign and malignant tumors” and I come up with some good stuff:

  • My tumor is rounded not spiky. (Cancer is spiky as fuck)
  • My tumor is wide, not tall. (Benign tumors grow with the grain of the breast, cancer goes wherever the fuck it wants)
  • My tumor has clear borders. (Cancerous growths often appear fuzzy or blurred at the edges—it doesn’t want to be contained)
  • My little soft-serve turd tumor is probably benign! Hooray!

The next morning, I tell my husband and older daughter of my medical research, and how I feel quite relieved. My daughter goes to her dad’s and I tell her I will text her when I hear back from the doctor on Thursday. “Don’t worry,” I tell her. “It’s going to be fine.”

Around five o’clock that evening I see a missed call. It’s a private number. I listen to the voicemail and it’s Dr. Movie Star. He wants me to call him. I’m heading for the privacy of the bedroom and searching frantically for something to write with so I can jot down the number and call him back. The phone rings again. Dr. Movie Star really wants to talk to me.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this…”

It’s cancer. Here are the notes I took during this call.
My husband comes into the room and I give him the thumbs-down.

Now, a week before this, I wouldn’t even have known to ask about hormone receptors or HER2 status, but now I know that the particulars of the cancerous fuckwad will tell me how aggressive it is and how we will fight it. But Dr. Movie Star reveals that the full pathology report hasn’t come back, just the headline “Yup, It’s Cancer.” He’s already called my primary care doc and the breast surgeons that he thinks are the best.

He apologizes again. “I really thought it would be benign,” he says and I say “I know, it was curvy instead of spiky!” He sounds genuinely bummed and surprised and I find myself saying “Don’t be sad. Thank goodness you decided to stick a needle in it.”
*Note* Comforting other people about my cancer diagnosis has already become a familiar thing.

I walk out to the living room with my piece of paper. I give my husband the details. I don’t cry. I have to tell my daughter and I don’t want to. She’s going to freak out. I don’t want to put this burden on her. I make jokes, downplay. This, too, will become a familiar flavor.
I send her a message and, hilariously, “ductal” auto-corrects to “ducktail.”

She’s only been gone a couple hours, but she comes back. “I want to be with you,” she says. Which, if you have teenagers you will know is a rare and marvelous thing. Like a unicorn. She comes home and sits next to me on the sofa, holding my hand.

*NOTE* Here is where I get clever. I know she’s interested in healthcare professions and she’s not…super motivated yet. I ask her to be my cancer buddy, my assistant, my amanuensis. She’ll go to appointments with me and be an extra set of ears. Take notes. Help me keep track of my stuff. This way she knows what’s going on first hand AND y’know if it stimulates her interest in the field, then bonus.

I call my dad. This is difficult. A year ago he had a quadruple heart bypass and still isn’t 100%. I tell him “Uhhhh I guess I have a little bit of breast cancer.” Talking to your father about your boob is weird. He agrees with me that I should wait until my mom gets home from Hawaii before I tell her. Because why ruin her vacation, right?

That night, lying in bed in the darkness I have an odd sense of relief. I’ve been afraid of getting cancer my whole life. I always suspected that this would happen, and it’s as if that other shoe has finally dropped. Part of me has been dreading this for so long that for ten or twelve hours I am almost at peace.

Wednesday I text my son (who is 23) an invitation to come over for dinner. I have to tell him, and I figure in person will be better. He doesn’t want to come over. I text that I need to tell him something. Should I just go ahead and do it in text? He replies “sure.” I am stymied. I don’t know how to begin. It was easier with my daughter because I’d laid the groundwork of what was going on.

I turn to my husband and daughter. “What do I say?”
My husband says, “Put ‘I have breast cancer.’”

Simple, right? But four words that change a person’s world. He’s my baby boy and I don’t want to cause him pain and worry. I type the words into my iPhone and I can feel the reality settling in. I. Have. Cancer.

Naw. Not possible. Someone’s going to call me and say there was a mix-up. My little soft-serve tumor-turd wouldn’t do me like that. He’s curvy and swirly! Someone mixed up the pathology reports. Everything will be put right tomorrow at the consultation with the breast surgeon. He’ll come in with a file chuckling and shaking his head, “Mrs. Charter, there’s been a mistake…”

My husband and daughter accompany me to the breast surgeon. He’s the first person to look me in the eye and talk about my cancer. He’s the second doctor to tell me that because I have big boobs I’m a good candidate for lumpectomy. (They take out the tumor and some stuff around the edges instead of removing the whole boob.)
We take a look at my pathology report. Turdy the tumor is estrogen positive. Okay, that means we can fight his ass with hormone therapy. If we cut off his supply of estrogen (through drugs or sometimes removing the ovaries) we may be able to starve him out.

The report on HERS2 antibody is inconclusive. They have to run another test. If it’s positive it means my cancer is more aggressive, BUT it will give us another weapon to fight him – antibodies. So, more waiting.

Ki-67. This, I hadn’t read anything about. Basically, it determines what percentage of the cells in your tumor are actively dividing (to make copies of themselves). It’s normally about 7 or 10 percent. A high rate would be over 20%. Turdy is at 50%. He’s growing like a motherfucker.

My surgeon, who is basically the hot-shit surgeon that other surgeons send their wives and daughters to, tells me that what we’re probably going to do with Turdy is throw everything we’ve got at him. I have found it useful to think of this in Star Wars terms.

death star

  1. Destroy the Death Star. That’s Turdy, and cutting him out of my boob. Lumpectomy.
  2. Go after the tie-fighters and any spacecraft that might have made a run for it. This is radiation.
  3. Scour the galaxy for any Imperial drones or outposts. This will be the chemo.

Another thing we’re waiting on is the genetic testing to find out if I’ve got the breast cancer gene. Because if I do, there’s a big chance that it will recur and that’s when we start talking about lopping off everything.

So. Status report. I have stage IIa breast cancer. Invasive ductal carcinoma in my right boob. The tumor is 2.6 cm. As of this moment there is no indication that it has spread anywhere else, and that is a good thing. If this cancer stays in my boob, it cannot kill me. If it gets out? If the Empire makes its way into my bones or lungs or brain? Then I freak out.

But for now, I am thinking of this as a problem that is fixable. If I lose a boob (or two) and my hair…well then, whatever. Better to be bald and flat-chested than six feet under, right? I have an appointment with the oncologist this week, and a breast MRI (to see if any of my lymph nodes light up under radioactive dye. And yeah, I already asked if I could get superpowers from this.), and then appointments with more people and more doctors. Basically, we’re assembling the cancer avengers and we’re going to knock this fucker out.
This is really long, sorry. Here are some questions you may have:

Why are you even blogging about this? It’s TMI.
Because writing is how I process things. I’ve blogged about every other damn thing, so why not this? Plus, as soon as I became aware that I needed a biopsy I searched for a breast cancer blog so I could learn something via human experience versus a bunch of numbers. If you’re creeped out, go ahead and unsubscribe. No hard feelings.
Is this a cancer blog now?
No. I am not my cancer and I have a million and one things I’m interested in besides this. My intent is to keep blogging about writing and stuff with some cancer sprinkled in as needed. (As needed by me. Your mileage may vary.) Honestly though, I’m not making promises because I don’t know how I’m going to feel.
You’ve scared me. What if I have breast cancer too?
Then finding it early is your best weapon. Get a baseline mammogram as soon as you turn 40. If your mom, sister, or aunts have had breast cancer (or you know you have the breast cancer gene) you need to start getting mammograms earlier. Like ten years before the age your relative was when diagnosed.
Are you going to die?
Yes. We all are. My intention is to live into my nineties like both of my grandmothers. If that isn’t in the cards than I will fight like hell to get as many years as I can. My youngest child is only 5 and still needs a lot of mothering.
What do you need? What can I do?
Um, nothing right now, thanks for asking. I don’t feel sick yet. If we know each other and you’ve been through this yourself, I’d love to hear from you. As a new pledge in this shitty sorority I could use a big sis.

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