When “positive” does not mean good

(second and final post originally posted on Big Girls Can Tri, July 22, 2012)

I’ve decided that the medical community needs to change their terminology.

When I got the call Thursday afternoon, “Both sites sampled came back positive for invasive ductal carcinoma,” the only real positive is that I have an answer.  Not necessarily the one I wanted, but the one I expected… and still better than endless waiting.
The radiologist actually corrected himself and said that the “in situ” (which means if it’s just in the duct, or it’s invasive and has spread to other breast tissue) had not yet been determined, they were still finishing the pathology, but I have a feeling that again, he was going off of what he’s seeing. He may not be able to diagnose cancer based on looking, but he’s seen thousands of lumps, and knows what cancer looks like.
So really, at this point that’s all I know.
I will schedule an MRI at some point in the coming days, since I go to Portland for work and then the Oregon Coast for a mini vacation with my boys starting next Thursday. I have an appointment with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance’s Breast Cancer clinic on Tuesday, 7/31 when I will have a 60 min upper body exam (not sure how that takes 60 min… do they use a microscope?) and then I meet my Medical Oncologist, Radiation Oncologist and Surgical Oncologist.  At that point we’ll know next steps, and how we’ll treat it.
The flip side of positive is where I’ve decided to live.  Of course I’m scared. As I said several years ago, still my favorite Gray’s Anatomy line of all time, “Well, we’re all scared! I mean, if you’re not scared you’re not paying attention!”
But I refuse to live my life in a scared place.  I’m going to kick this thing’s ass. If my mom can beat the less-commonly survived colon cancer at 59, I have NO EXCUSE not to beat breast cancer at 38.  I’m young (in cancer terms J), other than weight and my heart thing, I’m healthy… and I have a LOT to live for. I have amazing friends, family & co-workers who will all be cheering me on.
I plan to be a 50 year breast cancer survivor, with an option to reassess at year 45.  I figure by 83 I’ll have a better idea if I want to live past 88.  But for now, that seems like a solid goal, 88 years old.
So I’ve been working through my friends, and creating a comms plan, because in case I haven’t mentioned it before, my favorite favorite thing to do in PR is crisis communications.  I’ve been working through people who see me on a regular basis, mainly colleagues who this will tangentially effect. I’ll hit a few more of those people as well as those who I feel need to hear from me personally vs. through the grape vine in the next week, and then will start to go more broadly once I know more on the 31st.
I’m even putting together a reactive QA, that covers many of the questions in my own head, as well as the responses to the awkward conversations I’ve now had over and over…
Me: Found a lump, blah, blah, blah, I have breast cancer.
Them: Oh, no! I’m so sorry.
Me: Thanks, me too.
Them: What can I do?  (See, the problem with being a proactive person like me, is you tend to collect those kinds of friends… who all need to DO something)
Me: Honestly, there is really nothing TO do right now.  I guess try not to smack me too hard upside the head when I seem distracted? Or be there for my mom & boys.  Hubby and mom are at the top of the freaking out list.  I think I’m actually at the bottom.  There is no choice here. I’m planning to kick its ass. I’m going to ninja the breast cancer right out of my breast.
But on the up side, I’d always planned to get breast reduction surgery… this way insurance CAN’T turn me down, right?
For the moment I’m sticking with the eating part at least of my 20/20 program.  I feel like I was JUST taking control of my body, and now it’s being taken away… but I can control what I put in my mouth. So that’s something.
On July 8, when I’d found the lump, but hadn’t yet talked to doctors, I did a workout that involves me walking up and down a REALLY steep hill by my house. It’s on a semi-secluded road, and I composed a little bit of a blog while I was trudging up and dancing down the hill, but with my mind centered on my boob, I didn’t bother to ever write it.
The gist is that the “Jimmy Eat World,” song, “The Middle,” came on, and felt like a perfect analogy for the being in the middle of changing my body, but since my diagnosis the chorus keeps running through my head, and has become a small addition to what I sing when my son needs a little extra help getting to sleep:
It just takes some time,
Little girl you’re in the middle of the ride,
Everything, everything will be just fine,
Everything, everything will be all right, all right.
Because that, my friends, is the plan. Everything will be all right.  I absolutely refuse to believe anything else.

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