Friday, May 15, 2009

You're Gonna Jam a Big Needle Where?!?

Note: My apologies, I wrote this a couple days ago and haven't updated as well as I should. I found out last night about the biopsy results, and it confirmed that I definitely have cancer. I'm posting this as I'm on my way out the door to go see my doctor... I'll update more later.)

The internet is a wonderful thing -- but a scary thing as well. It is possible to have too much information. I’m finding this painfully true as I research more and more about what’s going on, what the next steps should be, and what lies ahead.

Things like “5 year mortality rates”

Apparently, my five year mortality rate (or chance that this is going to kill me) is high. Really, disturbingly, unbelievably high. But further research shows that it the mortality rate is based on one of the facts that I shared a few days ago. The fact that men - because we’re idiots and more prone to ignore our bodies and wait until the last, terminal moment to go to the doctor - tend to have a higher mortality rate than women with breast cancer.

Everything I'm hearing from the oncologist and the radiologists is that I caught this quickly.

So, I’ve been immersed in the internet and trying to get a handle on what I’m facing here.

According to my oncologist, until we determine what my biopsy finds out, it’s too soon to discuss treatment. She did say, however, that a radical mastectomy is almost a certainty. It’s the after treatment that is dependent on the type, level of invasiveness, and potential for metastasis that the cancer has.

The choices I have after a mastectomy are chemo or radiation treatment. I’m a dude, so I don’t have to worry so much about hormone therapy… which is a result of chemo in women with breast cancer. Apparently it kills estrogen. That actually sounds like a plus to me… if there’s such a thing as a cancer “plus”.

And a mastectomy doesn’t matter to me. It’ll be some scarring and will look evil when I take my shirt off… but I’m not a woman and my sexual identity isn’t tied up in my boobs. It'll actually look downright Frankensteinian. It’s silly, but I’m actually concerned about the asymmetrical result of the surgery. I want to talk to my oncologist about doing a double mastectomy if only to even things out. It’s an affront to my mild OCD that I’ll be uneven… especially as I have always hated my moobs. Of course, I have a valid medical reason to have cosmetic liposuction now. If I can’t do a prophylactic mastectomy, I’ll definitely be eligible to have lipo on the other side to even things out. (Bonus points in that I’ve already reached my health insurance deductible and co-pay limits. wOOt!)

So I went on Friday of last week and had a biopsy done at the McDonald’s Women’s health center at Cleveland’s University Hospital. (The whole women’s health, and stupid pink ribbons thing, are never going to get old. Grrr….)

So I went into a small room where a doctor and two radiology techs did an ultrasound of the mass in my chest. They also checked my lymph nodes. There was good news there, they all looked fine. The lymph nodes, by the way, are where the cancer will spread to and they’ll carry it to the rest of my body. The lymph nodes are the subway to metastasis. So… no cancer in my lymph nodes means I may have caught this early enough to beat it.

So they took a large needle, injected it into the side of my right breast, and pulled out a chunk of the mass. It only hurt a little, and was fairly quick (less than five minutes when they got to it). The actual procedure is called an ultra-sound guided core needle biopsy. They found the mass with an ultrasound machine, made an incision, stuck the needle in, and pulled out several samples.

They then left a little stainless steel clip, about the size of a half a piece of rice, in the tumor where they took the sample from. They do this so that the oncologist who does my later surgery knows where the sample came from, and also to help determine if the mass is still growing.

I then got to do another stupid, fucking mammogram.

The admission that I’ve got this kind of cancer, and that I have to do mammograms, is killing me by the way. There’s no reason for me to feel like this, but my y-chromosome rebels at the thought that I’ve got to do these kinds of tests. And admitting it and being honest about it is taking every ounce of self-respect I may have. I hope you fuckers understand that!

So, now, it’s a waiting game. They said it will take 3-6 days to get the biopsy results back. The doctor said that University Hospital’s pathology lab is open all weekend, so I’m hoping to know by the middle of this week.

After that, things will move quickly. Whether it’s malignant or benign, the oncologist wants it out. So I either have a mastectomy or a lumpectomy sometime in the next few weeks or so.

In the meantime, the site of the biopsy is so bruised it looks black and I’m now leaking blood out of my nipple. I can’t wait for this shit to be over.

I hate waiting.


(My right breast... two days after the Core Needle Biopsy)