Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Listening for Footfalls

Having a Stage III cancer diagnosis, it is nearly impossible to not have moments (sometimes a daily moment) when the reality of this state of being crosses my mind. Typically, it is a fleeting acknowledgment generated by an "in your face" reminder (e.g., a la Susan B Komen!). Or, it is a mental-embracing when I find out that yet another person's life is being threatened with breast cancer.

But then, there are the other times...

The other times are when a persistent ache, symptom, discomfort, or anomaly continues for days or weeks. Then my thoughts turn to: what if? What if this is a symptom of the cancer having metastasized and that little tid-bit is/was undetected or misread on the PetScan? And then I think, PetScans are only snapshots of how you were doing, not how you ARE doing. And I think, my 6.2 cm tumor was most likely growing in my body for approximately 10 years (given the reported indolent nature of ILC) and no medical doctor picked it up. Indeed, my past screening mammogram readings mis-characterized the tumor as "fibrous tissue" - and this was with a palpable lump. It was only after my breast started become visible affected that a diagnostic mammogram was ordered. Sigh...but that's just boobie under the bridge. So, then I tell myself, I think way too much.

But then, again, I am reminded of the impreciseness of medical science...

Last week I got the results of (invasive) tests, conducted for the purpose of trying to define "persistent aches, symptoms, discomforts and anomalies." One of the tests matter-of-factly described the presence of a right ovary; and apparently that this right ovary is substantially larger than my left ovary. This would not be disturbing but for the fact that I HAD MY RIGHT OVARY REMOVED IN 1981! When I brought this minor inconsistency to the attention of my oncologist's office (yes, my third!) I was told: "they can only go by what the radiologist read." Oh...and by the way no, ovaries do not typically grow back!

Long story short, I went directly to the radiologist and requested that he re-read the films and do an addendum to his findings. This request was accompanied by a full history of my 1981 oophorectomy. I am pleased to say that the radiologist did so in less than 24 hours -- and directly sent me the addendum to his report. Finding?, it is not an ovary that is present, but rather, "undefined residual tissue." And, yes, this residual tissue does measure larger than the one intact ovary. Now this needs to be explained because back in 1998 I had the residual scar tissue from the 1981 oophorectomy laparoscopically removed.

What now? I dunno. I have faxed this new info to my specialists to wait for their response, if any.

And I sit here and think. Having a stage III cancer diagnosis, while not consuming (excuse the pun) my daily life still interjects an eerie component into my thinking. It's like my subconscious is ever vigilant in listening for silent, yet anticipated, footfalls.