Good news

About a week ago, I had a breast MRI. It was recommended by my radiation oncologist who in January felt some dense, lumpy tissue in my right breast. As this doctor was feeling my breast during the exam, she said, “Does this hurt?” I said, “Yes” because it felt very tender and sore. She was not really worried and told me that it is normal to have some lumpy tissue and that soreness is usually a result of hormones. Since my left breast has received radiation, she said I will not feel much sensation on this side — the tissue has all been zapped and fried and is now numb to hormonal influences. But the right side is still affected and this is perhaps why she felt lumpiness and I felt discomfort. But (there is always a “but”), there is the chance that this was not normal so to be cautious, she referred me for an MRI. I’m on the every-six-month rotation for mammograms but had not yet had a MRI which offers a different look at the breast and can perhaps pick up something left unnoticed by mammogram.

So I had the MRI. The experience was fine — despite the IV contrast that was injected into my arm, the tight tube I was plunged into, and the loud, banging noises that made it all but impossible to hear the music that was piped into the headsets I was wearing. The whole process took about 30 minutes and was pretty uneventful — so much so that I forgot that I could call for the results in one week’s time. Yesterday was the one week mark. My mom called to ask me if I’d received the results. No, I had not. The MRI was off my radar. No worries. No concerns. No memory really that I’d had it done. I figure this a good thing. I could have been anxious and worried and on pins and needles for the week. Instead, I was oblivious. I’m not sure if this is a result of better coping on my part or if chemo drugs have affected my memory (this is called “chemo brain”). Regardless, I am thankful for the absence of thought on this topic.

I called my radiation oncologist for the results after my mom reminded me about the MRI. And I got a call back late in the afternoon — a message on my voice mail that told me “I cannot tell you the results on this message. But I can tell you that it’s good news.” Before I called back to get the specific results, I checked my mail and got a letter that read:

“We are pleased to inform you that your MRI examination did not show any problems at this time. Please remember that some cancers (about 10%) cannot be found on mammography alone. Early detection requires a combination of monthly breast self-examination and a yearly breast exam by your physician.”

Another “but” — everything looks good, “but” there still could be cancer. I’m OK with this. I think that if cancer returns to my breast, it will be caught early with the combination of monitoring I will receive for the next five years. And while I am not sure how I would handle cancer somewhere else in my body, I think I can handle breast cancer again. I know the process, I know what to expect, and I even know what I might do differently (like rest more and keep up my normal routine less).

For now, I will go with the 90% chance that everything really is OK. To me, that is good news.

Jacki Donaldson

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