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The Other Shoe

Posted 4/15/2013

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  Oh, yes, that proverbial other shoe. We are all indeed poised to hear it drop. Or to feel the noose again around our necks or the sword hanging over our heads or the black cloud getting a little more dense. We know the feeling. I often suggest to women that, whether or not you were a hypochondriac or a worrier before cancer, it is pretty tough not to take on those traits after the diagnosis. After all, since our bodies have proven that they can make a cancer, it is hard to trust that it won't happen again. Since it has happened twice to me (three times if you want to count a relatively minor skin cancert), I surely expect an encore.

  This essay from the Huff Post by Amy Curran Baker nicely captures those feelings. In her case, the shoe has fallen, but there is not yet (or at least she does not write about it) the odd relief that may be felt after the fact. Do not misunderstand! No one wants a second round, but, sometimes when the feared event becomes reality, you can begin to focus and deal. No more wondering if and when may be a teeny relief (although surely it would be preferable to keep wondering rather than hear those words). Here is the start and a link:

When the Other Shoe Drops: Making Sense of Life When Cancer Returns

 Nearly five years ago, shortly after I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer, a friend of mine who had already gone through treatment for breast cancer told me bluntly: "Amy, once you've been diagnosed with cancer, you're always waiting for the other shoe to drop."

And she was right, because after cancer every little ache and pain prompts a flurry of tests and scans to rule out spread of the disease. I've always kept those words in the back of my mind. I wouldn't say I was fearful of the other shoe "dropping," but I did keep it with me... a constant companion, an ever-looming possibility.

The other shoe dropped a few months ago when I noticed a suspicious lump on the right side of my chest, near the site of my original breast cancer. My physician didn't seem to think it was much to worry about, probably just "scar tissue" leftover from my mastectomy 4+ years ago. But due diligence dictates that these things must be followed up on, so an ultrasound was ordered.

When the ultrasound left us with more questions than answers, we decided the lump had to go. The surgeon would take out the lump, we would get a read on what we were dealing with, and then we'd go from there. I wasn't worried.

But, as it turns out, it was cancer. Again. This time the tumor was bigger and enveloped in scar tissue, not breast tissue. It's personality was a little different too, the same in some ways but different in others, making it difficult to know if it was the same old cancer or a "new primary" cancer. Before I had even gathered all of my first opinions from the local team of doctors I work with, I hit the road for Boston, where I met with a multi-disciplinary team of breast cancer specialists at a well-known research hospital. I wanted to gather as much information as possible before my surgery. The team, made up of a medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, a surgeon, and a genetics expert, spent an afternoon reviewing my case. A week or so later they presented my particular situation to the "tumor board" to gain further insight into my latest predicament.


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