Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
(#2 in a series)
My breast lump was about to be examined by a doctor for the first time, and I had some idea what to expect. I figured he would do a breast exam, tell me it’s probably nothing, and write an order for a mammogram. I wasn’t particularly worried.
Accompanied by my husband, Jim, we arrived at the doctor’s office and, surprisingly, waited only a few minutes before the nurse called my name. Jim wanted to be present and Dr. R didn’t have any objection, as long as I was comfortable.
I observed the doctor’s face as he performed the exam. I saw concern, yes, definitely concern. Intense concentration. An almost imperceptible side-to-side head shake. He didn’t say it was probably nothing. He said it was something that needed a closer look… he said it should not wait. Then he directed his nurse to get me scheduled for a diagnostic mammogram as quickly as possible.
When I inquired about a breast lump appearing so quickly and so large he said, yes, it does happen that way sometimes.
Breast Cancer Fact: Triple-Negative Breast Cancer is Fast-Growing
From George Sledge, M.D, on BreastCancer.org: “In general, triple-negative breast cancers are characterized by being highly proliferative: that is they are typically faster-growing breast cancers than are, say, estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers. This may explain both why they are potentially dangerous breast cancers, but also perhaps why they are more sensitive to chemotherapy drugs that affect dividing cancer cells, so that they are in general more sensitive to chemotherapy agents than are estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers in many cases.”
We left with a receipt that included the words “breast lump,” a phrase that sent a shiver down my spine. As far as individual health insurance goes, that’s not something you want to have on your record. It is a sad commentary that my train of thought was more about insurance than my health.
While I was focusing on health insurance fears, Jim was beginning to have a bad feeling of a different nature. His wife had a sizable breast lump and his internal alert system was going full throttle.
I’ve never been a “why me” kind of gal. Why not me? Hey, anything can happen, but I didn’t include breast cancer on my short list of things that might go wrong. There is no history of breast cancer in my family. For that matter, I am not aware of a single incidence of any type of cancer in my family.
I was about due for a mammogram, anyway. Looking through the medical information I had on hand, I found that my last mammogram was dated just 13 months earlier. That meant there would be a good comparison.
My lifestyle choices, while not perfect, have been very good. I still felt the odds were tipped in my favor, and imagined that in a few weeks I’d be griping about expensive medical tests and wasted time.
Years ago, as I slogged my way through the maze of multiple sclerosis diagnosis and treatment, I found the process painfully slow, frustrating, and stress-inducing. I came to realize that too much medical intervention was exacerbating the situation more than helping. Less, in that case, turned out to be more.
A breast lump is not something to be taken lightly, that much I knew. I would not hesitate to visit doctors and take the appropriate tests. In just a few days, the mammogram would give us our first important clues to this new mystery, along with some indication of what lies ahead.
Author’s Note: This is article is part of a series chronicling my first-hand patient perspective of life with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. Without being overly self-indulgent, I hope to convey the raw emotion that comes with such a diagnosis… and the process of living with and beyond it. Entries will appear in Care2 Causes and in Care2 Healthy & Green Living. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo
Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Series
#1: The Lump in my Breast: Meeting the Enemy
Access the up-to-date Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Series