Y’all, I’m now officially a card-carrying member of the Cancer Club. (Sensitive info badly blurred out because, like, HIPAA. I dunno.)
Now I can play the cancer card whenever I want. Is that a ticket you’re writing me, officer? I don’t think it is. Oh, I can’t park in this space? Oh, but I think I can.
Okay, realistically, playing the cancer card – metaphorically or literally – probably won’t get me anywhere. Although it might make Gordie go easy on me for a game or two of Scrabble, which is the only chance I stand of ever beating him, except for the time I started recording all his scores in negatives and adding a bunch of zeroes to the end of all of mine so that in the end I was winning 430,000,000 to -361.
My new cancer card kind of sent me into emotional freefall this morning. Because I don’t feel or look sick, it’s easy to fool myself into thinking that all of this is like some kind of fake Truman Show experiment and some guy is gonna jump out of the bushes and yell “PUNK’D!!!” (I have cancer so I get to mix my pop-culture metaphors. BOOM! CANCER CARD!) But the more times I have to repeat my birthdate and age only to be met with, “Oh my gosh, you’re so young,” the more times I have to put a check next to the words “known breast cancer,” the more times doctors undress me and feel me up and make affirming sounds that they, too, can feel my lump, the realer and sadder it gets.
Today wasn’t all bad, however. I met with two surgeons and an oncologist to discuss the results of my MRI. I had to take two Ativan just to even begin to be calm enough to hear about the MRI, but fortunately, everything came back clear! There was no evidence of any malignancies other than the known tumor, meaning that my right breast is disease-free and I probably get to keep it. I always liked you better, Righty.
The MRI also showed the same enlarged lymph node that showed up on the ultrasound before all this got started. There’s a fair chance that that lymph node is enlarged because it’s harboring its own little colony of crappy, mutinous cancer cells, but it isn’t big enough to concern any of the doctors, and the rest of my nodes look clear. For now, the doctors have put me at a clinical stage I, but that could be amended after my surgery if any disease is found in the nodes at all. If it is, they’ll have to rip all those suckers right out.
The doctor wanted to run some additional tests on me, so I had to get my very first mammogram. I know most people complain about mammograms, and yes, it was wildly uncomfortable and weird to have my breasts squished between some plates and photographed, but compared to the biopsy it was a piece of cake. The best part was that I got nipple pasties. After it was over, I asked the nurse if I could keep them. What? I got some bachelorette parties coming up.
Because my cancer is triple positive – meaning it has HER2/neu receptors, estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors – there is a veritable armada of drugs available to attack this bitch. Most likely, it’ll go like this: Following my surgery, I’ll start a four-month chemo regimen using two traditional, lose-your-hair, barf-all-over-everything drugs and one new, awesome, super-special targeted drug called Herceptin. When the four months are up, I’ll continue on the Herceptin for a year while taking a pill called Tamoxifen to block my cancer’s estrogen receptors. I’ll take that for five years, and the end of the whole ordeal, every single cancer cell will hopefully be completely and totally dead and destroyed. We’re pretty much going to carpet-bomb my body with every drug we can find and all of the sad little cell-mutants are going to die horrible deaths, and I’m going to laugh and laugh. Cancer’s the worst. You deserve this, cancer. You brought this upon yourself!