An unutterably ugly word: malignancy

In my last blog, My body, my battleground, I wrote about finding a lump in my breast, and having a biopsy.  That was a month ago, though it seems more like an eon.

Not quite a week afterwards, my doctor’s secretary called. “The doctor would like to see you at five today,” she said. My heart plummeted into my lower stomach as I agreed. “That can’t be good,” I said, but she didn’t reply.

“The results were positive,” said my gynocologist. “You’ll need to speak with an oncologist.”

My mind froze, but my tummy kept churning. Positive? I thought. That’s not right. I don’t have cancer! “Do you know anyone?” I asked.

She did. Her husband was the head of Oncology at San Juan de Dios, the huge San Jose hospital run by the National Health Care (Caja). He also had a practice at CIMA, the private hospital in Escazu where the surgery would be performed. “I’ve asked him to come here tonight,” she continued. “Would you like to meet him?”

I would. He said I had a small, invasive tumor, perhaps stage one. I’d need radiation and possibly, chemotherapy. Like anyone who knows how those therapies work, I realized that my body would be under attack, along with the cancer cells. From somewhere deep within, a scream arose. Protect me, it pled.

The doctor picked up his phone and scheduled the surgery for a week later. We began making daily hours-long trips to CIMA and elsewhere for pre-operative tests. One would attempt to seek out cancer cells hiding in my organs. Another, scheduled on the morning of my surgery, would give my doctor a guide to the location of the tumor, and pinpoint the lymph nodes to be extracted.

I willed myself elsewhere, refused to feel the terror, grief, or acknowledge the sense that my body had somehow betrayed me. I watched a non-stop river of movies, all in the feel-good category, but my emotions would not be denied. They all leaked out as I tried, unsuccessfully, to sleep.

He said he could arrange radiation and chemotherapy at San Juan de Dios. “Radiation is very expensive,” he said. Since I’m on the national health plan, it would be free. But I don’t want radiation, I thought.

I’m no stranger to cancer. I count my mother, grandmother, and several of mom’s siblings among its casualties. I’ve tried to educate myself, though I never believed I’d succumb, since I nursed my daughter for two and a half years; exercised, beginning in my early twenties; and ate nutritiously.

The surgery was successful, I’m delighted to report. Neither lymph nodes nor the cells at the margins harbored malignancies. The tumor was 100% positive for estrogen, and 0% positive for testosterone. According to my doctor, that’s a good thing, if cancer can be considered good. He says I’m a candidate for Tamoxifen, also a good thing.

I’m not hiding from my emotions anymore. I’m focused on fortifying my immune system and keeping my life as stress-free as possible with daily meditation and mindfulness. I’m energized and optimistic that I’ll finish my embryo of a novel, and it will be the subject of bidding wars by publishing companies. Then I’ll be begged to write the screenplay, and I’ll say yes.

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About Myra

I'm retired in Costa Rica, having lived in Philly, State College, Salem Mass, and Kawagoe Japan. You might call me a career gypsy, but my last and best job was teaching English to some of the best and brightest kids in Philly. I'm new to blogging and websites, and will probably make all the mistakes there are, but now I'm sharing my writing. I moved to Costa Rica in June of 2009 with my husband Jack, my dog Buddha, and Jack's two cats, Hobbes and Noir.
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9 Responses to An unutterably ugly word: malignancy

  1. Marcy says:

    Myra, I just checked in on your blog. I am SO relieved and thankful that your surgery was successful. (I had checked in occasionally since your post about the lump, and finding no updates, I kept praying.) I am continuing to pray for your complete healing. I needed some good news today, and your successful surgery is good news indeed. So keep on Living with a capital L and keep on writing and you go girl! (Was that too girlie?)
    God’s blessings to you.

  2. elizabethlunden says:

    Myra,….Knowing what I know and our Past history of things popping up in our family I want you to reconsider taking the RADIATION TREATMENTS….Please take them…Please, I dont care if it is 10 or 35 treatments those little buggers have a way of saying ..Hello I am back….take the treatments love ya Betty ann

  3. elizabeth lunden says:

    Myra,knowing what I know and our past history…I want you to get the radiation treatments…I dont care if it is 10..or 35…do them… Please dont take any chances…those little buggers have a way of saying hello I am back… the treatments…PLEASE….love ya Bettyann

  4. Gary Presley says:

    I am happy to see you write about this, my friend. I think part of the negative energy generated by the “bad” can be expelled through words. That, and a positive attitude, which you also have.

    Your thought about our bodies turning upon us is something I’ve thought about for years. It is difficult to separate “self” from our perceptions of pain and pleasure, but I suppose it is good to try .

    All the best, Myra.


  5. myra says:

    Thanks, Cindy. I’m back, and happy to be so.

  6. Cindy Dwyer says:

    Myra, that news is as good as that news could have been! I’ve been thinking about you and glad to hear your spirits are improving. You’re doing all the right things.

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