I’ve just been handed a malignant breast cancer diagnosis after a (very painful) mammogram.

It’s hard to describe how overwhelming such a diagnosis is. Shock, disbelief, dread, but also a feeling of inevitability, and much cursing of Murphy - the unfairness of it all. Tears, anger, having to stay positive for other people (and yourself).

Get odd symptoms checked

The odd symptom began less than two months ago. A small amount of milky-white fluid leaked from one nipple. It was the problematic one that has enjoyed turning itself inside out since I was a teen.

I can’t be pregnant (no uterus), and I’m far from menopause, so I trotted off to the gynaecologist, thinking it was something simple - inflammatory or an infection.

Breast cancer tests

He tested the prolactin levels - the pituitary gland can malfunction - and then went on holidays. I was so relieved when the results were good (no brain cancer!) Then he sent me to have a mammogram, just to be ‘safe’.

Unfortunately, the result wasn’t safe: One quadrant on the left clearly had lots of calcification in the ducts. The amount, the spread, and the clarity (also during an ultrasound) made the doctor say she is almost certain it’s malignant on that side. The right also shows calcification, but benign.

Ductal carcinoma in situ. Crap.

Too many causes

Lots of hefty hormonal treatments for crazy, heavy periods, loads of radioactive scans, Fukushima, susceptibility to cancer in my genes? There are so many potential causes.

Some of the other common symptoms of breast cancer, I’ve had since I was a teen – inverted nipple and breast pain. No lump, although you can feel that it is a bit more solid in the bad quadrant when you lightly compare both sides.

No waiting lists for cancer patients

My mammogram was the day after I got the referral, and I saw the gyn immediately after the test, and made an appointment with the hospital next week for the initial explanations, with a biopsy to follow. Completely unlike the 3+ month waiting periods for tests and appointments for endometriosis, or the 6+ for chronic pain and rheumatology, and 12+ for psych and lymph.

Cancer makes doctors move fast, and show a lot more compassion than with other illnesses.

Good prognosis

It’s in situ - only in the ducts. It hasn’t spread to the lymph system, and it’s one of the most widely researched, common types of cancer. It’s now more common to do a lumpectomy followed by radiation and tamoxifen, but a mastectomy may be needed because of the spread. They do reconstructive surgery as ‘standard’ now.

The next hurdle is the biopsy results - how active are the cancer cells (if there are any)? This will guide my treatment.

I’ve been tasked with increased physical activity (despite the pain), and meditation/yoga. I might run off into games a little more often to switch my poor overloaded brain off, and have at least some sense of control and achievement.

It has put a dent in both my work travel and overseas plans for this year. So I’m happy to have found a good online Japanese grocer (in the UK), and am taking advantage of the good pound-euro exchange rates. :-)

I’ll keep you posted, and I will get through this.