The Diagnosis

January 13, 2016

A few days after Dr. Ho performed a needle-biopsy in his chambers, I received a call from a clerk saying an appointment had been set for me with a surgeon. My heart sank a bit, but I rallied, and on the 30th of November had my first meeting with Dr. Noel Sudhakar Victor. Dr. Victor is of slight stature, from India, is a wonderful person, and I am incredibly thankful that he was selected as my surgeon. He entered the room where Jerry and I waited and introduced himself.

“I’m Shirley Buxton. This is my husband, Jerry,” I responded. He extended his hand to both of us.

He seated himself before the computer screen, pulled up my records that included the films from my ultrasounds Dr. Ho had produced. I recognized the grey images, waving up and down and across the screen. I stared at what I believed was the depiction of that particular part that Dr. Ho had said offered resistance to his instrument. I was impatient, and finally said, “The biopsy, Dr. Victor. What did the biopsy show?”

Perhaps he was not deliberately delaying, although it seemed that way, for he continued to show something else on the screen. In a bit, though, he turned from the computer, picked up papers, and looked at me. “It does seem, Mrs. Buxton, that you have a form of breast cancer.”

And so I did. An infiltrating ductal carcinoma that had metastasized to my lymph nodes was the official name of the problem. Dr. Victor was the epitome of patience and kindness, explaining thoroughly the report. I was not a candidate for a lumpectomy because of numerous pre-cancerous spots throughout a large section of my breast.

From across the room, I smiled at Jerry. He face had paled and had taken on a grim look. I ached for him.

I was asked then to remove my clothing from the waist up and dress myself in one of those charming hospital-type gowns. At least it wasn’t a paper one; rather that bluish style adorned with strings here and there to tie up!

“I’ll be back in a minute,” Dr. Victor said before he left the room.

I tried to lighten up the situation when the doctor left the room, smiled at Jerry and tried to joke about the changes that might be affecting my anatomy.

After Dr. Victor examined me, he said I needed to have a modified radical mastectomy. Several of my lymph nodes should be removed and examined since the cancer had already spread to at least one of them.

“When?” I asked.

Another time when both the nurse and the doctor were out of the room, Jerry and I discussed whether we should wait until after Christmas for the surgery. We decided against waiting, and before we left the offices the date of December 17th had been set for my surgery.

I had not spoken of any of this to my children, not wanting to unduly alarm them should the tests prove negative. But the tests results were not what we wanted, so now was my time to call each of them. I had to tell them I had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

 

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