Part III: Taking Control

The surgery was successful. There was no cancer in the surrounding tissues or in the lymph nodes. I rest on Saturday and Sunday, then get up on Monday to go to work. I get up on Tuesday and Wednesday and go to work. On Thursday, I cannot get up. I am sick in every corner of my body. I call my boss, who tells me that she was about to tell me to stay home, but she knew I needed to come to that conclusion myself. I call the nurse who tells me in a firm, angry voice that I should not have been going to work, that I could cause all kinds of complications. The sharp tone of her words cuts through me like a knife and I struggle not to cry. She is just doing her job, but if I don’t work, I don’t get paid.

A week passes, an entire week in bed. I don’t have too much pain, and I am not as tired as I was the first week. I begin to resume normal activities. I go to the doctor for follow-up after surgery. I am surprised when another doctor- male and cute- enters the room. He is the resident that will be assisting my doctor today on her rounds.

No, no, no! Not again! I mean what is this? Did the powers that be have a conference and decide that this semester, since I would be having breast cancer treatment, all of the cute, male residents would be doing their rounds in the world of boobs? Where are all the female residents?

The resident has a look of confusion on his face. He looks at me, then looks at his chart. He comments that they don’t usually see patients as young as me. He seems to have difficulty looking me in the eye as he interviews me on my progress since the surgery. I watch in amusement as he talks to me. His eyes are glued to my chest until they flit away to look at some other part of the room before coming to rest on my breasts again. For now, at least, they are still covered. He finishes with his routine questions, then leaves to get the doctor. He returns a few minutes later, shadowing my doctor. As the doctor pulls back my gown, the resident eagerly looks at my incision and my breast but still does not look me in the eye.


Two guys have seen the goods, and I haven’t even gotten dinner or a movie. I have a feeling that my future holds a lot more of this. I am about ready to just take a picture of myself and paste it on a local billboard. Get it over with and out of the way.

It turns out cancer is not as cut and dried as I thought. The next step is to send the tumor to pathology so that they can map the genes in the tumor. This will take about two weeks. Based on which genes are switched on and which are switched off, the pathologist can determine my risk of recurrence. If it is very likely that the cancer will return, I will need chemotherapy. Meanwhile, I am being referred to a radiation oncologist and a general oncologist for more treatment. I am waiting to hear from them to set up appointments. I think of those who have money and can get everything done at once. They have answers right away. I have to wait. It does not seem fair that I have to deal with the cancer and the months of waiting too, but I have no other options.

While I wait, I decide to make some changes. I decide to limit myself to an average of two drinks per week since, according to the latest studies, women who drink more than that have a higher recurrence of breast cancer. Since my diet, weight, and level of exercise are all fine, I do research to try and see what other factors might have contributed to me getting cancer. I suspect that even though I cook at home, food processing may be a factor. I am now very skeptical of the hormones and antibiotics they feed cows, pigs, and chickens to make them produce more milk and meat in a shorter period of time.

I am trying to go organic as much as possible to limit my exposure to toxins. Of course, this is more expensive. But my health is worth it. You literally are what you eat. I have nothing to lose if I am wrong here. I am eating healthier. When I bring this up to my doctors, they all say the same thing: “I think that’s a very good idea. It’s a shame that people have to pay more money to eat healthy.” My doctor also tells me to drink more green tea. I tell her that I am already drinking it because I like it and it’s free at work.

To try to limit the expense of the food, I look for some alternatives. I join a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture). For $20 a week, a local, organic farm delivers to my door a half bushel of fresh produce from their fields. I buy fresh eggs at Hallmark! Ha ha! The owner of the Hallmark up the street has a local hobby farm with some chickens (one who is named Mabel). He brings in eggs from the farm every day to sell. You pay cash, since it isn’t part of Hallmark, and they are absolutely delicious. They remind me of the eggs we used to get from the chickens I raised as a kid- hard shells, rich, brightly colored yolks, flavorful.

I need to feel some control.

©2010 frayedges and


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