18 January 2009

Genes to Keep or Toss

Right now, such overwhelming gratitude: For the emails and phone calls. For the blog comments and kind gestures, words of encouragement and angry WTF rants. For the prayers, the Sanskrit healing chants, the “let’s get a coffee and go stare at the ocean” protocols. For the good food and episodic envelope or baggie with a chill pill or two. All of this has helped tremendously in this sadistic waiting room we find ourselves in.

The Verdict:
Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Grade 3. Probably the ugliest words I've ever heard strung together. I'm certainly not alone in that sentiment. IDC is the most common form of breast cancer, representing up to 85 percent of all BC diagnoses. Unfortunately, a grade 3 tumor is the most aggressive kind -- fast growing, likely to spread and recur. The good news is these high-grade tumors are supposedly very responsive to treatment. And we're digging deep to find some good news. Also, the one lymph node they biopsied came back negative. One negative node…we’ll take it!

Still, we need more good news.

...I want the tumor to be hormone receptor positive as it gives us another treatment option.
...I want to hear, with absolutely certainty, that the cancer hasn't spread. Praying for an early stage! Staging comes next, I think.

Immediate next steps...

The MRI:
The last time I had an MRI, I freaked out, got up on all fours and tried to back out of the machine. My acute claustrophobia, as evidenced in #2 of my "25 Things," will likely pose a problem this Tuesday when I have an MRI on lefty and the neighboring nodes. If they don’t have sedatives on hand, and you happen to be in the Mission Hill area Tuesday, you may see a crazy lady in a hospital johnny and bare feet hauling ass down Huntington Ave.

I want it right now. Today. But "they" (doc, surgeon, oncologist) have assured me that waiting up to a month won’t make much of a difference. Let’s hope so. I had my blood test for the BRAC1 or BRAC2 breast cancer gene on Friday and we (the "theys" and me) decided I should wait for the results of the test before undergoing surgery as it could change my mind on the extent of surgery, etc. This waiting is really the result of what the oncologist called my “impressive family history” of cancer. I've got to say, I found "impressive" a strange choice of adjective. I had visuals of my family members actually trying to excel at cancer; my aunts Flavia and Vinnie in a tete-a-tete, chain smoking and eating maximum-nitrate hot dogs to see who could grow the biggest tumor.


Aside: How surreal. One day you're in an agonizing deadlock over whether to keep or toss some pilly sweaters and smelly Uggs. The next, whether to keep or toss tangible body parts.


If there is one set of genes that I hope I inherited and can keep, it's my Nana Rie’s (for more reasons than the following, btw). She got BC at age 37. This was the 1940s when it was a death sentence. She died at age 81, in perfect health, after being hit by a car on her way home from her line dancing class. And I'm certain she'd still be here had that jackass not been driving so fast.

So, if we’re dealing in genes. Gimme some of what you got, Nana!


Roving Lemon said...

F$!@#&%g hell, KJ. We must be related after all; your family history sounds just like mine. (I've got Aunt Jeanne, 97 and still going like gangbusters, nearly 60 years after her BC treatment). I'm praying for the following:

1. Nana Rie's genes in abundance.
2. Hormone receptor positive.
3. Stage 1. Barely classifiable as Stage 1, in fact.
4. Horse tranquilizers on hand for the MRI session.

And, let's not forget:

5. Non-a$$hat insurance providers. 'Cause that's the last thing you need right now.


noternie said...

I am sad. I don't know you in real life, but I thoroughly enjoy your blog.

I hope you turn around and kick cancer's ass. From your writing, I think you have the spirit to go through this without losing yourself. Let's hope your body and modern medicine do their part.

katie o. said...

Ok, since you said it first, now I can say it... WTF?!!!

I seriously want to puke after hearing this!

...had to get that out. Phew. Now I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and help you kick some ass, or kick some boobs, or whatever.

Ready to rock and roll when you are, just call!!!

Anonymous said...

I wish I had some words that would help you during this challenging time. Although we do not really know each other, we have many things in common and I have very much enjoyed reading your perspective on life and your many adventures. You have a wonderful sense of humor and a great love for your family and your close-knit group of friends(who also clearly adore you in return).

I, too, recently had a BC situation that involved an MRI and some other things --and, due to my own claustrophobia, took many, many, many sedatives to get through it -- I would HIGHLY recommend the drugs!! Beg, borrow or steal them...whatever it takes -get the drugs :)

You and your family are in my thoughts. I know that your sense of humor, your wonderful take on the world, and your loving friends and family will help you to endure during this difficult time.

Anonymous said...

As a huge fan of your blog, who hasn't been on in a while, I was shocked to read this terrible news. I too wish I could say or do something to make this all go away. I will be thinking of you and sending all my prayers and hope your way. You can fight this, you can beat this and you will, I know you will! Stay strong - Pam, South Carolina

Paula said...


let me just say that I know from experience you have inherited the best of Nana Rie...I have been thinking of you all weekend and of Nana Rie Rie too.. among others...

Remember...not only did Nana Rie have bc, but a doubler and lived to love and laugh at life for another 44 years... and you're right...she woulda kept on laughing save that jackass...

Love you girlfriend... keep on trucking... and let us know if you need anything!!!!!!!


Anonymous said...

katie, jojo here, you are in my heart and prayers. keep on trucking. remember, you are nana rie's granddaughter.

KJ said...

We will keep on trucking, Pooks. Now, jojo!!!!! What is going on with you!?? Seriously WTF. I hate 2009. It needs to be stopped.

Bob said...

Sprinkled in amidst the tragedy that I see everyday, there are pockets of triumph of the human spirit over any evil crap life can throw at you.

But the only ones who achieve this triumph are those who TRULY believe that they are stronger than the forces that would destroy them.

It's clear to me that you are one of them.

You've got scads of brilliant people surrounding you who will help guide you through this.

I honestly am at your beck and call for anything that you may need.


P.S. I'm gonna help pull JoJo through her shit too.

Anonymous said...


I've been reading and enjoying your blog for some time now...and was surprised to read your latest. I wish I could take away what you are going through now if I could...my heart goes out to you and your family. Be strong and stay positive. You are in my thoughts and prayers...wishing for more good news for you next week.

-Vanessa Lew

Jill said...

Just want you to know that Geff & I have been thinking and praying for you....you just keep a positive attitude and let everyone around you help....you will beat this with flying colors.