Friday, December 16, 2011


I (Karen) have breast cancer.

I will be just fine.

Here’s a little more info:

For those of you that do not know my family history, well, let’s just say it’s not pretty when it comes to cancer. All of the women on my mom’s side of the family have had breast cancer or ovarian cancer or both, usually at a rather young age.

Because of the family history, I’ve been having yearly mammograms since I was 26. Last year the mammogram showed a “dense area” on the left side. We did a biopsy and found that it was benign, just some fibrous tissue. To be extra sure, and to have a baseline, we did an MRI.

This year, we skipped the mammogram and went straight to the MRI. My family doctor called me with the results. There was a mass on the right side of about 7 mm that was “indicative of malignancy”. So, off to another needle biopsy.

We got the results of the biopsy on Tuesday, Dec. 6. It is cancerous. We met with the surgeon on Friday the 9th, and he went over the pathology report. It showed that – based on the needle biopsy – it hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes yet. Of course, we cannot know for sure based only on the needle biopsy, but that is good news. And as the surgeon said, that was about the only good news on that piece of paper. Some of the things they look for are three different receptors for various hormones. My cancer doesn’t have any of those, in other words it’s “triple negative”. That’s not very good news, since it cannot be treated with hormone therapy, and this type of cancer often is somewhat faster growing than others. In other words, it is a rather aggressive form of cancer.

On to meetings with a plastic surgeon for reconstruction, an oncologist, etc. To make a long story short, here is the plan: I’ll go in for surgery on Tuesday the 20. It will be a double mastectomy with placement of a port (we’ve jokingly dubbed it the USB port) that will make it easier to get chemo afterwards. They will also do a procedure where they trace the lymphnodes to the nearest one under my arm that could get infected. Based on this procedure, they will remove tissue under my arm if it is needed.

At the surgery, the plastic surgeon will put in what they call “expanders” under the chest muscle. These will then be expanded with saline over time to create more skin and muscle, so that there is a place for the permanent saline or silicone implants later down the road.

I’ll have four weeks to heal, then the chemo will begin. It will be six cycles with three weeks between each treatment, for a total of 18 weeks.

So, that’s the somewhat short version of a long story. We’ll post more details as we go along, and we’ll post updates after surgery etc. on this website, too. Since I expect to be “out of service” for the first few days Karsten will make a few update posts for a change.
So in all this tumultuous time we find that we’re doing okay. We can handle this.

We’ve had a huge outpouring of support, and for that we are truly grateful.

Stay tuned…

1 comment:

Michelle Z said...

Oh gosh, Karen, I'm so sorry to hear this. Please let us know if you need anything -- we're not far away!! We'll be following along and keeping you in our thoughts.