A doctor surprised me with the diagnosis early on a Monday, just after I had dropped the kids at preschool.
I rushed to the breast center on my way to work so that a nurse could peek at the site of my recent breast biopsy to make sure it was healing properly — at least, that’s what she’d told me. The center had called the previous Friday afternoon, acting as though I’d missed an appointment and inquiring whether I could come in that afternoon. I had chuckled at the ridiculousness of the request. It was after 4 and I still had to finish a story for the newspaper before racing to pick up my daughters by 6. I said I’d come on Monday morning instead and asked for my biopsy results. The woman on the other line told me the results hadn’t come back yet.
I hoped that this would be the end of several torturous months of mammograms and ultrasounds and MRIs and biopsies and telephone calls with doctors and insurance company representatives. I was hopeful that all of this testing and worrying had been in an abundance of caution.
After quickly examining the biopsy site, the nurse hustled me into a peach room with two chairs, a desk topped with a computer, and a door that led outside. I realized later it was thoughtfully designed this way so that after patients are diagnosed, they can walk directly outside to their cars, instead of having to make their way through a lobby full of patients with red eyes and tear-streaked faces.
Sitting in the tiny peach room, I started to get a bad feeling. I picked up People magazine to distract myself, but instead, I thought, how frivolous that this is the last magazine I’ll read before they give me the news that will change my life.
And then the doctor walked in and did just that.
But first, he said I’m sorry it has taken so long to get the results, leading me to believe, for a brief moment, that I had read the situation wrong, that the news was going to be good.
But his second sentence included the word cancer, and I promptly burst into tears. This was the same radiologist who, just a few days earlier, thought it was a good idea to introduce himself to me when I was half-dressed, lying face down on the MRI table and unable to see him, shake his hand or even move.
I wished that my husband had accompanied me, but we hadn’t thought I would be getting test results. Besides, all of my doctors had told us the change to my breast was probably nothing. So instead of hearing the news with Jason there to comfort me, I was alone with Dr. Inconsiderate, who held out a box of tissues as he repeatedly referred to the cancer by its formal name, DCIS, which I’d never heard of.
Ms. Green, he told me as I sobbed, Ms. Green, it’s OK. If there’s a kind of cancer to have, this is the one.
Hearing those words, I snapped to attention, wiped away my tears, and pulled a notebook and pen from my purse.
Hold on, I told him. I need to write this down.
I wanted to remember the oddly comforting words. In the months since my diagnosis, they have become my motto for dealing with the disease.
How bad can it be? I have the Best Cancer Ever.