See thy enemy

I like to look adversaries in the face, but alas, this isn’t exactly possible with cancer. So I found a few pictures of what I’m up against.

This is invasive ductal carcinoma. My tumor may not be exactly the same, but you get the idea:

These cells have begun to invade normal breast tissue. They're dyed with hematoxylin-eosin (H&E) stain. The "H" dyes tissue that react with bases. The "E" does the same for tissue that react with acids. Both turn tissues lovely shades of pink.

In DCIS, cancer cells start to build up within the breast ducts, much as fats might collect in an artery. A certain percentage of DCIS cells will become invasive, but there's no way to which cells.

This National Cancer Institute drawing of DCIS does not look so different from the sketch my NYU doc drew at my first-ever breast cancer appointment.

Here’s what DCIS looks like when dyed with an H & E stain.

This is what DCIS cells look like under a microscope.


About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
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