A Phone Call No. 10

“Hi, Heather, this is Bridget, the nurse practitioner from the Breast Care Center?”

“Sure,” I say. “You’ve got the MRI results back already?”

“Yes,” Bridget says. “It’s a good thing you decided to go have that MRI after all. One of your rotator cuff tendons is completely torn. It’s not neuropathy, after all.”

“I’m guessing I can’t exercise my way out of it this time,” I say.”

“No,” Bridget replies. “And you’ve got to give up skiing for this season. I think surgery is really the only option. I’ll have to talk to Dr. Rugo about the timing. I’m not sure how they will decide to coordinate this with your cancer treatment.”

“Well, call me back when you know my fate,” I say.

One more chemo infusion, then another breast surgery, six weeks of radiation, shoulder surgery. Who knows in what order all this will take place, but friends in the medical professions tell me that the cancer treatment will take priority over all. I’ve been hoping for “two-fer” surgery: take out that last bit of ductal carcinoma in situ AND repair my shoulder tendon at the same time. I could recover from surgery once, rather than twice. So both arms would be down for the count. I could walk around town with my arms draped over an inflated inner tube. If I could walk around with a pillow under my arm for a month post-lumpectomy, why not go one sillier? Doubt the docs will go for that, though.

One thing for sure: The ski season’s shot.


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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2 Responses to A Phone Call No. 10

  1. Jill says:


    I am a fellow BAYS member who stumbled across your blog, and I have been enjoying reading it. I am sorry about your ski season (and your shoulder)!! Your idea of having both surgeries at once doesn’t seem so crazy to me, although I know nothing about shoulder surgery. I had an ooph at the same time as my exchange surgery (to change an expander for an implant). It required some coordination in terms of scheduling, but I got it done, and the surgeries were at UCSF. I think it was helpful to only go under anesthesia once, and to recover from both surgeries at the same time. On further reflection, I guess one thing for you to consider is radiation. You may have to put your arms over your head during radiation, and so you should check whether you could do this after surgery on your rotator cuff.

    Hang in there! By this time next winter you will feel like yourself again, and you will have a great ski season

    I think I recall that in one entry that you said you were not allowed to do vigorous exercise. You should check with Dr. Rugo on that. I also had TCH (but with Taxol instead of Taxotere), and she knew that I biked and ran throughout the treatment, and approved of it. I also found that I felt better afterwards.

    Good luck,


    • leftbreast says:

      Jill – I guess it was the exercise consultant at UCSF who said walking was better. I will definitely check. Right now, though, it hurts my shoulder to cycle and I’m pretty low on energy. I do want to really, really get back into shape, though. Thanks so much for your encouragement, I’m feeling completely “done” with BC right now. Of course, BC is not done with me!

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