Phone Call No. 12

The day after my rad-onc appointment, my cell phone rings.

“Hi, Heather, This is Dr. Hwang. How are you?”

“Fine,” I say, as I look through the window of door at the San Francisco SPCA, where my daughter Erin is a junior volunteer.

“I thought I’d give you ring to let you know about the pathology from surgery,” Dr. Hwang says.

“Yes?” I say, watching a young woman do agility training with a border collie. “I had my first radiation oncology appointment with Dr. Fowble yesterday. She told me the margins came back clear.”

“Yes,” Dr. Hwang says. “I’m very pleased with the results this time. How are you healing?”

“Fine,” I say. “But there was that one thing on the report, about the pre-cancerous cells that the pathologist saw. Should I worry about those?”

“No,” Dr. Hwang says.

“Why not?”

“Because they’re not cancer!”

I guess she’s got a very good point there, but still …

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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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