There was no lump -- a Breast Cancer blog

This blog is about my experience with Inflammatory Breast Cancer.
You can learn more about Inflammatory Breast Cancer at or

The names of my Doctors have been changed.



Contact me at Liane58 at gmail dot com
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Location: United States

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Links to Photos

I've put some photos from the past few months on my other website:
June -- the headshaving (photos at the bottom of the page)
August "No-Hair Days" and some other more recent days, too.

Sunday, October 24, 2004


My mom visited me for my surgery. She was concerned and wanted to be helpful. It was great to see her and have her here – she lives in California and hadn’t been out here to visit since 2000.

She helped drain my drains (of my incision) and also cooked, and busied herself with some major projects like re-organizing my pantry and back stairs. The pantry hadn’t been done since 2000 when she last visited!

Since I was energetic enough to be up and around just a few days after my operation, we went to a musical and an operetta – they were both fine productions (one of the reasons it is great to live in Boston). I do have this vivid memory of walking to the theatre on a blustery afternoon, with my mom urging me “Hold on to your wig! Better hold on! Look out!” Did she even reach out to hold my wig herself? It was in no danger at all; it had a very tight grip on my skull!

It was also the first time that we had spent my birthday together in many years. Friends came over for my birthday, and we had chocolate cake, yum, yum!

Back in June – at the same time I was diagnosed, my mom was diagnosed with a small, pre-cancerous calcification in her breast. She had this removed in a day surgery. So she was able to offer insights on anesthesia and her operation, and pre-and post-operation feelings that were helpful to me. So I benefited both from her assistance psychologically and more tangibly. THANKS MOM!

Onward and Upward!

A New Team Member
Surgery – that’s old news. Now it’s on to radiation. And my radiation-oncologist, a new member of my care team, let’s call her Dr. Brown. I like her a lot; she has a a good sense of humor and a vivid way of describing things – saying that breast cancer with “lobular features” is like silly string, and that the lymphatic system is like the “shop vac” of the body.
She explained all my radiation treatments – and their long list of possible side effects. Topical burning of the skin, fatigue (as if from sunburn), and also the possible long range risks – that the radiation itself will trigger a new cancer, such as one in the lung that a bit of the rays will strike. Anyway, it’s all weighed carefully against the risks and possibilities of a reoccurring cancer.

Pathology report

Dr. Jones was telling me about the pathology report that came back analysing the tissue (my breast) removed in the surgery. Some good news – I am estrogen-receptor positive, which means that I can be treated with hormone therapy. So the more ways we have to try and treat my condition the better the chances of beating it. I am going to start on tamoxifen – I just emailed Dr. Smith and she emailed back in minutes, that I can start tomorrow.
Other info from the pathology report: there was cancer in the tissue, so I don't have to worry that I might have had a needless mastectomy. The tissue removed had clean margins – meaning, as tests determine, all or most of cancer has been removed. However four of the five lymph nodes removed were cancerous, meaning that some of the remaining lymph nodes are certainly cancerous. Say, that's their job as the "shop vac" of the body, to suck up all that icky stuff. We'll take care of them in radiation.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Getting acquainted with my new body

As I said before, I’m relieved to have my surgery over with. And my feelings about my “new and improved” body are curiosity, interest, even wonder. New sensations, of my chest area itself (some numbness, some tenderness), and also of my hand as I run it over the new shapes – the very flat shapes (although I still have the drains in and I can feel one of the tubes running to the incision). In fact, rather than flat, it seems concave, flatter than flat, not just that the breast has been removed but even dug out!
And what do I call this, the space on my chest where my right breast was? The scar, the incision, the place of my mastectomy – but the skin is still there (not all of it, but the skin that is there has been carefully preserved, and the incision is very neat.). The nipple is gone, the shape is gone – the ducts and glands and lobes and tubes that were always there although I never thought about them much. How do I name what is left, the skin, the scar, the little bit of muscle over bones? Maybe there’s a word I don’t know yet, until then it seems like it’s the proverbial “presence of an absence” of literary theory.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Spring has Sprung!!

It’s Fall outside, but there’s new growth on top of my head! I can’t believe how satisfying this is to me. Rebirth, regrowth, regeneration, new life, new hope. It’s soft, it’s fuzzy (not like the prickly stubble). Fecund, resplendent, lush (but not green). I take my hat off to show and to stroke; I wave a slow goodbye to a side-effect of chemo.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Mind and Body

I am now about halfway through a course on mind-body medicine (offered by the hospital). It’s an introduction to a whole range of alternative therapies that can supplement conventional treatments. It is taught by a wonderful oncology nurse (who helped me with my chemo treatments), and she brings in expert guests.

There’s been a focus on learning relaxation techniques including meditation and visualization. The goal of these techniques is to treat stress, to be able to rest and sleep, and to generate positive attitudes that can all encourage healing. We do a relaxation exercise at every class. This was really helpful to me as I prepared for surgery. Not that I was calm before surgery -- but it did help.

We’ve also had sessions on cognitive therapy (learning to overcome irrational beliefs and fears), nutrition and cooking, and we’ll have sessions on yoga, tai chi, and humor. One of the interesting and valuable parts of the class has been to meet more people coping with cancer – but with reoccurrences and multiple types of cancer – and also to meet people with obscure illnesses, ones that make me say “Gosh, I’m so lucky that my illness is breast cancer! We have so many supportive programs and resources, so many organizations and helpful services targeting us.”

Friday, October 15, 2004

After Surgery

I am very, very relieved to have the surgery behind me. Everything seems to have gone very well, and Dr. Jones is enthusiastic and positive; she did not find anything unexpected. When I see her on the 22nd, she'll have the pathology report back so we'll know all the results in detail.

I am feeling very energetic, and I was happy to leave the hospital after one day. It's nice to be home. I got great care at the hospital, but it can be a noisy place to try and sleep. An intern came to check on me at 5 AM, and after that I was awake to see quite a remarkable sunrise over the river.

I'm surprised at how clear-headed I am, not groggy or muddled (although I do tire easily) And am feeling almost no pain, I just have to move carefully. Am taking no pain killers. The one negative after-effect was the nausea. I woke up from surgery feeling hungry, and as I lay there in post-op, I started asking if I could order a pizza. This is about as funny as my craving Indian food after my first chemo treatment. When I did finally get into my hospital room, and ordered something to eat (chicken soup), it did not stay down very long.

Rosie and my Mom were there at the hospital all day, going with me into pre-op, and Rosie putting on surgical robes and going with me into the holding area. This was certainly full of activity: several nurses, the anesthesiologist, Dr. Jones, and another doctor (an intern). Every health care professional who worked with me had to ask me my name, birth date, and what treatment I was going to receive. The first two are fine, but I couldn't say "mastectomy" without blubbering. The anesthesiologist finally had to find some nose spray for me to try and clear out the congestion generated by the crying.

I went under easily, and as I woke up I remember at first thinking I was at home in my own bed. Even first waking up, I was surprised at how clearly I could think. I got wheeled to my hospital room (with a beautiful view of the Charles Rivers) and then was reunited with my Mom and Rosie.

I'm not upset at all to see my chest minus one breast, so I guess my apprehension was mostly about the surgery itself. It is strange to feel the concave area, the big drop-off from the sternum on the right side of my chest. But perhaps strangely, I'm not upset by this. The scar, underneath the plastic sutures, looks very neat. I do have two drains attached, little bulbs that fill up with blood and fluid, that need to be drained a few times a day. I'm OK with all this and am mostly feeling very relieved, and really happy with all the support I am getting from friends and family.

Monday, October 04, 2004

I am a connoisseur of bland

Cancer changes things. That's obvious, but the list is long. There I was, contemplating the nuances of different types of tapioca pudding. MMMmm, pudding. Meanwhile, the entire dried bean category – which used to be such a favorite -- is right out, just because it doesn't sit well along with the lump I feel in my stomach so much of the time. But I'm happy that in general I can eat normally.

“I'm having a mastectomy.”
I've gotten to the point were I can often say this with a goofy grin -- it's sad, it even seems a little absurd, but it's true. There are just so many unknowns, so much trial and error, so much guesswork.
It could be that the chemotherapy has killed all the cancer. But there is no way of being certain, and we want to make sure that, if possible, no cancer is left.
I am feeling better now that I have more understanding; it helped to see a picture of my cancer, in my MRI, and to read some of the reports in my file. In my files my cancer is described as a "spiculated mass" -- it has long tendrils that go out from the center; like a starfish? An octopus? But not a lump, not a centralized tumor.
Other changes -- my eyebrows are down to a few hairs -- the few, the brave, the proud. The lack of nose hairs means when I cry my nose seems to drip tears just like my eyes. Someone observed they had never seen me with painted fingernails before. Yes, I got tired of looking down and seeing my bruised-looking thumbnails. And some of my fingernails have stripes of bruises, one from each chemo treatment. So I've been painting my nails.
I tell myself, loosing a breast is not like loosing a hand, or foot or eye. It's not like its something I use all the time. Also, it's not like losing a kidney or needing a heart transplant -- it's not like my breasts help me survive.
Still it's a part of me I see every day, and part of me as a whole person, physically. I just have to say “goodbye.” I've been thinking a lot about the reconstruction question. I think I'm not inclined to go that route. I am what I am, I’ve never wanted to have anything artificial. If one in eight women experience breast cancer, why should we feel any embarrassment at going around with one breast?