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Breast cancer: Diagnosis
October 11th, 2010
10:37 AM ET

Breast cancer: Diagnosis

For the next five days, Amanda Enayati will share the milestones of a life-altering journey that began the day she learned she had late-stage breast cancer more than three years ago.

I had felt something in my breast for more than a year before I decided to get it checked out. I never in a million years imagined it was cancer. I had been either pregnant or nursing continuously for almost four years straight. I thought what I was feeling was a clogged milk duct.

I have no family history of breast cancer.

I have no risk factors for breast cancer.

I don’t drink.

I don’t smoke.

I was always the healthiest person in the room.

I think I still am.

Except for the cancer.

The Indian woman who did the mammogram looked at her screen and said: “Don’t worry! I don’t see anything!” I wasn’t worried.

The attending doctor said: “Well, I don’t see anything but I definitely feel whatever this is you’re feeling. Let’s do an ultrasound.”

She did an ultrasound and a fine needle biopsy on the spot. That should have tipped me off. It didn’t.

I hadn’t gotten a call with the results by that Friday as they promised. Should have tipped me off, but it didn’t.

Same thing on Monday.

On Tuesday I finally called. “A doctor will call you back,” they told me. I still wasn’t worried.

An hour later, the phone rang. It was the doctor. She skipped the niceties and got right to it: “It’s cancer.”

I swear time stopped.

I stopped breathing.

The walls collapsed in on me.

All I could hear was my heart pounding.

I called my husband at work: “You better come home.”

I called my brother in LA: “It’s cancer and I can’t tell Maman. You have to call her. I can’t do it.” I can’t even imagine what was going on at my parents’ house that night.

I lost 10 pounds that first week. I don’t think I slept more than a couple hours a night. I started praying to a God I had been angry with for about a decade.

I lost my right breast.

The tumor was 9 centimeters, which, as far as breast cancers go, is massive.

It had spread to two lymph nodes. That’s not a good thing.

I’m at high risk for recurrence, and will be for the rest of my life.

A handful of people I had befriended who were going through treatment at the same time as me have already died.

As far as I know, I’m okay.

I think I’m going to be okay.

I have good reason to believe I will be okay.

I’m the eternal optimist.

What if I’m wrong?

Tomorrow:  Surgery

Amanda Enayati’s work has appeared in Salon, the Washington Post, Detroit News, and "Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora" (University of Arkansas Press). You can follow her on Twitter @AmandaEnayati or her daily blog, practicalmagicforbeginners.com.

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Filed under: Cancer

soundoff (105 Responses)
  1. thinkin before pinkin

    i get it people. every month has a certain cancer awareness to it. every cancer has it's own color ribbon (except lung cancer, which for some reason is "clear"). there are very good reasons why breast cancer gets so much attention and some very very bad ones as well. i, personally cannot stand pinkwashing. men make up less than 1% of the breast cancer population. mortality comparison of prostate to breast is not equal. don't be jealous about the pink boobie awareness movement. ever notice: no one is trying to save lives. they are saving 2nd base. saving the ta-tas. saving the body part that men love on us. we could try to raise awareness for prostate cancer by roasting chestnuts but what clever gimmick would you put on the shirt? what color would the awareness tictacs be? the vast majority of $$$$$ made with pink washed items goes right back in the companies that hawk it. money is made with awareness ir with treatment. there is no money in prevention or cure. hell, i'm a cancer research nurse and even i would be out of a job!

    October 17, 2010 at 01:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. BillKist

    I was DX'd with rectal caner March 2010. By the end of 6 weeks of chemo radiation they had told me it spread to my lungs...6 weeks later I went from 6-8 tumors in my lungs to close to 90. I have been told I am terminal. I ended treatment. Chemo is big bucks and it's poison..serious poison. I was given 5fu. They say I have 12-16 months. The Dr's are surprised and a tad miffed I ended treatment. I have a strong suspicion I won't be here for my next birthday in june. If you have a cure..email me. I am easily found. Google my nick.

    October 17, 2010 at 06:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. letemsquirm

    if an B cup or less it can't be cancer!

    October 17, 2010 at 07:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Anna Resendiz

    Thanks for sharing Amanda and everyone else. I was given your site on facebook. My mother found a lump and had me touch it before she went off for surgery and had a radical mastectomy...that was in 1966, she couldn't go to my Junior High graduation. I am now a mother of five and breastfed as long as I could to help prevent breastcancer. I was pregnant and nursing for over twenty years....each baby three years. So far so good. But your sharing makes me realise that there is no real guarantee. With that I want to make more of each day. Don't you wonder why the world is suffering so. A hundred years ago no one would have believed that so many woman would be removing a breast or two. I have been borderline for cervical cancer and dread every pap I have each year. So far nothing. The crio they did, the freezing of the area, seemed to work. I understand BillKist, I think I might do the same if I knew my time was short....I was doing Spirulina shakes every morning to get the blue green algae in my system daily. It got expensive. Now I do a table spoon of tumeric a day. I head about that from a Psychiatrist who has survived brain cancer...the guy mentioned above with Jennifer. Green tea and tumeric...try to stick to cultured yogurt. Must get my weight down though. I like to eat at night. I need to exercise every morning and afternoon. Not totally commited to that lately. I wish everyone wellness. Peace. Anna

    October 17, 2010 at 10:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. irene musonda

    Those who have be interested in supernatural healing, please go to 'www.enterthehealingschool.com'.
    See what you think.

    October 17, 2010 at 11:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Nick

    just read this part " I started praying to a God I had been angry with for about a decade."..most of the time when someone has a physical ailment there is some psychological history associated with it. What had been bothering this woman mentally that kind of manifested itself into a 9 centimeter tumor? (that is maybe on average 1cm per year) It is really important to forget and forgive, you end my hurting yourself when you carry such resentment with you for a decade about some incident, whereas the person or thing that caused it moves on. There are several books that talk about how your emotional state affects physical health. if you suffer from something like this, please look around for good books on the topic.

    October 17, 2010 at 11:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Annelies

      Amazing – here somebody bares her soul, speaks openly about her battle with a very scary disease and inadvertently there are people who will "blame the victim", imply "it is your fault". I was told – if you would have had a mammogram sooner! Meanwhile my tumor was in the 6 o'clock position and would not have been picked up by a mammogram. I found it! Then I lost my job of 15 years because I have extensive chemo damage – is that my fault too? A fair amount of tumors are not picked up by a mammogram. Whose fault is that? And insurance companies don't want to pay for routine MRI's. Whose fault is that? There are people out there who have a need to ad insult to injury and they know who they are. We need to raise social consciousness.

      October 17, 2010 at 13:28 | Report abuse |
  7. val

    BillKist,
    I very sorry about your situation, i wish i knew a way to make this monster disease go away. I wish you a wonderful birthday in advance and I will certainly keep you in my prayer.

    October 17, 2010 at 11:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. gordonr

    The initiative taken for the concern is very serious and need an attention of every one. This is the concern which exists in the society and needs to be eliminated from the society as soon as possible
    **********
    gordon

    National Savings And Investments

    October 24, 2010 at 10:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. klitzel

    We are all aware that cancer has become a vary common health issue, and any prevention, detection and treatment of breast cancer shoud be taken advantage of. Mammograms can possibly detect the cancer that is not visible on the outside such as lumps or the skin changing. Mammograms save 1100 to 2000 lives a year because of early detection. These lives saved means families don't have to lose loved ones and go through the pain and heart aches unlucky families have to endure. 20 min of your life to get a mammogram could save a life...it is worth it.

    October 24, 2010 at 22:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeanne Harris

      Get a skilled statistician to help you read the numbers. Breast cancer still kills the same percentage of women it did in 1910 and at the same rate. Early detection just means it is identified earlier, women seem to live longer, but only because they are diagnosed earlier. Do the math. Chemotherapy just accelerates the process. No, we are not winning the "war" on breast cancer, we are abdicating it.

      October 24, 2010 at 23:51 | Report abuse |
  10. Sara Swift

    It was rather interesting for me to read the article. Thank you for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more on that site soon.

    Sara Swift
    independent las vegas escorts

    January 4, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.