There is no other way to say it. More polite phrasings simply do not convey the correct emphasis. Waiting sucks.
And now... we wait.
Two weeks ago we visited my wife's oncologist to learn what would be the treatment options for her breast cancer now that the mastectomy was done. Naively, we thought based on what we had heard after the operation that all we would really be talking about was whether or not it made sense for her to start taking a hormone drug, Tamoxifen, for the next five years. There are some various medical history issues that raised some questions about that... so we thought our discussion would be about that.
The oncologist at our local hospital sat down with us for what turned out to be most of 2 hours. She walked us through my wife's pathology report and started out talking about all the positive aspects of the report... but with an unspoken "BUT..." hanging out there... until the "but" was spoken... and a word we thought we'd never hear was voiced:
We figured with the tumor rather drastically removed (since the entire breast is gone) and the sentinel lymph node coming back clear, we were done with any thoughts of chemotherapy.
And we may be... or chemo may be back on the table.
Unfortunately, my wife's tumor turned out to be invasive breast cancer and as such there is a danger that it could spread into other parts of the body and morph into other forms of cancer. The "sentinel" lymph node was clear, meaning that there was no sign that cancer was regularly spreading into the rest of her body... BUT... there is always the chance that a small amount of the cancerous cells could have already spread into her body and not left any sign in the lymph nodes.
The oncologist had an interesting viewpoint:
My wife will never have as little cancer in her body as she does right now.
It took me a moment to wrap my brain around that one. The reality is that with the tumor gone and with the sentinel lymph node clear, odds are that IF any cancer made it out into the rest of the body it is only out there in a tiny amount - and has not yet started to attack other cells.
So now is the time to do everything possible to kill it.
Hence considering chemo as an option.
Of course, the insanely frustrating aspect of all of this is:
There may be ZERO cancer cells in my wife's body!
They may in fact have been completely removed with the tumor. But there is no way to know... and it comes down to what level of risk you want to assume and how comfortable you are playing the odds that the cancer is gone.
Hence the waiting.
They are doing another round of blood tests and actual tests on my wife's tumor, specifically an Oncotype DX test, to help provide more data to determine whether chemo would really help fight the specific cancer my wife had/has. It turns out that for a certain % of women, chemotherapy really isn't that effective, for a certain % it is very helpful, and another % is in the middle of those two sides.
Into which category does my wife fall?
For that we wait... "7-10 business days" is how long the test takes once they get her tumor... and while you are waiting that seems like an agonizingly long time.
And so we wait.
Stuck in an unwelcome purgatory... unable to make concrete plans for the next few months... unable to understand what our future holds... paused in a limbo where life seems to be on hold - even while the everyday life around us must continue.
Just waiting for a call that says the test results are in and we can sit down and start to understand what comes next.
And so we wait...