Sunday, September 27, 2009

"At Least You Caught it Early"

I can't tell you how many people have said that to me.  It's almost the first thing people say when they find out I've joined Club Cancer.

I wonder how they know I caught it early?   Do they have special powers to see through my body back to when that first cell mutated?  "Ah ha!  April 2nd, 2009, your normal cells just started dividing abnormally.  Thank goodness you found it so quick!"

I should be flattered that all these people think I'm a responsible adult who got her regular mammograms, and thus naturally assumed that I found this cancer at the first possible moment.

They clearly have no idea who I really am: an unfocused, ADD-type person who will do just about anything to avoid discomfort, if she can even remember why she was supposed to be uncomfortable in the first place.

The fact is, it had been years since my last mammogram. In an earlier post, I explained my rationale for the delay, which still still seems quite reasonable to me.  I also did not realize just how long it had actually been  - I mean, I remember the last one like it was yesterday so in my unfocused mind, it had been pretty recent.   Of course, I'd do things differently now,  given the power to see into the future. Although, even with those powers, I'd probably get distracted by something else and forget to go.

Oh look!  A bird!

The point is, that sucker could have been dividing for many years.  Most breast cancers have been growing for two to five years before they are found.  In breast cancer years - based on size -  mine's a teenager ready for keys to the car, and not an infant cuddled under the blankets.

"At least you caught it early."  I'm not quite sure how to respond to that comment.  

I don't think I caught it early.  But, I am hoping I caught it early enough.


  1. Hi Ann - just read your whole blog - absolutely brilliant. Please feel free to add details of mine - - and I will to link to yours.

    In the meantime, wear them lovely pink heels with pride!! Take care - Paula x

  2. Everyone always asked me, "Did you catch it early?" I never knew what to say, because I simply didn't know. The lump was quite big. 3.2 cm. And I always wondered, "Jees. Did I miss it for that long, or did it grow that quickly?" Neither idea seemed all that comforting, not really. Finally a couple weeks ago in Pittsburgh, a doctor said that it was detected early because it had not gone into the lymph nodes, had just started to invade the ducts. Now I have an answer. Nobody's asking any questions. Seems to be how it goes.

  3. Good morning Ann. I read your blog this morning and want to commend you for your honesty and bravery. This journey is something else, isn't it? I had a bilateral mastectomy in Jul 09 and have three chemo's left, one will be this Wednesday. I am going to link to you. I hope that we can share thoughts as we travel this less loved road together. I am a Stage 1, Grade 3, Triple Negative BC patient. Good luck to you. Stay positive and ask LOTS OF QUESTIONS! If you don't, they won't offer answers.

  4. Hi ladies,
    Thanks for the comments, and the links. I'll return the favor. :)

  5. I have the exact same things said to me.

    And I always say the same thing back "i don't know if I caught it early" - that's the whole point.


  6. Ann, my diagnosis was Stage IIIb from the beginning (now revised to Stage IV with extensive bone mets). I *did* get a mammogram every 12-18 months. I got ultrasounds in between those times. I followed up on every single lump, usually within three months, due to the cyclical nature of lumps. In other words, I was pretty much the poster child for "doing it right."

    My lump ended up being 5cm+ fissure . . . like a flower, not a lime. Pretty big. Regardless of that . . . people STILL said, "Oh, at least they caught it early." Uh, no. Stage IIIb is not early.

    People just don't know what to say. They especially don't know what to say now that I'm where I am. I get all kinds of questions like, "How could this happen?" If I knew the answer to that, I'd win the Nobel Prize!

    Write on!

  7. Right! Caught it early as opposed to what?! Not dying from it? I DIDN'T catch mine early, so it always irritates me when people say this. I know they mean well, so I bite my tongue and let it go. :/

  8. Ann, your blog and writing skills are incredible. You say things with flair, and just what I am thinking. I let my mammograms go forever and ignored the dreaded "nipple changes" just because I could. So when I finally went to my primary md and he took a look he freaked out, announced I had "a malignancy" and scared me to death. I was diagnosed with paget's breast disease and dcis and although it was high grade I was on of the fortunate ones. When I read stories like yours (and I still reading) I don't know why. I felt like I played hard and fast with my life and just knew I was going to be a late stage-I like you felt chest pain and bone pain until it was all clear-took over a month to get a dx. My thoughts and (yes) prayers are with you and your family.

  9. I had a "perfect" mammogram just a few months before I was diagnosed with IIIB inflammatory breast cancer. No lump. I had an innocent looking rash appear just days before an already scheduled doctor's appointment for something else. I got so sick of "did they catch it early?" Ranks right up there with "didn't you get your mammograms?" and "at least breast cancer is easy to treat these days." Oh, and let's not forget, "hey, you'll get a free boob job out of it."
    Something many people do not realize is there are many differences in breast cancers. One lump might pretty much mind it's own business and just slowly grow for years while another spreads like wildfire in a matter of weeks.

    1. I found my lump (3.5 cm) just 6 weeks after a clear mammogram. Trying to spread the word about self (or partner) exams


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