During the bouts of cancer diagnosis and treatments, Rachel writes e-mails to keep her friends and family updated on her thoughts and spiritual walk.

Pathology Report

July 16, 2004

Well…good news and bad news.


The good news is that my lymph nodes are negative for cancer. They got (only) 6 nodes from the tissue in my armpit (about the size of an orange, my dad says) because, as my surgeon said, “you’re not exactly fat.” But they got the sentinel node so they feel very confident that it hasn’t invaded my lymph nodes. Am very glad it hasn’t spread.


The not-so-good news…


The tumour is grade 3…on a scale of 3. This means that it’s aggressive vs. a grade 1 cancer that is slow growing.


Second, when the surgeon removes the tumour, they take out the tumour and a wide margin around it to ensure that they get all the cancer. In my case, the cancer shows up within 1 mm of the edge which isn’t a wide enough margin to know confidently that it hasn’t spread further. Unfortunately, there is no more tissue left to remove as they took as much as they could without taking my skin. So, my options are a) mastectomy or b) radiation. Dr. McGregor is going to talk to the radiologist but he thinks radiation is the better route. Basically, if I ever recur, I will have to have a mastectomy anyway so radiation is a better option right now.


And, of course, this means I will definitely need chemo. Ick. Ick. Ick. I had started preparing myself for that possibility a while ago as I had thought chemo was more of a “maybe” but, given my age, it was more a “probably.” And now that the cancer has been graded a 3, there’s no avoiding it. Don’t know what kind or what side effects but let’s just say I’m trying to convince myself that I may finally get that super short haircut I was always too chicken to try.


So, next steps: Meeting with the oncologist at the BC Cancer Centre and get assigned my “cancer team.” I will find out my appointment time next week and will hopefully get an appointment in the next two (hopefully) weeks. That appointment will be a long one – half a day – and I will likely begin chemo within two or three weeks of that appointment. Radiation won’t be done until after I’ve finished my course of chemo – probably 4-6 months down the road.


OK…that’s the nitty gritty. “How are you?” I’m sure you’re wondering. Well, I think I’m ok. Still reeling a bit from the news but it’s nothing I hadn’t anticipated that he could say. I asked my dad yesterday what the worst case scenario might be and he basically told me the above (plus the fact that lymph nodes would be positive). I was really quite optimistic about what the pathology report would say and thought that maybe I should at least consider what else I might hear just so I didn’t get blindsided. Am glad I did. I had thought he was going to say “not in your lymph nodes, we got it all, looks really good, maybe chemo because of your age” – but he didn’t.


Most of the time I’m feeling pretty good. This last week has really been all about recovering from the surgery – which has been really good, by the way. I have decent range of motion in my arm, my incisions are healing nicely and, aside from some pain in my arm (because a nerve got “roughed up” during the surgery) I’m doing great. No sign of lymphedema (fluid collecting in my arm) thankfully. I’ve felt quite peaceful and, even now, am not feeling like things are out of control. God is not surprised. He knows every step of what is going to happen and Neil and I are confident that he will give us the strength to walk through it.


Many of you have asked if there is anything you can do. Shaila has offered to be the point person for any offers of help and she can be reached at [e-mail deleted] (yes, she is the one smiling at you on all those great Alpha posters). The one thing she is starting to organize is meals for us. If you would like to help out by baking or making a meal, she’s got some skookum system all worked out so just e-mail her.


Thanks again for all your expressions of love and support. And, of course, for your prayers. I pray for you too – that the Lord would bless you for remembering me to Him.


I have a journal that I bought to record some of my thoughts and the events of this journey and I’ve named it “Pure Joy” (“Stupid Cancer” was the runner up in the name selection) because of this verse:


“Consider it pure joy whenever your face trails of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Perseverance must finish it’s work so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
James 1:2-4



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