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Sharon Ross

Sharon Ross

I knew it.

I had an appointment five weeks ago for my annual screening at the mammography department at Mayo Clinic. I'd been there for several hours and grew more anxious as time passed. Clearly, something bothersome had been detected.

Additional images were taken. Then a couple of ultrasounds were ordered to take a closer look at a suspicious spot.

A doctor was summoned.

"It's protocol for a doctor to look at these images," the radiologist explained.

I'd been through the drill 11 years earlier, and I knew what it meant. 

There was a good chance my breast cancer had returned.

The spot, about the size of a blueberry, was biopsied, and my husband and I drove the 400-plus-mile trip home to await the results.

Forty-eight hours later, a phone call from my doctor confirmed my fear. The biopsy tested positive for the disease.

My breast cancer has returned.

The doctor tried to sound encouraging as he said the lesion was small and caught early.

I'd braced myself for the news, but I was worried about my husband. He had lost his mother to breast cancer years ago. Granted, tremendous strides have been made in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer since then.

Still...

I felt sick. It broke my heart to see him hurt.

There are a flood of emotions and reactions as the news sinks in. First you're numb. Then — gradually — you accept the hand you've been dealt.

We've been through this before.

We shared the news with family and friends. The support and encouragement have been overwhelming.

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And the prayers.

Words cannot express the comfort and strength of prayer.

"You've got this," so many people tell us.

Armed with that support, we drove to Rochester last Sunday for a consultation Monday with the doctor assigned my case.

I had pretty much decided how I wanted to tackle this based on the successful surgery I had at Northwestern University in 2008. My tumor was removed in a procedure that was so quick the surgeon didn't even have to intubate me.

A lumpectomy and radiation sounded manageable this time, but the doctor cautioned this cancer was different.

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This was invasive ductal cancer, possibly involving the lymph nodes. If that were the case, treatment would be a mastectomy and chemotherapy.

An ultrasound was ordered to determine the condition of the lymphs. One looked different, a radiologist said, and the only way to determine its malignancy was to biopsy it.

In preparation for surgical clearance, the doctor also ordered blood work and a chest X-ray.

"So, this spot on your lung ...," she began to say, reading from a pathology report. 

What spot? I was at the clinic five weeks ago, and there was no spot — or no mention of it in my report.

It was small, she said, but it had changed shape in a few short weeks and grown. The medical team needed to know what was going on, so a CT scan was ordered.

The results of the biopsy and scan will dictate how we proceed.

I've realized it's futile to worry about what those tests will show. I'll have plenty enough to deal with when the time comes.

I'll take it a day at a time.

I'm going into this fight with faith, family and friends.

I've got this.

Sharon Ross is regional news editor, a 46-year employee of The Times and a breast cancer survivor. The opinions are the writer's.

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