I’ve received a handful of emails with questions as to what Monica’s actual diagnosis was and if we knew what stage of cancer she was considered to be in. Since many of you simply received a generic email letting you know that she has breast cancer, it seems there is some confusion as to the details. I’ll try to clarify this here with a few details.
Monica had detected a small lump a few months ago, but brushed it off due to all the body changes that occur after having recently given birth. Sometime in September, what was a small, barely perceptible lump grew at an alarming rate. By the end of September, you could actually see the lump from the outside as if there was a baseball in there. When she went to the doctor, she was sent for further investigation to the breast health center here in Whittier. An ultrasound of the area revealed “suspicious tissue” and a biopsy was done.
That next week we were given the news that the tissue was indeed malignant, but they couldn’t tell how large the tumor was due to the density of the surrounding tissue. What they did see initially in the biopsy, however, was alarming.
The diagnosis was of “inflitrating ductal carcinoma”. Here’s a link to a more formal interpretation of that diagnosis, but it basically means that the cancer cells are invading other cells (infiltrating and invasive are synonymous) and that they started in the milk ducts. So far, lymph node tissues are also “suspicious” but they won’t be able to tell conclusively until surgery. After getting an MRI, the size of the tumor was revealed to be about 11 cm.
The pathology report also showed “grade III (poorly differentiated to undifferentiated [cells]) wiht extensive hemorrhagic infarction of the tumor”[sic]. We were told that according to the Scarff-Bloom-Richardson cell grading scale, Monica’s cells registered a total score of 9 which gave her the “grade III” report above. Check out the charts at the bottom of this page for an explanation of what it all really means. Essentially, it means that her particular tumor is growing rapidly and is as aggressive as they come.
Obviously this wasn’t good news, and our rollercoaster had begun. There are actually quite a few more details, but the bottom line is that every doctor we talked to (and we talked to many) said that we were dealing with a life or death situation and that she needed treatment as soon as possible.
Normally, the first order of business for breast cancer would be some sort of surgery. Women usually get the choice of doing a lumpectomy (removal of only the cancerous tissue) or a full mastectomy, then possibly either chemotherapy, radiation, or both. When we saw the oncologist (cancer doctor), he suggested that she begin chemotherapy first instead of having the surgery first. The thought was that since the cancer cells are so aggressive, chemo could kill any extraneous cells found elsewhere in her body that are too small to be detectable before they start growing rapidly in that new spot. If she were to have surgery first, there could be time during her surgery recovery for other potential cancer spots to grow.
The good news that we have since found out is that there isn’t any detectable cancer in any of her other organs. This implies that we did catch it relatively early since it hasn’t spread, but that it really is growing at a phenomenal rate. We have not been explicitly told what stage of cancer she is in, but due to the size of the tumor and the suspicious lymph tissue she is likely in the beginning of Stage III. Here is a link to a breakdown of breast cancer stages. It is considered “locally advanced”.
Now you can understand why we wanted every praying person we know to start praying. Matthew 18:19 says “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” So, it looks like we have a few more than two agreeing that we want Monica healed, therefore we expect God’s promise to hold true, and we are excited that she will soon be back to normal and this will al be over!
Thanks for reading this long story… we love you!