OT: What is and what should never be

Had to get a Led Zeppelin reference in at least once a year on the blog …

Pathology report came back.

Ok, in the movie series The Matrix, there is a set of scenes where the story tellers want you to believe that the character (Neo in the clip below’s case) was moving with “super-human” speed, and able to move an accelerate a very large mass (their body) faster than a very tiny mass (the bullet). They are trying to evoke a sense of great speed, and potentially high cost of not being able to move fast enough.

This is a metaphor, obviously, for what I am going to write about. Actually all the elements of the clip are a metaphor.

Here is the clip.

So, what happened?

SLNB was clear.

The virtual sound you did not hear was the beginning of an exhalation (as in we’ve been holding our breath for a while). We aren’t done though. And while the SNLB is one of the very important factors in determining current state, its accurate in about only 25% of cases.

She had (note the past tense) what was stated to be a Comedo type, grade 3 set of cells. Our hope was that this was early enough stage that we could simply remove tissue and be done without other treatment.

You might have a sense of the trajectory we are on, or at least the trajectory we thought we were on.

Remove the stuff, and if the margins (how close to the borders of the tissue in the pathology lab) were good, and there were no invasive tumors, we were in the clear.

One of the above conditions was not true. The margins were good.

A small invasive tumor was found.

As in that clip, a bullet nicked us. We were only able to dodge the rest by moving at very high speed. From initial diagnosis to surgery was less than 7 weeks. We had a preliminary diagnosis right before I flew off to SC11, but we needed some additional data from a biopsy (which she had the week before SC11).

We were given a set of “if (condition) then { }” constructs, which kept moving along low probability branches of a catastrophe tree, where the penalties for taking any of the branches (about which we had no real choice … or if you prefer, choices between bad and terrible options) kept getting worse, while the population probabilities really weren’t useful as predictors.

As I noted, the entire clip is a metaphor.

The surgery she underwent a week ago is like the final scene in the clip. We think we killed all of the cancer. Its out, as the tissue in which it was growing is also out. Our hope is that none has broken off and spread (hence the SLNB test, but 25% accuracy rate ain’t that good).

We dodged bullets, though one nicked us. We did it by moving fast. We detected bullet firings by mammography screening. If your loved one is not doing this, by all means, get it done. Survival rates 5 years out are better than 95% right now. Still thats 1 in 20 not getting to 5 years. Too damn high. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have plans for my wife and I when I am 97, and she needs to be there for them. As do I.

We exhaled, though I had a sharp intake of breath when I heard the report. Life is like that. It ain’t fair, it doesn’t come wrapped up in nice little packages, with only positive outcomes. Its wet, and messy, and sometimes follows the wrong branches of catastrophe trees.

We now know what is. I don’t want to think about what should never be.

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2 thoughts on “OT: What is and what should never be

  1. Glad to hear the margins were good and the SLNB was clear (as much as it can be) – fingers crossed that your Halley idea comes true!

    Do you know yet if they’re thinking of doing adjuvant chemo ?

    Take care both of you..


  2. Glad to hear things are looking up Joe — between my wife and I we lost three family members in a years span three years back to different varieties of cancer, and for two of them it was much too early. It’s always great to hear a story about people who inform themselves about their conditions and move aggresively to beat it; gives me hope that we have a little control over our existence. Hopefully this year will bring simply sunshine and daisies, and hopefully some more fast I/O :).

    – ellis (that one A.B.D. CS Grad in HPC I/O that hearts your blog)

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