Friday, August 29, 2014

Schrodinger's Cat

In the 1930s physicist Erwin Schrodinger devised a thought experiment in which a cat was placed in a sealed box, along with a Geiger counter, a flask of poison, and a radioactive source. If even the smallest particle of radioactivity was detected, the flask would crack open and the cat would die (this is all hypothetical, by the way). Schrodinger posited that before the box was open the cat could be thought of as both dead and alive, simultaneously.

The experiment is more complicated than I have laid out and meant to illustrate a theory of quantum mechanics. But to a non-scientist like me, it speaks about the power of the unknown and the devastation that can be wrought on even a microscopic level.

 I write about it here because I feel like I have been inhabiting the netherworld of Schrodinger's cat. As I have awaited the results of medical tests, I feel like I have been both healthy and sick simultaneously. The results were not what I had hoped.

I have #breast cancer.

A routine mammogram detected a suspicious mass. A biopsy revealed it to be stage 1/grade 2 invasive ductal carcinoma. I have consulted with an oncologist and a surgeon. I have had another biopsy, with a third scheduled for next week and then we decide on a course of treatment.

While cancer is a disease that can still strike fear, the most difficult part of this journey is the unknown. Even though I have a diagnosis, I still don't know exactly what treatment is in store for me. I know the possibilities. Cancer at this stage is very treatable, but a conversation with the surgeon this morning revealed complications. An MRI, showed a second suspicious mass, close to the tumor that was already biopsied, and a third spot that requires a stereotactic biopsy next week. Only then will I have a surgery date and a treatment schedule.

The unknowns are legion: how much pain will I be in, how much time will I have to take from work, what will I look like, and more. No one can answer some of those questions - I will have to experience them. I have spent many hours reading about breast cancer treatment and reading the blogs of those who have gone through what I am going through now. To those women, I say thank you. Reading your stories has made me less afraid. I can only hope to pay it forward with my writing.

This all comes at a time when I have been feeling good. I thought health problems were behind me. It is hard to think of something so tiny (1.2 cm) causing so much trouble.

Some of you reading this have been aware of my diagnosis. Others will be hearing about it for the first time. Still others don't know me at all. I invite everyone to come along with me on this deeply personal journey.
The cat is out of the box and she'll be just fine.

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