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Breast Cancer Saga Continues

Marlene Buchanan recounts the beginning of radiation treatments, and notes "cancer and modesty do not work well together."

In 2005, Mama had her gall bladder removed and a cancerous tumor was found inside it. Dr. Satvir Singh was her oncologist. I love this man. Little did I know then that he would play a leading role in my own cancer saga years later.

The first time Mama met him, she was in a drug-induced haze. Wearing a turban, Dr. Singh came into Mama's room. She thought he was some kind of prince. She told me later that he was the prettiest thing she had seen in a long time. He must have felt the same way.

From that day forward, whenever they met, he and Mama hugged and threw kisses at each other. It was pretty syrupy, but in a cute way. Mama always told him, "I love you, too." He would laugh, kiss her on the top of her head and say, "I love you, too." He was so wonderful to her.

On the day that Dr. Singh walked into his exam room and found me waiting, he stopped short, pointed at me and said, "You?" I nodded, unable to speak. He shook his head and said, "I'm sorry."

Snell, Dr. Singh and I discussed my DCIS cancer and the treatment options. He recommended radiation therapy. Ductal carcinoma is very slow-growing. (Remember, all the medical staff I consulted told me that I had the best kind of cancer to have. Still an experience I could have done without.)

My cancer was still early stage and very small. Dr. Singh, Dr. Pavamani and Dr. Mann all agreed that no chemotherapy would be needed. That was a great relief. I had been scared out of my wits, and I didn't have many wits left to begin with.

Dr. John Gargus and his outstanding staff treated me at the . Located on Presidential Drive next to Dr. Gadledge's ENT office just before you get to , theirs is one of the prettiest buildings I have ever visited. It is done in lovely, soft, appealing colors. I love the tree that is decorated for each holiday and season. The kind, patient staff members explain everything very clearly and carefully.

Dr. Gargus looks exactly like my pediatrician, Dr. Perry, whom I last saw when I was twelve. He even talks like him. When I saw him, I felt better immediately.

By this time in my journey, I am so accustomed to people wanting to look at and feel of my breasts that as soon as I get into an exam room, I assume the position. Cancer and modesty do not work well together. You know how you are uncomfortable meeting a new doctor while you are wearing a paper gown that covers less than one breast? Well, guess what--Dr. Gargus has BIG gowns and they are fabric!!!

I meet Marina and Carmen who soon become my BFFs. To prepare for the first treatment, Marina made a mold of my upper body using something like a bean bag sack. As she pushed, pulled and shaped the bag, it began to harden and take on the indentation of my body. Marina and Carmen then completed a series of CT scans, marking and measuring tiny fractions of space and finally drawing all over my body. All this determines the placement of the points for radiation treatment.

All I can say is that if you had hung me from the ceiling, I would have looked like a Marc Chagall mobile. I had blue marks in the strangest places and lines covering my upper torso. After I had had to lie still with both hands above my head for thirty or forty minutes, it took both Marina and her partner in crime, Carmen, to get me up from the "rack."

More to come.

Nita June 01, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Hey Marlene, Your column is both uplifting and humorous, a difficult feat for most writers, but you succeed every time! Thanks for sharing your fears and inspiring us with your courage.
Marlene Buchanan June 01, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Thank you for being such a loyal reader, Nita. I truly appreciate it.

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