Eenie, meenie, miney moe. Pathology report, here we go. Anatomy of a decision.

Eeinie, meenie, miney moe. Pathology report, here we go. Surviving breast cancer.


“Without adjuvant treatment local regional progression, distant spread and death are risks.”

What would you do?

My breast surgeon was expecting to find a 3.5 cm tumor – but found a 4.8 cm tumor instead. Pathology later uncovered an additional 2 cm tumor – hidden in the dense breast tissue that she removed. No indication in any of the many imaging tests prepared us for either surprise.

Sentinel lymph node report, clear of cancer. Nine additional lymph nodes clear of cancer. Blood also clear of cancer.

My surgeon said I’d made the right call to go for the complete mastectomy with no nipple sparing as the tumor was irregular in shape and attached to my nipple. (Imaging tests had indicated that I was a candidate for a lumpectomy with radiation. Hmmm.)

Good news so far, right? Always nice when I make a good decision and God knows this was not an easy one. (See Kiss My Breast Good-bye.)

It appears, however, that my life and death, decision-making muscle is being put to the test once again. Seems I have no clean margins. Or, in doctor-speak, margins of the tissue removed from my breast test positive for cancer.

So, though the cancer party-crasher stayed local and never left the house, it played to the edges of the walls that contained it. Doctors don’t like dirty walls. I get that.

My breast surgeon gets it, too. That I am disappointed because, all along, I have been weighing in on quality of life issues and risks that can present down the road as a result of invasive cancer treatments. And that I have been nutritionally proactive with alternative approaches since diagnosis. (A decision that, I believe, kept the cancer contained in the breast – through months of delaying insurance coverage complications, I might add.) But her job is done. She took all that she could take – short of muscle.

Now I must consider what the radiation and chemo oncologists bring to the table.

Full breast radiation (hello, it’s gone) with 20 weeks of chemotherapy and 10 years of hormone treatments.

Still leaving me with a 10% chance that the cancer will return within 10 years and not guaranteeing complications will not be present in other parts of my body as a result of the triple-treatment hit.

I am really wrestling with this decision, guys. Focusing on the fact that the tumors and all my breast tissue are gone, this feels like they are engaging the canons where a few well-placed snipers might do. But there don’t seem to be any snipers available. I know of women who are going through this cancer treatment regimen right now who still have their breasts with sizable tumors. (My prayers go out to those of you who have already made these tough decisions. You have my respect for the courage you express, everyday, to show up for yourself and your loved ones in the ways you have decided are best.)

Survive as Yourself from Bernadette's Musings from the Messy Room on Breast Cancer

Remember when I told you that if I blog about ReaLLy meSSy STuFF it will be for us to build muscle? Well, roll up your sleeves because I’m not playing alone. This is where my decision-making drama with cancer becomes your decision-making drama with [fill in the blank.]

You make decisions every day. Now, what if every decision you made mattered – even ones that are not in a life or death category?

Like the preference ones that say, “I want this. I like that.” Or the reaction, “Stayed up too late. Hit snooze. Reschedule that appointment.” ones. Even avoidance, “Let someone else make that decision.” ones. And lets not forget those coin-flipping, daisy-petal-picking decisions.

Most decisions move you easily along while on cruise or autopilot. Others put you on notice, requiring stand-up attention.

Sometimes, you know why you made a particular decision. Sometimes, you are clueless as to the criteria that motivated you. (Was alcohol involved?)

But here is the one, most consistent thing about any decision you will ever make – and why you want to pay attention. You will live with the consequences.

Life is an assumption we make while dying. Death is an assumption we make while living. Your decision.

When your decisions no longer matter, you stop living.

Make a decision to pause for a moment and take that last sentence in.

Eeinie, meenie, miney moe. Pathology report, here we go. Decisions on breast cancer.

I am making a decision to get comfortable with the question mark that now resides where my breast was. It offers a gift that reminds me of the preciousness of each day – found in every decision I make.

How will I use my time today? How will I love today? Who will I laugh and cry with, today?

And, as a nutritionally proactive woman who intends to beat this thing as naturally as she can, what will I eat and not eat that will strengthen me, today, while I wait two weeks for the results of another test that I asked the oncologist for? Why? Because, no matter who rolls the dice, I will be the one living with the consequences of my next decision. Not my doctors.

I’m not an expert. I’m just a messy muse blathering on in a messy room – with dirty margins. Thank God, I don’t need to be an authority to make decisions matter. I just need to be the author of my own life. I have no more time to entertain ghostwriter decisions made on my behalf – unless they come through Grace and The Divine.

I have a proposition for you. Walk alongside me for the next few days and take note of your decisions – like they matter. Consider three decisions – big or small – that you will make matter this week. And you are welcome to share them in the comments below!

Here are some decisions that mattered to me this week.

  • Helped a friend organize her studio so she can move into the next level of her business. I played prima donna while “helplessly” sitting, pointing and suggesting. She did the heavy lifting that doctor’s orders wont let me do. (5 lb. limit.) Amazingly, I found I can be a prima donna and maintain a friendship.
  • Gave myself a two-hour break from this dang compression bra that I am supposed to wear 24/7 for 6 weeks. I promise you, I did not do jumping jacks. And my poor right breast was very grateful.
  • Standing by my June decision to not feed the cancer by staying off dairy, meat, and refined sugar. I feel so much better and, surprisingly, not deprived at all. I made another decision that I did not have to be 100% perfect about this. For me, the need to hit the mark perfectly originates from fear – thus feeding it. Besides, 95% lets you have dark chocolate and eat out with friends.
  • Asked for the ONcoType DX testing, even after the oncologist said it wouldn’t mean anything because my margins were dirty. He finally understood that it was an important part of my decision-making process.
  • Met with a Doctor who specializes in oncological physical therapy to help with the aftermath of chemo (should I go that route). Right now we are focused on reclaiming range of motion in my mastectomy arm – and NOT getting lymphedema.

Now it’s your turn. As always, I am grateful for your visits and appreciate your comments.

Remember, sharing is caring. If you found something here that inspired, you may know someone else who will feel the same. XO Bernadette

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28 thoughts on “Eenie, meenie, miney moe. Pathology report, here we go. Anatomy of a decision.

  • September 30, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    This is deep stuff, Bernadette. Choices. Decisions. Unchartered lands. We’re building the plane while we’re flying it. This is when life gets really real. Actually, it’s been real all along, but then we get several wake up calls and come face to face with Consequences. I don’t have an answer. Just know that you are not alone, honey. I hear you.

    • October 1, 2017 at 2:10 pm

      I am loving the imagery of “building the plane while we’re flying it,” Eleanor! Am seeing the old silent movies with the Keystone Cops … or maybe the talkies with the Three Stooges? 🙂 Thank you so much for your company … and your light!

  • September 30, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    Bernadette, I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers as you travel this road.. .. Ruby slippers on and with your courage…. you got this~!

    • October 1, 2017 at 2:12 pm

      Don’t forget the broom, Sally. Just in case. Remember, I know how to drive a stick. It’s the parking that throws me off. XO 🙂 Thanks, hon!

  • September 30, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Sometimes, making a decision on decisions has a blurry margin for me. With no clear lines, I often feel I could be crossing a line.

    But here is one decision: I am choosing to support yours.

    Your blog has reminded me of a Zen Buddhist saying that speaks to practicing consciousness – awareness of your thoughts, intentions, actions. That can be difficult when you wade in muddy waters. The Buddhists say that the best way to practice consciousness is to be aware of simple walking, each step you take; is the ground hard or soft. How does it feel beneath your feet? My own feet have been developing a painful neuropathy. No, I’m not diabetic. But the ache, stinging, burning reminds me that the reasons why things happen may also be blurry. The important thing is to aim towards “vision” – asking the questions: does this affirm living or dying, asking Spirit, perhaps, “help me see this”.

    So, what am I doing to affirm? Little things, most would say. But as The Course in Miracles says, there are no little or big things and nothing is neutral, we assign value to everything.

    My decisions: I love green smoothies. But, I hate the mess of cutting fruits and cleaning up. So, today, I made 5, to freeze and refrigerate. Today, I am walking to help the circulation in my feet. This week, a friend will cut my hair. This week, I’ll give a massage to another friend, practicing consciousness for her body. This week, I’ll pray, for anyone who is making decisions and I’ll pray for everyone that I love.

    • October 1, 2017 at 2:26 pm

      “…reminds me that the reasons why things happen may also be blurry. The important thing is to aim towards “vision” – asking the questions: does this affirm living or dying, asking Spirit, perhaps, “help me see this.” I always love your wisdom and how you share it, hon. Thank you! And now I know where your smoothie stash is. 😉 XO

  • September 30, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    Choices and decisions drive how one lives life. Some time they are easy to make and another time one struggles and questions what to do. I admire the process you are following. You are absolutely right…it needs to be what is right for your life and spirit. Please know my thoughts and prayers are sending strength to you as you make choices and decisions.

    • October 1, 2017 at 2:28 pm

      Thank you so much, Suzanne. I love that you found your way here and shared. XO

  • September 30, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    Thank you for your honesty and courage. This post has given me some serious food for thought… uncomfortable thoughts but necessary ones.

    • October 1, 2017 at 2:30 pm

      You are welcome, Wendy. Remember … that 95% allows for one margarita if you ever want to hang out. XO

  • October 1, 2017 at 1:55 am

    My sister is sitting with her friend who only has weeks to live. She got breast cancer in each breast and in one lung. She was given 6 months to live without surgery. 15 years ago She had both breasts removed and one lung, and all (or most) of her lymph nodes. She was cancer free for 15 years. Now her one lung has cancer and she has a brain tumor. she’s currently wrapping up her life in preparation of her death. That 15 years was a gift, because she made the decision to be aggressive with her treatment. She had no guarantee, but she was lucky. She remained a chief financial officer of a company most of those years and had a great life with her husband and friends. My dad, was faced with heart surgery at 86 and involved the whole family in the decision. He was not so lucky and lived a miserable one and a half years in a nursing home. After his experience, for myself, I lean toward treatment only if there is a good prognosis. I don’t want to live in pain as an invalid. Like Jack Lalane it doesn’t fit my image. So many factors. You are still young. So many potential years before you. At that point, for myself, I’d be more aggressive in treatment. But, the letting nature take it’s course, might be the best option for many of us as we get older. My wife’s just been through 13 straigt months of chemo infusion. Twice a week, basically every week. She had discomfort for 2-3 days after infusion but then felt progressively better as the months went by and the cancer receded. Now she’s on maintenance and only goes in for infusion once a month. She does take chemo drugs everyday though. My cousin got terminal prostate cancer 12 years ago and was given a 6 month death sentence from several doctors. But he finally found a doctor that would treat him. He’s now cancer free for 12 years. The other message I hear often is make sure you get the right doctor. Some just quote the status and kiss you goodbye. Another factor is how much you want to live. Dad’s doctor said unless he had a really good reason to live he should not have the surgery. We go to a support group and hear everyone’s story. Young and old in many circumstances. It’s quite a revelation to see how they all deal with cancer. Most are really focused on living. They understand what a gift life is.

    • October 1, 2017 at 2:50 pm

      That’s a lot of experience you share there, Garry. Literally lifetimes. I found the “right” breast surgeon. She honored my decision for the radical mastectomy though tests showed a lumpectomy would do. Call it and intuitive hunch, as much as I wanted to do breast conservation, something said “No. You’ll regret not being aggressive with surgery.” Now my gut says “Proceed with caution. You need more information.” Finding the right doctor in this next phase is important. 15 more years would be a gift … but well-lived. I don’t want to live in pain as an invalid either … nor with “mysterious” ailments down the road. In the meantime, I am aggressive with nature’s medicine – the ones the pharmaceutical companies haven’t figured out how to replicate. I grow stronger every day. The surgeon was surprised to see that she could remove my drain bulbs in 7 days and not 14+ which tells me that my body is already operating more efficiently. I want to know the nature of the tumors they got – at the suggestion of my breast surgeon. That’s what this test is for. The oncologist never even mentioned it … so … will see, hon! Love all you shared and I am keeping you and your sweetheart in my best thoughts! 🙂

  • October 1, 2017 at 11:29 am

    I think it’s easy to make ones decisions from a place of fear. It’s harder to stand in a place of balance and make that decision in your own truth and grace. May you have peace in whatever direction you are led.

    • October 1, 2017 at 5:22 pm

      Spoken from experience. One day we will have coffee. I hope you are getting stronger and stronger every day, Stacia. XO

  • October 1, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    Inspiring & pondering as always 😉 Of course you did make me laugh there too (prima donna part 😉 ) I will definitely be more aware of any decisions I’ll be making (gosh …it’s really overwhelming when you actually stop to think of how many we make each day!) and as always too…..keeping you in my daily thoughts & prayers Hun! <3

    • October 1, 2017 at 5:25 pm

      I could get used to that prima donna part, Karla! 🙂 Not a good business model though. Heheheh … This is the deal. Just make those decisions with GUSTO and LIFE! (Say I, with a big gulp of tea!) Love you, hon! XO

  • October 1, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    “Truly successful decision-making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking. ? Malcolm Gladwell
    You have been blessed with both…so whatever you decide…however you make these choices…I know that your path will be blessed…analyze the choices, make your decision, always analyze the results, and then…make another decision.
    Spirit…is a wink…and a smile….and I know Spirit is shining down on you no matter how tough it seems at times…and you know that everyone who knows you is ready to help you as much as they can…never be afraid to ask…just my opinion…(God, that’s alot of “knows”….) 😉

    • October 1, 2017 at 5:31 pm

      BaLaNCiNg. bALaNCiNG. BaLaNCiNG…. some more. 🙂 Thank you for all your good thoughts, hon. Am learning to ask and receive. BTW … You DO “knows” a lots!!! XO

  • October 1, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    Bernadette, I am sending you good thoughts and keeping you in my prayers. I love this piece and it has inspired me to make a list of decisions I need to make over the next few days. I never really gave any thought to how I spend my time, but this week I will write down what I need to accomplish and be mindful about the decisions I choose to make this happen. Thank you for this insight helpful writing and wishing you the very best and restored GOOD HEALTH.

    • October 21, 2017 at 9:16 pm

      Thank you, Ivy! I am so glad this piece spoke to you and hope you are doing well with those decisions! XO

  • October 2, 2017 at 2:42 am

    Hi Bernadette, I’m just home from a short stay with my sister and found your ‘Musings’. A friend recently taught me this and I think it is worth knowing and sharing……
    Stand relaxed and ask yourself “Is my name Bernadette?” and see if your body moves forward or back in reply. Then try is my name …….any name that isn’t your name and see if your body move back or forward,
    Now try “Am I female?” and see how your body moves
    Am I male? and see how your body moves.
    You should now have an yes or no answer from your body. My answer is consistent, but I am told the yes/no movement can change, so you need to check each time. Do not keep asking the same question until you get the answer you hope for. My friend says the answer is always right. Ask your body what you need to do with a yes/no answer. See what happens. I’m, so sorry the outcome isn’t what you wanted. My love always, Jan xx

  • October 2, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    Your spirit and wisdom shine through no matter the adversity and no matter how to seems my thoughts and prayers are always with you.

  • October 2, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Oh me, oh my… I feel you Sister!

    Have Faith, grab that broom, and turbo…even if turboing at 2mph (as long as you keep a tight grip and stay on, even IF you slip to the head down toward the ground mode of travel 😉

    TWENTY YEARS AGO LAST WEEK I opted (didn’t see another choice) to let a stranger take my heart out, and strip it, in order to try and save my life. Quality of life was not an option pondered.

    Unbeknownst to me, the E.D. Doc, whom I would be seeing about twice a week for the next seven months, and was my age, with two young children, had the same decision to make, before he met me, and fortunately for my own present and future Peace of mind, his decision was made during a brief window of opportunity, like mine, BEFORE we met, and had opted to forgo the surgery, and fight that was supposed to be a five year battle, if lucky. (GOD certainly has a way about HIM)

    I’m sure that every time he saw me, he pitied me. The CHF, Pneumonia, Pleurisy, yada, yada…while I kind of envied HIM being able to see patients, as I used to. He was around Drs. And Nurses, and napped, and stayed a couple of hours in order to feel he was going out on his terms.

    He passed a year after my Open Heart Surgery.

    I on the other hand, have fought, and done whatever needed doing, on any given day… and will admit…there were still days that I envied him.

    There were other days I wanted to scream at him for giving up!

    TWENTY YEARS Sweetie… and a few NDE’s when this ticker stopped, but apparently GOD had other plans.

    I don’t know why…no one ever does, really.

    So, if you ask me… you do what YOU see that you should do, have to do, or want to do.

    I’ll be flying with you, side by side, one way or another…

    GOD Bless and heal you…Amen

    (Sorry this was long winded, but I can do long winded better this way, when the opportunity presents itself, and asks)

    • October 2, 2017 at 2:20 pm

      Those were supposed to be hearts…not question marks. I guess that works, although I don’t ecpect an ‘Amen’ from you… gotta keep the sense of humor 😉

    • October 21, 2017 at 9:05 pm

      Not long winded at all, Laurie. You made the decision your soul needed you to make – as did he. Won’t know the reasons until we get to the other side. Maybe his presence and purpose was to assure you (and others) of your decisions. Me, I have a few more to make … but am getting closer. And there is a peace about this for which I am grateful. The harder part is being without Ray on this side of the veil … though he keeps reminding me that he is not gone.

      Love to be flying with you, sister! XO

  • October 7, 2017 at 12:47 am

    Thinking about you, Bernadette, and your long-ago altar-making at Unity Athens. 🙂 I appreciate your sharing; your decisions; your interplay with the medical workers. I also envision all the Light and Love and Energy and Positive Vibrations and Well-Wishes that are continually coming your way from so many — and knowing that those forces for well-being are something that science has yet been able to measure. Thank you for sharing your journey. You are a Be-ing of Bright Light and I see the very special “radiation” that comes from deep within, with such a Light. Love & Blessings, Bronte

    • October 21, 2017 at 8:57 pm

      Bronte! How wonderful to see you here. AND, to receive the message you carry from Spirit. 🙂 “I see the very special “radiation” that comes from deep within,” resonated with a decision I am about to make. Thank you, hon!!! Love and Blessings Back. XO

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