He missed the tumor.

I’m headed back to surgery on Monday.

I can’t believe this is happening.

I was thrilled to get the drains out yesterday. Finally, I felt almost-human again. Reflexively, my hand went to where the tumor had been. Of my body’s typography, this is a location I know intimately. Which is why I was disturbed to feel a lump. Albeit, a smaller lump (more of a button than a broach) but still very much a lump. I pointed this out to the surgeon. He said it was probably “fatty tissue.” I made him feel it. “Nothing to worry about,” he assured me. I assured him–I’m a worrier. I need to know what this thing is. He tsk-tsk’ed and sent me downstairs for an ultrasound. His nurse smiled brightly.

Slowly, things began to unravel. The ultrasound confirmed the lump was solid–a huge calcification at its core. But was it a new lump or the same lump? A biopsy was ordered. But before they could plunge a needle into my aching chest, Mary remembered the lump was tagged. During my biopsy in January, the radiologist inserted a tiny metal tag next to the mass. She explained that it acts like a beacon shining brightly on future mammograms to help techs sort new lumps from old. At the time, I felt like an animal tagged and released back into the wild, but yesterday that tag made all the difference.

Alerted to the tag, the radiologist switched course and ordered a mammogram (yup, a mammogram. don’t ask). Afterward she and I stared at the display in disbelief. There was my tumor in black-and-white. Metal tag still firmly in place. Shining brightly. Illuminating the spot where–without a shadow of a doubt–the cancer still lies.  

So many questions.

So much sorrow.

So much disbelief.

So much anger. 

Forgive me if I don’t post for awhile, but I don’t have words to describe how I’m feeling.

35 Responses

  1. Jane says:

    I feel sick reading this. Only a fraction of what you’re feeling I imagine. I am so sorry. and angry. This is so unfair. I wish I could find comforting words but there really aren’t any. I want to take a knife to that surgeon (or maybe Mary’s vicious teeth).
    Thank god you insisted.

  2. Natalie says:

    one of the heaviest sighs preludes this e-mail… my heart just breaks for you. sending even more energy your way and also into the brains and hearts of those around you (particularly those who are making crazy mistakes.)

    I have to say that it’s been “delightful” and insightful reading your blog, but today it feels like, even with all of the great writing skills and true and utter patience that you have weathered thus far, that there just truly are no words to capture where you must be.

    I also wanted to mention on a lighter note that I’m glad that Mary’s not a dog. I think I had shared with her a study that basically said that having a spouse with you at doctors and hospital visits actually increases stress levels but that having a dog with you actually decreases stress. I’m thinking that even as much as Emma loves you that she wouldn’t have been able to chime in about such information in that moment at the Dr’s.

    Holding you all in my heart, Natalie

  3. Unbelievable! I’m so sorry to hear the news. Continuing to keep you in our hearts (human and canine alike).


    Roxanne (from FLX)

  4. I say hit this guy where it hurts, in the bank account.

  5. KarenfromFLX says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this and devastated for you.

  6. Oh no. I’ve never heard of that and I pray that no-one ever will have to again.

    I can’t even imagine how you must be feeling.

  7. So, so, SO sorry! Thoughts and prayers and much good energy are coming your way.

    Hard enough to have to heal — physically — all over again, but now you have the emotions of all this on top of the original emotions.

    Jenny from FLX

  8. Andrew says:

    Damn it.

  9. Gwen says:

    Catherine, there just aren’t any words. Thinking about you and keeping you in my prayers. I’m so sorry for this pain on top of what you have already endured.

  10. Diane says:

    I am so angry and sad with you. I’m so sorry.

  11. kim says:

    oh catherine.

  12. Barb says:


    Angry and sad with you. And angry again.

    You have no words. I have no words. You’ll be in our thoughts.

    But Don’t stop writing. This will be important to you.

  13. Elizabeth Kricfalusi says:

    I have no words. Just sending healing thoughts your way and wishing you the best with the next surgery and beyond.

  14. marissa says:

    unFREAKINGbelievable! sue him…but get things taken care of first. this is an outrage.


    boo hiss

    but, mostly, lots of love…so you can brave another knife and gonzo convalescing.

    m and z

  15. Sharon Waldrop says:

    Catherine — I am so very sorry and so very sad to hear this news. How dare that surgeon do such sloppy work then try to brush you off when you still felt the lump. What the heck was he doing, or rather not doing, during the surgery? Hopefully a day will come soon when he is stripped of his license.

    I am angry and hope that you get a good attorney, but take care of your health first.


  16. Lisa CC says:

    I hope you not only sue this doctor but also report him to the licensing board. I’m furious on your behalf that you’ve been put through this horrible ordeal, when you’re already struggling with so much to have cancer at your age. Good for you for standing up for yourself.

    I pray you find better doctors at some other hospital and that the rest of your treatment goes as smoothly as possible.


  17. Steph says:

    So so sorry to hear this news, Catherine. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.

    Much love,

  18. Marie Karns says:

    Sending prayers, Catherine. I am so sorry you are having to go through this… again! Hang in there, keep breathing, you WILL get on the other side of this! ((Hugs)) Marie

  19. Laine says:

    Oh. My. God. That is absolutely, without question, one of the most horrible things I’ve ever heard. I’m completely enraged and completely speechless. This guy better not be doing the surgery on Monday. And after the cancer is finally gone (which it soon will be, though I doubt it seems that way), and after you have convalesced, find a good attorney.

    I’ll be thinking about you, and Mary, and Bindi, and your dog (I don’t know his/her name). I’m not the praying sort, but I am the sending support and strength and patience and wherewithal sort, and I am sending loads of that.

  20. Nan & Tom says:

    Catherine & Mary,
    Nan and I were just floored to get this news. Utterly horrible, crappy news. I don’t know that I have anything of value to add, but at the same time it would be unthinkable to not say something. My brother would call this situation “all the way bad.”
    Catherine, you wrote about the life-affirming feeling of being “this loved and supported by so many….” That is a real thing. The highest of all truths. There’s more where that came from.
    With much love,

  21. I want to do very bad things to that doctor. How dare he be such an idiot. Please share his name. I never believed in suing people until this moment. I am so sorry that you have to go through this.

  22. Zak says:

    I actually wanted to say I think it’s important that we not all jump on the idea that this doctor is some kind of incompetent. Clearly he messed up and I think it’s wise that you be aware of your recourse options should you need them, but that’s very different from encouraging you to hate the person you’ve entrusted with your care (or hate yourself for the choice you made). These things do happen, and they can happen anywhere–(I have quite a few bones I’d like to pick with Sloan Kettering, myself). The test now is how the place then goes on to deal with it and take care of you.

    You chose this guy for a reason and it wasn’t just just his reputation and skill. Trust your gut in your original decision just as you trust your gut in knowing when things aren’t right with your body. Plenty of doctors never would have sent you to get the ‘humor me’ ultrasound in the first place, and others would probably react a lot more defensively than this guy is. This is part of what you chose when you chose your surgeon–the ability of someone to listen to you and check their own need to always be right; plus the availability of facilities that could actually offer you this immediate testing /confirmation of your fears. You did well.

    Believe me, I hate to be the optimistic one. But while I think you should be mad, I also think you should hear that you are in fine hands as you continue with this process. And who knows–this might very well be a blessing. Maybe there really is a second tumor, or maybe this one is embedded in such a way that if he didn’t leave in the absurdly obvious portion of it, you never would have found the rest of it. I have to believe that the very nature of this story means something was supposed to happen this way. That you now get a second look inside — by a well-regarded doctor scared enough to be extra extra thorough in his next analysis — can’t be all bad.

  23. Gina Roberts-Grey (from FLX) says:


    I’m so sorry you’re going through this. It’s unimaginable yet your eloquence so beautifully brings us into this whirlwind you’re in right now. Know so many are sending you good thoughts, prayers and positive energy.

    Stay strong and positive.

  24. wendy (from FLX) says:

    My thoughts & prayers are with you. You will make it through this.
    xxx Wendy

  25. Beth says:

    I second Zak. And we love you! More Caroline pictures on the way 🙂

  26. Jean Thilmany says:

    I cried reading this. I don’t even know you but I kind of do of course. And I’m crying for you. I am so sorry.

  27. I’m so sorry, Catherine. This is just horrifying. I’m keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.

    Stay strong. You’re a survivor!

    Sarah (from FLX)

  28. Can we forward this post to that doctor’s office?


    This news is beyond believeable. No words really. Just concern for you and sadness that a surgeon could be that callous, not to mention stupid.

    Sending nothing but good thoughts your way so you can find some sense in the senseless.


  29. Tim says:

    I just heard your news. If the love of your friends helps at all, know that you have lots of it, as this page attests. I’m thinking of you, pulling for you, hoping for you.

    – Tim Gower

  30. Buffy Tanner says:

    Catherine and Mary,
    So much disbelief indeed. Thank goodness that you and Mary were insistent that something was not right. What a huge disappointment not to have this part of the process over.

    Sending you positive thoughts (and sending your doctor a kick in the butt to be more careful and more sensitive to patient concerns).

  31. Debbie Johnson says:

    OH MY GOD!!!
    I am a fellow post mastectomy, boob-less 52 year old woman. It is quite hard enough to muster the mind and body to go through this journey the first time let alone a second time.
    You have proven to all of us that you have to be your own best advocate. If you think there is something wrong, damn it make your medical team follow up!!!!!
    Hang in there girl….I also hate pink!!! I shed many tears for you since I read of your ordeal.
    Good thoughts,
    Debbie (a friend and neighbor of Roxanne’s)

  32. Mary says:

    Catherine and Mary

    I am sitting here in Vancouver, thinking of you both. And I am in shock. I just can’t believe what I have just read. I don’t get it. I thought the whole point of the tag, which in my own case, I seriously resisted at the time of the biopsy, was to make “the cut” so that it encompassed the mass and would leave clear margins.
    I am sorry for what you have to go through. It’s beyond incoherent.

  33. Janine Adams says:

    Catherine, this news is so shocking. I’m keeping you in my thoughts. Your eloquence in the face of your situation is breathtaking. I’ll be on the look out for updates.

    Janine (from FLX)

  34. Marissa Schaeuble says:

    Catherine and Mary, You are loved by so many people and are in my thoughts and prayers everyday. I pray for each of you to have strength and compassion to endure this next surgery. Remember you have so many people just waiting to help out in whatever way we can.

  35. Catherine:

    I can’t even find words. I can’t imagine your anguish right now. You will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. I have no doubt you will beat this thing and I pray this doctor’s ineptness does not in anyway deter your fighting spirit. Please let us know if there’s anything that any of us can do to ease your burden right now. (If you feel up to sending your address along to anybody on FLX, we would love to have it so that we can continue to send our support to you).

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