My Little Cancer Experience
Updated: Aug 26, 2019
At the end of 2018 I created charts and things to do. Planned out an entire bullet journal; Even scheduled all of my vacation days for 2019 before the ball dropped. Then, over the winter I tackled my checkups. Luckily so, because it turned out that I had a little piece of cancer in my left breast. Stage 0 thankfully, but in the beginning I panicked.
During the last week of March, I had a biopsy done (keep in mind that you are awake for this procedure and yes, they have to go inside your body to retrieve a piece of you for testing). After having local anesthesia, four pieces of tissue were removed from a one inch lump that was about half an inch from my areola. I finished something frightening and didn't pass out nor did I die. I didn't even cry as I did plenty of times through this little journey. I just had to heal for a short amount of time. Waiting five days for the results would be the difficult part.
On the 2nd of April, the wait was over the second I stopped thinking about it, which was around 12:30 in the afternoon on a Tuesday. When I got the call, it's not at all who I'm waiting for. It's my gynecologist who originally set the mental ball rolling by mentioning that 40 is the year to start thinking about getting a mammogram. However, she also wouldn't give me the written referral that I needed to have the biopsy done. I had to schedule a visit with my primary care physician, who was kind enough to see me since I needed a checkup anyway. He also did blood work and gave me a choice of three specialists. I chose one quickly and then it was off to the races.
Talk about a runaround. A copy of my results were sent to my GYN. Therefore, she called me and proceeded to read it off the paper starting with, "you do not have cancer" but she used the word C A R C I N O M A which gave me pause and also made me politely hang up on her. Respectfully, I needed to hear it from someone who knew what the fuck they were talking about. I wanted to hear it from my new specialist who had already assured me that we would discuss next steps if my tests came back positive. The crazy thing is that it was Tuesday, which was my specialist's surgery day. I had to wait for her break. In the process, I drove myself half crazy. Finally, her assistant called to inform me that I did in fact, have DCIS... Ductal carcinoma in situ, which means the cells that line the milk ducts of the breast have become cancer, but they have not spread into surrounding breast tissue. It's considered non-invasive or pre-invasive breast cancer, otherwise known as Stage 0.
I'd never even heard of it. I was stuck. I had to leave. Everything was spinning and I needed to stop the world for a second. I mentioned it as best as I could to a few at my office. My work wife, Jenn kindly walked me to my truck while she held my bag. Finally alone, I drove out of the parking garage and made it near Central Park when I completely lost it. My head hurt. My body did too. I was fucking tired at almost 1 in the afternoon in this forty-first year of life. I just wanted to be happy. Now, I'll surely be up to Stage 2 by the time I got home. I calmed down. Called a friend who allowed me to be outraged, cry, then she calmed me down further and from then on I practiced the art of telling some people in my world that I was just a little sick, but would be very fine very soon.
I always tell my son, when you don't know what to do, don't do anything. Resume when you are prepared to conduct a plan and follow it through to the end. So, that's exactly what I did.
After asking enough questions, I scheduled an appointment with my specialist to go over my options and then I literally just followed the steps. The upside is that it was now spring. I would need good weather to tackle this. However, there were other good things to consider. I'm good at lists, so I've made a list of the pros and cons since being diagnosed. Cons first, because rainbows come after storms.
CONS aka "all the times I cried"
- I cried when I got the news.
- I cried over fish tacos at the Brooklyn Diner when everything sunk in.
- There are what seems like endless needles in such a short space in time and occasionally you guessed it, I cried.
- You may be presented with the option to have a double mastectomy and immediate reconstruction to prevent any possible scares in the future. Upon hearing this, I almost hyperventilated and definitely cried.
- Trying to sleep while trying to heal after my lumpectomy.
- I'm a little sucker and cried when I received a series of tiny tattooed dots for the radiation table top. In my defense, I actually cried after they had to redo number seven (the last) because it was too small to see.
- My son texting me one random afternoon and asking "Mom, do you have cancer?"
- After twenty sessions of radiation, I was pretty badly burned. However, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm including a picture of my breast so you can see what brown skin looks like when in such a state.
- Ubering to and from my daily appointments and lots and lots of waiting.
That's enough sad stuff...Wait! One more, do you know how tedious it is to organize outfits in sets for almost five weeks, because you have to undress from the waist up daily...? I won't miss that.
PROS aka "Brighter days ahead"
- Due to prior planning I was able to fit everything neatly into the spring and early summer months.
- Although, I paid a mini fortune in co-pays, I was so grateful for great insurance.
- Basketball season was almost over for my son and I wouldn't miss any games.
- Spring Break was coming up in two weeks; surgery and recovery fit neatly into it without having to take any extra days off from work.
- There were only three general steps.
2) radiation (20 sessions)
3) medication (which I have to take for the next 5 years)
- I got to skip a step and didn't need chemotherapy.
- All of my doctors are Mount Sinai affiliated and were the best a lady could ask for. I can not say enough about the exceptional nursing staff along the way.
- I have a very caring group of friends and family. I will usually lock herself away from the world when things get a little wild. However, there were more than a handful of folks who wouldn't let me. Ranging from daily 2 pm texts from my friend, Shannon, to a pop up from almost my entire sibling crew (including my dad), to endless prayers, cards, flowers and lastly, to the new radiation friends I made while going to the hospital. Many of those women were more sick and or worried than I, but they were all so kind to me. A special shout out to Mirna and Meenakshi. I'm praying that all is well with your world for years and years to come. It was a pleasure meeting you.
Thank you further to everyone that I didn't mention. Also to my Aunt Jennifer for sending me this adorable plant which caught me by surprise and gave me something else to nurture besides my son. I named her Annie John, because she reminds me of Antigua.
The thing that I realized the most is that the pros far outweighed the cons. As long as I keep showing up in this life and following the steps, God shows up for me. On Friday night, I stared at a lone white, round pill that sat on my finger. I hate taking medication of any kind. However, I hadn't gone through all of that and come this far not to complete step three. I placed the tamoxifen on my tongue and swallowed. Here's to the next five years and hoping that every other mammogram from here on out is as smooth as silk.
Get tested annually.
L O V E,
J A S