“You have cancer.”
Those three words were seared into my brain along with the howling cry from our 11-year-old daughter who was listening to the phone call that evening.
A week and a half earlier, I was lying in bed for the night and doing a self-breast exam. My left breast was normal, but I felt a lump in my right breast that I didn’t remember feeling before. I asked my husband to feel the lump, and he immediately wanted me to make an appointment. I already had a mammogram and ultrasound scheduled a few days out, so I decided to wait. I was in denial. There was nothing to be concerned about. My appointment came, and I decided not to say anything about the lump. If they didn’t notice anything then I was good. During the ultrasound, the technician kept going over and over the same area we found the lump. Images and videos were sent to the doctor and I was asked to return the following week for a biopsy. That biopsy confirmed I had Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. When I heard those words, I was in a panic. It felt like my life was sucked out of my body, time froze in a haze of uncertainty. I was devastated. How could my breast that nurtured and fed our children be killing me from the inside out? What was I supposed to do now? I’d only just turned 44. I expected to live until 80 before any serious medical conditions developed. But that’s not what life had in store.
The next few weeks were a whirlwind of appointments to find the right providers. Once we felt absolutely confident with the plan and the team of surgeons and oncologists, the surgeries were scheduled. I opted for bilateral mastectomies with reconstructive surgery to follow. I needed that peace of mind, and our doctor agreed it was a good plan. The pathology report showed a total seven masses, but luckily my lymph nodes were clear. I was relieved that chemotherapy would not be a part of my treatment plan. I am currently waiting for radiation to begin.
I’m still in shock that this is happening. In the midst of the rush to see doctors and collect all the information my brain could absorb; our daughter had her 12th birthday. That day was beyond heartache. The reality of mortality slapped me in the face, and I felt gutted. Could this be the last family birthday celebration I’ll ever enjoy? I had no idea, but I was willing to do whatever it took to see my family grow old together. I started counseling again shortly after my diagnosis. I also reached out to a wonderful friend and photographer to help me through this. She has documented my journey from the beginning and it has proved extremely therapeutic. I can see how far I’ve come in such a short amount of time.
We’ve been completely open and transparent about our cancer journey right from the beginning, especially with our children. Through this openness, I was referred to the Breast Cancer Coalition by a fellow survivor and I began to make wonderful connections with the networking support groups and attended informational Zoom seminars. I’ve learned so much in such a short amount of time thanks to the Coalition. There’s still so much more to learn. I hope to be more involved with the Breast Cancer Coalition and support other survivors as much as they’ve supported me.