My Breast Cancer Story.
This is a hard one for me to write. Hard on many levels and as you read on, you will see why. If you don’t read the whole story, I won’t mind. What I do urge for you to do, if you are a woman, is to get a mammogram. Do self exams. Take care of yourself for once. Be there for your family.
There are no pretty pictures to look at. This is just my story …. so far.
I will start at the beginning.
I have always had dense and fibrous breasts. I remember getting my first mammogram years ago and about a week later getting a letter telling me to call my Doctor – something was wrong. I, of course, panicked. It is what any woman would do.
Turns out I had a couple of spots that needed re-checking. This happened year after year. I began to get mammograms every 6 months. I got so used to reading the letters, or getting a call, that said to call my doctor immediately, that I grew insensitive to it. I couldn’t freak out about it and stop my life for something that I “knew” would turn to nothing.
So what did I do? I decided to quit getting mammograms. Well, actually we moved and I was busy and I didn’t want to find a new doctor. I knew what would happen anyway. Right.
Three years went by with no mammogram. To be honest, I didn’t miss the squishing and prodding and certainly didn’t miss the phone calls and letter.
In November of 2014, I finally went for a mammogram. I went because I urged my partner to go. I made a promise that if she went I would go. We both went to the imaging center, sat in the waiting room and went to our test. End of story.
Not end of story. I got a call a couple of days later and was told I needed to come in for a comprehensive mammogram. I made an appointment with the young lady for that afternoon. It still never occurred to me that there would be something wrong. I can clearly remember joking with her and telling a friend of mine that it was a routine follow up. Nothing to worry about.
I knew it was something to worry about when I was brought to a small comfortable room after the test. I was told a Doctor would come and talk to me. The technician held my hand and I knew the news would not be good. I was told I had a 90% chance of having breast cancer. My next step was to schedule a appointment with a surgeon and later a biopsy.
I can’t really tell you much more about that day. I do remember leaving the office and going to my car and calling Big. I remember her crying and then giving me encouraging words. Somehow I drove home and called the rest of my family. I was strong. I had to be. It is who I am. I am here for everyone and need nothing from anyone.
My next step was to meet my surgeon She is a wonderful woman with a soft and gentle personality, but one that you know means business. She advised me that I had high grade ductal carcinoma in-situ. I was asked how quickly I wanted to take care of things. It was close to the holidays and she said I would be ok if I wanted to wait until after the holidays. I didn’t want to wait.
The biopsy was next. I want to tell you about the biopsy. The staff and the doctor were very nice and they were also positive and kept telling me that 80% of biopsies were negative. I felt they were wrong. The biopsy was uncomfortable. I had to lay on a table with my breast hanging through a whole. It was compressed and then they collected a sample of the calcification for testing.
After about a week or so, I got a call with the results that I did have cancer. I know it may seem funny, but I had a strong feeling that the biopsy would turn out positive for cancer. You might think I am crazy, but from the minute I was told there was a cancer in my body, it was as if I could almost feel it in my breast.
After another visit to my surgeon to discuss the results. Surgery was scheduled. Every thing was happening fast and that is exactly how I wanted it. I wanted to get it over and move on with my life.
I was scheduled for a Lumpectomy and was told by the surgeon that she felt strongly that the lumpectomy would rid me of the cancer. There was no thought that it would be invasive. They were wrong. There was a 5mm invasive ductal carcinoma found when the lab pathology came back.
Another surgery was scheduled. This surgery was to see if I had cancer in my lymph nodes. I was given a shot of filled with radiation so they could see exactly which lump nodes were the first that any particles went to. During surgery two of my lymph nodes were removed. Luckily there was no cancer found. What it did mean was that I was now at Stage I.
After the holidays, I began 8 weeks of radiation therapy. I went 5 days a week for the entire time. I thought at first that I would hate going to the radiologist every day, but I will admit that I began to be ok with it. It wasn’t that I necessarily enjoyed the procedure. I did like that I felt someone was doing something to help me get better. Every day, I had to lay perfectly still on a table while a big machine moved over my body and shot radiation in my breast. I have tattoos on my breast that pinpoint where the radiation was to start and where it was to stop. I always closed my eyes during the procedure. The machine reminded me of the alien from the movie. When I lay on the table and looked up into the machine, it looked, to me, like the teeth of the monster. At times, I laid there and cried. Silent tears that I knew no one would see.
When I completed radiation, my next visit was with an Oncologist. I was put on a drug that strips all of the estrogen from my body. My cancer loves estrogen and it is hoped that if I have no estrogen, there will be nothing for the cancer to feed on. The first few weeks on this drug was hard. I was being thrown in to menopause all over again. My mood was horrible, I was angry all the time, I had horrible night sweats, my skin was dry and I began to loose some of my hair.
It has been almost a year since I found out I have/had cancer. I am still not sure how to say it. I see a doctor of some sort almost every month. I will slow down with these visits soon, as long as there is no detection of the cancer. I don’t mind though. I am thankful that my cancer was found.
Please understand that what I am telling you is my memory of it all. I think that my family members could share better time lines with you. They could tell you in more precision about diagnosises. For me, it is still a blur. I am not sure when it will ever quit being a blur. I am not sure I ever want it to quit being a blur.
Here is the hardest part for me to write. I have been strong outside for my family and those who know me, yet inside I am a scared little kid. I smile and put on a brave face and cry on the inside. I remember thinking to myself, at one time, that I should allow the cancer to take me, that somehow I deserved it. I remember wanting to fight also. Mostly I think I just gave up. This very strong woman, put her life in someone else’s hands and I just did what I was told to. I didn’t
I still feel that my story is not worthy to tell. There are so many women who have it so much worse than me. There are so many who have lost their hair, gone through chemo and lost the fight after all. When I walk in the Oncologist office and I see women who weigh 90 pounds and who may not be on this earth longer, I feel I don’t have a right to say, “I fought the good fight”. I hide in the corner and hope no one looks at me. When I get in the car, I cry. For days afterwords, I am upset and tears come easily.
My story is not over. I won’t know if it will be over for another 4 years. That is when I will be deemed cancer free. There is so much more I could say to you. I have written enough though.
As I said at the beginning of this article, if you are a woman, please get a mammogram. Don’t let the discomfort of it make you not go. Please take care of yourself.