Earlier today I debated whether or not I wanted to post this. I asked myself, “what’s the point of telling everyone all this?” I didn’t think there was one, and I’m still not sure if there is.
I guess I decided to post it for my friends and family, who want to help but can’t be here all the time, who reach out and ask how I’m doing and want to know if I’m okay. I *am* okay. Also, it’s good to let people know what you’re going through. To not to post the highlight reel all the time, or protect yourself (and others) from the crappy stuff by not posting anything at all.
So here goes.
Three weeks ago, I was blindsided by news that I knew I’d get sooner or later. I just expected to get it *later.* I am now the youngest woman in my family (out of five) to have been diagnosed with breast cancer. I am 34. What a trailblazer, huh? 🏆
My mind has been playing funny tricks on me ever since the diagnosis, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone share the experience before. So in case you’re curious, this is what it’s like:
1 When someone says, “you have cancer” you think, “Okay, he’s saying, this, but it’s not like, the serious kind of cancer. It’s not the kind that can kill you, because I am not the kind of person to have that. It’s like *fringe* cancer. *Technically* it’s cancer, but barely.” Text your partner from the biopsy table (I know, I know, worst ever) because it’s really not that big of a deal. Call your parents and make them talk to the radiologist because you don’t understand even one thing that’s happening at this point.
2 Start to process that you’re having a biopsy because what they saw on the MRI, mammogram, and ultrasound could only be cancer. Immediately tell the radiologist that this is not part of the plan. You have other things to contend with, you have had a crap decade and *cancer* is not going to be the on top of a sundae. The bad decade is *over* and this is not happening. Try to process what he means when he says “this is not part of anyone’s plan.”
3 Have a breakdown in the parking lot of the medical center.
4 Convince yourself you must have heard wrong and call to verify. Like, *seriously* convince yourself that no one *actually* said this, and *truly* think you misheard. Call 4 times in two days.
5 Tell your friends and extended family. Feel grateful to have so much support. Feel loved, but sad that you’ve made people immediately cry over *fringe* cancer. Realize you’re probably not processing this diagnosis. Wonder what it will be like when you do. Wonder if you won’t process it until it’s over.
6 Freak out and decide that if you’re going to need major surgery, you really need to get rid of a bunch of stuff in the house so you’ll be comfortable. Donate two pieces of furniture, two giant bags of clothes, every single book you own, and every piece of jewelry you were hanging onto “just because,” because clutter is suddenly NOT okay.
7 Decide that if you’re going to be spending weeks on the couch recovering, you should get a couch that doesn’t give you a back ache. Spend hours googling “hygge” and spend more money on a couch than you’ve ever spent on a single item in your life (which isn’t saying much, because generally speaking you’re frugal as heck). Out of character? Yes.
8 As soon as the couch order is placed, become very depressed. Begin to break down and realize that “fringe” cancer might not actually exist. Think “oh shit, I think I might actually have cancer. Like actual cancer.”
9 Break down crying on your neighbor’s bosom over losing both your breasts. Recognize *as it is happening* that it is wildly inappropriate and you’d literally rather be anywhere else.
10 Get home and put on a happy face for your child, who has no idea what’s going on.
That about sums up the past 2.5 weeks of my life.
Here are the details:
I have a serious family history of breast cancer on both sides (including my mother, this time last year), and I am considered high risk. I had a strange sensation (like milk being let down) in my left breast in March, and I thought my breast physically felt different, though I couldn’t describe how. I had it checked out, but my doctor didn’t feel anything. Because I am high risk, I started a program for early detection that would start with a breast MRI, and then six months later be followed by a mammogram. This screening process would continue for the rest of my life.
Then four weeks ago, I had the initial breast MRI, which should have been used as a baseline to compare future MRIs. Instead, it came back as “weird” and I was scheduled for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound a week later. At that time, they confirmed that what they were seeing was early stage cancer, called DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) and I had a biopsy.
I need to have my entire breast removed to remove the cancer. I will know more about my treatment, including whether I will need chemo or radiation, after my first surgery. I am opting for a double mastectomy with reconstruction. The cancer is on the left side, but I don’t *ever* want to have this happen again. The entire process will take about a year.
I told my seven year-old daughter this week, and explained to her that this is basically “baby” cancer. So far she does not know the extent of my surgery (or that I will have multiple), and she is not scared.
My mom came to stay with me immediately after my diagnosis, and she and my boyfriend have hardly left my side. Both of my parents have been incredibly supportive, and my friends and co-workers, both local and distant, have been so totally incredible. The silver lining to this dark cloud is the wonderful people in my life, who did not hesitate for even a moment before offering me their support. The flowers in this photo are courtesy of my many wonderful friends, including @marinliz, @heatherkbrock, @twochicksnest, and my wonderful 🐝🐝🐝. I am so grateful.
I also know that I’m going to be okay. As far as cancer diagnoses go, this one ain’t bad. With my genes, getting breast cancer was probably inevitable, and to catch it as early as I did will make all the difference in the world. It will be a rough year, but I have much to be grateful for. 💗💗💗
I’m not posting this for anyone to feel bad for me. The truth is, we all get dealt crappy hands at various times in our lives.