Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The beginning of my breast cancer diagnosis

The holiday season is meant for family, decorating, buying gifts and being happy. However, this year felt completely different since getting the news that I needed a biopsy on my left breast. We had Thanksgiving dinner at our house, and it was nice to feel the support from my family.

I decided not to tell many people simply because I didn't want everyone to worry. This meant especially my nine year old daughter didn't need any worries. We are close, and she knows that sometimes people who have cancer don't always survive.  My philosophy was to tell her when I had something to report, and not just speculation.

My mother is a nurse, cancer specialist and clinical researcher. I'm fortunate to know someone so knowledgeable. We talked about my potential choices. She said that if she faced breast cancer that she would have a mastectomy. The idea of having a mastectomy seemed so foreign and scary that I couldn't wrap my mind around it.  My family and I  sat in disbelief that this was happening.

After the Thanksgiving weekend passed and life resumed to normal, I sat one afternoon staring at the business card of an oncologist given to me after my ultrasound.  I  didn't want to call to make an appointment. It was just one more step making everything more real. My husband came home from nursing school and sat with me as I called.

A lump formed in my throat as I heard the receptionist say oncologist office. I explained everything to her, and she nicely set up an appointment. I believe it was the next week.   All I  could do was live as always while holding the weight of my future on my mind.

In movies that focus on cancer patients, time goes by fast.  It seems like appointments and tests are immediate. And either the person is cured or, unfortunately, doesn't survive.  Well, in real life, time goes slowly when searching for answers.  Life doesn't stop for you to deal with your emotions or obligations.

In my case, I had a third grader and a two year old to  raise. My husband was trying to support me as I tried to support him with nursing school. I had a house to take care of, pets, bills to pay and articles to write.  Life didn't stop for my diagnosis or anyone's for that matter.

My personal care attendant took me to my first appointment with the oncologist. My dad babysat my son and my husband sat anxiously in class. My heart sank as I saw the office building was clearly labeled Cancer Center. Just another reminder of what I might be up against and making my future a bit more hazy.

The office seemed dark and warm.  I looked around at the other people and thinking how unfair it is that anyone had to go through cancer during Christmas! My iPhone kept buzzing with text messages from my sister, mother, dad, husband and best friend. Texts of love, encouragement and seeking information.  Then, a nice lady wearing pastel scrubs opened the door and called my name.

My attendant and I went in a standard room with blue walls. The nurse seemed very nice and talked to me (which isn't always the case when you have cerebral palsy.) She made a nice comment on how quick my attendant helped me into a yellow paper robe that covered my  chest.  She said my doctor would be with me soon.  She also handed me a big white binder with information on breast cancer. She said that I could keep all of my information and future appointments papers in it. I sighed looking at the binder.

The doctor came in, and he introduced himself.  He examined me, which I knew was necessary, but still invasive.  He reviewed my X rays and said that he didn't see any signs of cancer, but wanted me to get another mammogram on the left side to make sure. What a wonderful relief I felt as I texted everyone when I went outside after I scheduled another mammogram.

But, the feeling of relief was shortly lived as feelings of doubts crept in when new tests came back. The pink journey continued.

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