Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Learning about DCIS breast cancer

The Friday that I learned that I had breast cancer seemed like the day that wouldn't end. I found out early in the morning by a phone call which led to a day of confusion and shock.  When my husband returned from nursing school, we sat together in disbelief. My mom called the oncologist to try to learn more information about my cancer. Since she has a firm understanding of cancer due to being a clinical researcher, she's better at understanding all the technicalities than me.

My mom explained that I had the best type of breast cancer.  It sounds ridiculous to say because all cancer is bad, so how could there be the best cancer? The cancer I had is called DCIS.  It stands for ductal carcinoma in situ.  DCIS is the earliest form of breast cancer in the milk duct, and it doesn't spread.  The problem with DCIS is that if you don't take care of it, the cancer becomes stronger.

I felt better knowing it wasn't the worst case scenario, but there were still a million questions, worries and fears.  Luckily, my appointment would be Monday morning but, unfortunately, I had to wait. I also knew at this point, I had no choice but to tell my nine year old daughter.  I dreaded this the most and tears filled my eyes.  She knew enough about cancer that not every ending is happy. I hated to put this stress on her. My son is too young to really understand cancer.

My daughter, Laura, spent the night at my Dad's house Friday night.  I wanted a night to settle the news in my own mind and emotions beforehand. On Saturday, my husband kindly took me to places that I never had been before. He did this to keep my mind distracted and have a little fun.  I enjoyed our day despite the breast cancer news looming over our heads.

Shortly after we came home, Laura arrived.  I'm open and honest with my daughter, and I never had any problems telling her anything.  But telling her that I had cancer seemed unbelievable and overwhelming.  I had to tell her despite my feelings.  I prayed that I would use the right words so she understood but not be fearful. To my surprise, I told her and she took the news much better than I could imagine. I knew that she was in shock like we all were, but still it could've went much worse!

For the remainder of the weekend, we did our normal routine as much as possible. I'm a third grade religious teacher on Sunday mornings so I taught like I normally do. My feelings were very conflicted.  On one hand, I felt extremely relieved that the cancer I had was treatable and easy. But on the other hand, anything could happen and what exactly treatment awaited me.  I assured Laura that I would tell her everything and we would be in this together.  I also told her that she shouldn't hold her feelings in about anything. She gave me the biggest hug and kiss ever before going to bed that night.

My husband couldn't go with me to my appointment because of school. We decided that there will be more serious appointments and hospital stays that I will need him so we should use his vacation days wisely.  My mom and sister came with me as we faced the demon called cancer together.

The oncologist apologized about the diagnosis but I thanked him for pushing the tests so I knew I had cancer.  Other doctors might not have been as persistent since images were blurry and the areas were small. I thanked him for basically saving my life. If we waited another year, the cancer would be much worse and who knows what the outcome could've been!

My oncologist described everything the best way he could. I understood exactly what I had and what needed to be done.  The next step was to get a lumpectomy to take out the DCIS and we talked about a medicine called tamoxifen which prevented breast cancer from returning. I would most likely start that after the lumpectomy.

We now had a plan in place and ready to get rid of the cancer!

First published on Breast Cancer News Today

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