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On Thursday, December 23rd, 2010, I found a large lump in my right breast. I visited my OB/GYN that afternoon and was told it was probably a cyst, but they wanted to schedule an ultrasound to be sure. The ultrasound was scheduled for Monday, December 27th. I enjoyed the holidays with visiting relatives and lots of family gatherings, not worrying too much about the "cyst." But the ultrasound showed a solid mass, not a cyst. It also located an enlarged lymph node. Everything changed. A needle core biopsy was scheduled for Tuesday, January 4th. It was the longest week of my life, every minute dragging until the appointment. It would be 48 hours until the results came back from the lab.
On Thursday, January 6th, 2011, with Dave at my side, I was told I have breast cancer - infiltrating ductal carcinoma. Our worst fears had come true. The world closed in for a while. But we are lucky enough to have an amazing team of health professionals working to cure me.
Our Nurse Navigator, Kim, spoke to us for an hour that afternoon, repeating things many times as we tried to take it in. She has helped guide us through all of the appointments, the paperwork, the terminology and the fear. She is my advocate, scheduling me with the best doctors, and calling me as soon as my test results are in.
Dave is my teammate, my partner, and my strength. We are getting through this together. Ben and Matt are my reasons, my comedy relief, my unconditional loves. They are surprisingly strong. They lift me up.
Our family and friends have surrounded us in love, prayer, and support. I could not make this journey alone. I am so thankful for all of you. Please keep the positive thoughts and prayers coming. They are working!
Sep 27, 2012 9:01pmIt’s been a long time since my last update. My life has returned to “normal” and things have been busy, busy, busy! But this is a new normal. My life will never be the same. Neither will the lives of those closest to me. Our world has been rocked ... shifted ... redirected. There are no answers to the “why” questions, so we do our best to accept what has happened and what has resulted and we go on. As you might have guessed, I have been oscillating between positive and negative feelings about my journey.
I “completed” all of the major events and recoveries of my journey about 6 months ago. I’ve spent the time since then comprehending what that journey actually was. There are things that, when diagnosed, you just cannot dwell on until you are through the process of physical healing. But you must really face them - and accept them - to finish healing your mind and soul. It’s a very personal trial. I am lucky in that I have a close friend whom I met at the beginning of my treatment and we went through treatment together. I can talk to her about these things and know that she truly does understand because she is on the same path. I am not thankful that we both had cancer, but I am thankful that we connected because of it and have each other for support.
Here is what I am working through right now: At the age of 40, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. The big C. F*cking CANCER. When I found the lump, it was about 1cm long. By the time I started chemotherapy 1 month later, it was 5.5 cm long. My cancer was EXTREMELY aggressive. Terrifyingly so. It’s numbing to think about. And because I am positive for a BRCA-1 mutation, I am predisposed to this particular type of cancer. The chemotherapy worked. And it worked amazingly well, killing all detectable cancer cells. After my mastectomies, the pathology came back pCR - pathologic complete response. No. More. Cancer. But I have had my lifetime dose of one of the chemo drugs. If I were to be diagnosed with cancer again, I could not have the same cancer-a*s-kicking treatment. That is panic-inducing for me. The positive side of me says, “Amy, they are discovering new treatments and therapies all the time! Don’t worry!” Ok. Easier thought than done.
So to reduce my risk of another bout with cancer - because I DO NOT want to fight it again - I had both breasts removed. Gone. I cannot describe the de-feminizing of the psyche that comes with that procedure. I know there are women who are ok with it and never get reconstruction, but I am not one of those women. And I know I am more than my breasts and that I am still a woman with or without them, but when I looked at my body without them I could not believe that. I think I hid it pretty well, but I felt humiliated. I didn’t recognize the feeling at the time, I just knew it was not a nice thing to feel.
I needed reconstruction to heal my soul. And it has. I feel so much better about myself now. I have moments where I struggle with the scars, and the lack of sensation, and the weakness in my shoulder and my abs, but overall I am happy with the results. I feel like a woman again.
It’s funny. After I healed from my reconstruction surgery, Spring arrived. I felt reborn! I was full of the promise of my “new” life. Now I have mellowed into a “dig in, figure out what you need” sort-of mindset and I really feel that is reflected in Autumn. This is the time to prepare - for winter, for hibernation, for the solitude of frozen earth. I feel like I am “going through my inventory of emotions” and preparing for...what? Perhaps I am preparing for cancer to not be at the center of my life anymore. I need to organize and file all of the thoughts/emotions associated with it. Don’t get me wrong, I will always be an advocate for cancer patients and a mentor and a survivor, but I am no longer a patient. I was a patient for so long - it did define me, even though I didn’t admit it. So now I need to clear my head, archive some things that are taking up too much space. Declutter. But the only way to do that is to look at those feelings, those memories, those thoughts and understand them, accept them, complete them for a sense of closure.
I realize this post has been sort of negative, but it is all honest and soul-deep. There have been many positives in the last 6 months as well! I will talk about those in my next post. And I will include some pictures!
Thank you for listening. I love you all. Please keep the good thoughts and prayers flowing to those who are in need. Good night.
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