This chapter of my story (because it is just that...one small part of my story...not the beginning...and definitely not the end!) begins on November 25, 2020. This was the date of a routine mammogram screening that I scheduled out of obligation to my 40-year-old self. Little did I know that this "routine" appointment would end up being one of the most pivotal and life-changing hours of my life. **Let me just pause here for some real talk to my ladies: If you are around the same stage of life as me or beyond, MAKE THESE "ROUTINE" APPOINTMENTS!! Don't put them off, don't depend solely on self exams (although if you are faithful to do these and know your body well -- I was not -- you rock!), and don't assume that cancer can't/won't touch you. Because cancer is indiscriminate. So please, make the appointment and go!**
To continue, on December 29th, I returned to the imaging center for some additional images and an ultrasound, at the request of the radiologist who read my first mammogram. I was assured that this is extremely common for someone my age and not to be concerned, so I really was not concerned. The radiologist was present at this appointment and able to read the images immediately. She came into the exam room and performed the ultrasound herself, and it was easy to see that her attention was focused on a specific area of my left breast. She proceeded to tell me that she did have an area of concern, and was referring me for a biopsy of my left breast. The biopsy was performed on January 12, 2021, and I received the call on January 14, 2021, the day before my 41st birthday, that I have breast cancer. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, to be exact, and I was heartbroken.
From there, I was advised to call my PCP to ask for a referral to a breast surgeon, which I did. After reading up on the surgeon I was referred to, Dr. Ronald Johnson, and feeling confident in the choice, I called his office, and made an appointment to be seen, assuming that this meant surgery would be our first step. I was wrong. Dr. Johnson was very thorough in explaining the pathology of my cancer, treatment options, further testing he wanted to perform, etc. The pathology of my cancer is somewhat of an anomaly. It is a hormone-rich cancer, which means it feeds off of the estrogen and progesterone in my body and is typically indicative of a slow-growing cancer, but it also has an extremely high Ki-67 rate of 80%, which indicates that it is extremely fast-growing. That 80% number is one of the highest my surgeon has ever seen, and is the main reason why his recommended course of treatment was to begin chemotherapy first and immediately, and perform surgery later. This will not only *hopefully* stop this fast growing cancer in its tracks, but also allow time for more tests to be completed that will further explain the anomaly of the cancer and the risk of reoccurrence. These important results will speak to the type of surgery I will face after the completion of my chemotherapy treatments: a lumpectomy and radiation versus a double mastectomy. Dr. Johnson referred me to an oncologist who would manage the chemotherapy portion of my treatment, and Ryan and I left this appointment feeling overwhelmed but hopeful.
We met with my oncologist, Dr. Vincent Reyes, on February 1st. He, too, went over the pathology of my cancer, and discussed every stage of the treatment plan that he and Dr. Johnson are in agreement with. Let me just say that I am so grateful to have doctors on my side who see the importance of explaining with patience and clarity the road that lies ahead of us. They wanted to get my treatment started as quickly as possible, so we aimed for that following Monday, February 8th, as the goal for chemo treatment #1. That meant that between February 1st and February 8th, we had one week to run more tests and prepare for chemo. On Wednesday, February 3rd, I had a lymph node biopsy, which was just resulted yesterday as NEGATIVE - Praise God!! On Thursday morning, February 4th, I had outpatient surgery to place my chemotherapy port in my chest. Then that afternoon, I had a genetics counseling appointment. That appointment was to provide my family history of cancer to a genetics specialist, who then ordered bloodwork that will test my genetic makeup for the breast cancer genes (BRCA-1 and BRCA-2). It will take a few weeks to get this result back. Then, on Friday, February 5th, I had an echocardiogram to check my heart and record a baseline before the chemo meds begin.
To say that, so far, 2021 has been a whirlwind is an understatement. My chemo treatment was delayed one day due to additional bloodwork that they needed to gather, so I began my chemo on Tuesday, February 9th, 2021. I am writing this on Wednesday, February 10th, 2021, one day out from my first chemo treatment. Even now, it is hard to believe that this is the road we are walking. But at the same time, I am so grateful for the many tangible ways that I have so obviously seen God's hand at work in this chapter of our story, just as in all the others. He is right here with us, and reminds me daily of His presence and love for us.
Thank you so much for stopping by to check on us. Please drop us a line when you are here; it is so energizing to read your comments of love and support. We will try to diligently journal the days ahead, as we intend to shout VICTORY!! from the rooftops when this chapter closes, and we want to be able to look back and remember God's faithfulness each step of the way.