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Just when we thought 2020 couldn't get any worse...
Never in a million years did I think I'd be in this situation. A journey nobody expects, wants, is trained for, or can comprehend. But the fact is, my mom and I have cancer.
As some of you know, my mom Cheryl was diagnosed in 2017 with stage 4 Oropharyngeal Cancer (throat cancer). She bravely conquered surgery, 7 chemo treatments, and 33 radiation treatments. Before the year ended, she was in remission and cancer free. It was a rough ride for sure but she beat it like a champ. During a routine CT scan this May, we discovered that a stupid cancer cell decided to travel and grow a tumor in her rib and spread in her bones. She is now undergoing treatment for Osseous Metastatic Disease (cancer of the bones). Cheryl is once again fighting like a true warrior with minimal complaints. Although there is no cure for this cancer, she is undergoing two forms of chemo, immunotherapy, and radiation to keep the cancer ‘at bay’ and manage pain. I have been right by her side through all of this. I know her team of doctors (I'm that annoying family member for sure), her meds, her side effects, her pharmacists, her nurses, her concerns, and now feel like I should've gone to nursing school. I want to know EVERYTHING about this cancer.
Something that has made this especially difficult is we found out about my mom's cancer returning just two days after her mom (sweet grandma Dewey) had passed away. Here we thought wearing a mask and avoiding COVID was our biggest concern leading up to May 31st. To say it's been a struggling downfall since is an understatement.
Cut to two months to the DAY after my grandma passed, I found out I have breast cancer. I was having my annual women's visit in August and mentioned my upper left breast had been itching (yes, this is a symptom of breast cancer). I had my annual mammogram and was told I needed to have diagnostic testing. I had a similar scare in 2018 but the diagnostic testing cleared any concern. This time, however, diagnostic testing immediately lead me to a biopsy of the suspicious calcifications.
On August 31st, two months to the day Dewey died and we we found out my mom's cancer had returned, I found out I have breast cancer.
Initially I was diagnosed with an early stage of breast cancer called DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ). Meaning, the cancer was in a few ducts of my left breast measuring 3cm. After further testing, we now know the area of concern spans up to 8cm. Needless to say, my options of treatment have now changed. I will undergo a double mastectomy on October 9th with immediate reconstructive surgery. The pathology report from my mastectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy (they are taking a few lymph nodes as well), will determine if treatment is needed post surgery. If the surgery proves the cancer is not invasive nor has spread to the lymph nodes, I will be CLEAR of cancer! Nothing else to worry about except recovering from my surgery so I can get back to helping my mom's battle! I'm not going to mention what's needed otherwise because I have decided to focus on that news and that news only. I am prepared with a team of doctors should I need further treatment, but I'll deal with that if I have to. Right now, I am just focusing on getting this surgery over with and hearing that it's all gone and nothing has spread.
We've joked with my mom's oncologist asking if cancer is contagious (which we all know it isn't). Nurses at the Pratt Center have since looked at us differently and it seems like everyone knows our name (oh how I wish it was like the bar Cheers). Not necessarily a bad thing because these nurses are AMAZING, but it definitely makes everything more real. The day I met my oncologist and the nurses there looked at me all confused like what are YOU checking in for???...made it all sink in how shitty this timing really is.
I attended one of my best friend's dad's mass on Saturday (he unfortunately and unexpectedly passed away the day after my grandma). During Amy's speech, she mentioned how he "accompanied" everyone throughout his life as a musician, family member, and friend. I loved this word! Although I have a ridiculously tiny family, I have an ABUNDANCE of true friends. I'm not talking about acquaintances, I'm talking about these people would bail you out of jail if they needed to (why is that always the go-to for sayings? perhaps the new saying is they'd do anything for you while you have cancer). Ha. ANYWAY, my point is, I know every person who is reading this would attest this. My friends are my family. Period. I have a team of people who genuinely care about me as if I were in their family. The outpouring love and support I've received just over the past month has been beyond overwhelming and uplifting. I can honestly say that I would NOT be able to get through this without each and every single one of you. So sorry to steal your word Amy, but you all accompany me and I know you all will continue to accompany me throughout this tough road ahead.
Cheryl and I want to thank you all for your continued support and care. We feel the love.