Sometime in April... John and I are cuddling on the couch watching television. I'm falling asleep, as usual. Suddenly, John perks up. "What's that?" he says. "Is that your bone?" | "Probably," I respond, and fall back asleep. I'm not worried. I'm 36, healthy, vegan, and active. I'd know if I have cancer.
May 7, 2018 I'm taking a shower and feel a lump in my breast. It's about the size of a jumbo strawberry. I hop out of the shower and start pacing. I'm not worried. I'm not worried. I call my mom, and then my husband; both are at work. "I'm not worried, but I found a lump. " Both tell me to schedule a gyno appointment. I do.
May 9, 2018 Doctor confirms that there's a lump. (Duh. "Thank you for the check.") Doc orders a mammogram and ultrasound.
May 23, 2018 Mammogram day. I check in and am asked if I'd like to pay an extra $90 for a 3D ultrasound. I joke that I'd love to see if my lump has my nose. The receptionist doesn't get it. I decline the upgrade. The mammographer squishes my breast in a machine that oozes calming colored lights. It hurts a little - like if you had a rock in your breast and then somebody squished it. Or a tumor. I ask to see the pictures. It doesn't look like anything to me. The mammographer says she bets it's a cyst, given my age and the fact that it hurt. Makes sense. My maternal grandmother had cysts. But my paternal grandmother died of breast cancer. So, yeah. Ultrasound next. They find the lump and measure it. I ask the ultrasound tech if she can detect a heartbeat. She accuses me of being the kind of person who masks nervousness with humor. Who? Me? Didja hear about the one.... Doc comes in after reviewing the tests and says that the mass is solid. He recommends a biopsy. "Even when we don't really think it's cancer, I've found it's best to take a biopsy for good measure." I consent. I can't think of any jokes. They numb my breast with lidocaine, which burns like hell for a few seconds. Then they cut open a tiny slit in the side of my breast and stick in the biopsy machine. The machine sounds like a staple gun shot directly into my breast. I jump for the first one, but then brace myself for the next two. This is me getting braver. I ask the nurse if they're thinking it might be cancer. She says something about how they never can tell, and 80% of biopsies come back benign. So I'm pretty sure that means they think it's cancer. They have me go in for another mammogram. I tell the mammographer that I'd like a copy of the pics, since I'd never gotten around to taking boudoir photos for my husband. I'm only half kidding. My breasts look really big in the pics. . May 29, 2018 After the longest Memorial Day weekend ever, I finally get a call from the gyno's office. "We have an appointment scheduled for you to discuss your biopsy with the doctor on Thursday." | "Can you give me a hint?" I ask. "If it's cancer, say 'apples.'" | "Um... we'd just really like you to come in on Thursday," she says. | John asks what they said. I tell him I think they just said "apples."
May 31, 2018 John and I go to the gyno's office. We sit in a little room for about an hour, waiting for the news. Doc is an OB/GYN, so the whole time we hear "Congratulations!" and "Yay, babies!!" through the door. We're going stir crazy. Finally, doc comes in. "Your pathology report came back," he says. Big pause. Deep breath. "You have..." Thoughtful contemplation. "...breast cancer." John and I blink. AND...??? And that's it. Doc has no more information. We go immediately to our favorite pub for some self-medicating.
June 15, 2018 I finally meet my surgeon - the best breast cancer specialist in the state at the best cancer institute in the area. A few more tests later, they find cancer in my lymph nodes and place me at stage 2B. I'm told I'll be getting the works - chemotherapy first, then surgery, then radiation, then ten years of hormone therapy. That's what happens when you get the cancer in your thirties. We break the news to the kids. They begin to call me "Deadpool without the powers." And so begins our journey.