I've considered sharing this story for 30 days.... staring at a blank page, I don't know how to begin. Obviously, if you've seen a Caring Bridge page before, you probably know already that I have cancer. Ughhhh.... I said the "C" word out loud. HATE it! Now let's tell the rest of the story... because it's a roller coaster of diagnosis, faith and love.
Friday, December 30th, after my morning shower, I caught a glimpse of my left breast in the many mirrors of our new home. Something didn't look right. Closer inspection, the nipple was completely inverted. It was extremely swollen. I didn't have time to think about it - granddaughter, Mattie Mae, was here and we were headed for the chiropractor and breakfast. In our resting time, I remembered the symptoms "I should look that up on WebMD". DON'T look things like this up on WebMD. In minutes, I had myself dead and gone. The symptoms came back as Inflammatory Breast Cancer. (IBC) is a rare and very aggressive disease in which cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. This type of breast cancer is called “inflammatory” because the breast often looks swollen and red, or “inflamed.” I laid the phone down... don't have time to deal with that it's nap time. I was off to gather 5 of our 7 grandchildren to take them to see the movie "Sing" by myself. We had such a great time and the movie was good, too! Inspiring story of hope and overcoming obstacles.
The next day would be New Year's Eve. A typical time of reflection and resolution. Setting goals. Planning life. Celebrating with those that you love. Watching your favorite college football team win. NOT! My Ohio State Buckeyes lost miserably... didn't even score a point. And the rest of the planning and celebration was mute... after all, I have IBC. I didn't tell a soul. I wanted more information before I freaked out Sam or any of the kids. I cried myself to sleep and pretended it was because OSU lost.
New Year's Day early morning I had to tell someone..... The woman that we purchased our new home from is Carol Boyce, a long-time nurse and administrator for Bixby and Herrick Hospitals. A lovely woman full of joy, love and hope. I sent her an email with all of my symptoms and suspicions. In addition to this growth on my chest, I'd had a respiratory/sinus virus/infection since October. Five antibiotics and two rounds of steroids hadn't knocked it out. I was run down and miserable. The "gunk" built up in my face was causing terrible tooth pain and I broke two teeth. I had a persistent cough and abdominal pain. With my new-found on-line medical degree, I knew I was full of cancer. Carol, in her nursing compassion, said if I had found IBC, then I also knew it was very RARE... 1 -3% of all breast cancer. The other symptoms were probably just a run-down immune system. It could be a blocked sweat gland. YES ~ I should tell Sam because I needed his support. I pray that everyone has a Carol in their journey.
Late Sunday afternoon, I shared with Sam my suspicions and sorrow. He was so strong and understanding. He was ready to take on the world and kick cancer in the butt. Until the next 5 minutes passed and the reality of what could happen sunk in. The prayer and journalling for both of us began and FAITH filled the void. Here's the next don't.... DON'T suspect these things on a Holiday Weekend. Monday came, lasted a full week in one day, as all of the physician's offices were closed.
Tuesday morning 7 o'clock, I called my primary physician's. Dr. Melissa Vansickle a Henry Ford Allegiance facility. The soonest Physician's Assistant was Wednesday morning. The PA probably thought I was a hypochondriac ~ stressed beyond limits. Her examination brought her to the diagnosis of a pulled muscle. What? A pulled muscle???? I rationalized it was possible. Sam had a foot fusion surgery on November 17, 2016. I had been helping him in and out of chairs, bed, shower, vehicles, wheelchair for 6 weeks. I had lifted the 50 pound wheelchair more times than I could count. Yeah ~ I can roll with a pulled muscle for now. But just in case, she ordered the diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. I presumed we'd schedule before I left the office or at the latest before the end of the day. It would be Friday before it was scheduled for the next Tuesday in Jackson. Fortunately I had shared the pulled muscle story with my children at this point and Cynthia suggested very quickly that the women's health center at Herrick could usually schedule quicker. I called Herrick, and it was still the following Wednesday. Remember, DON'T have trauma around the holidays.
Wednesday arrives. It was going to be a GREAT day. Mattie Mae was Star Student of the week at Lincoln Elementary, Adrian. I was joining her for lunch because Cynthia had to work. Such an HONOR! I dressed all cute and sassy to look like the youngest Nanny. Mammogram first. Tech suggests 3D imaging. My insurance should cover it, but if not, it's an additional $104. Absolutely! Jesus is taking the wheel! "What brings you in? Oh a growth on my chest that my PA says is a pulled muscle. That tech spun around so fast on her chair I thought she'd fall off. "Just so you know, I've never seen a pulled muscle cause an inverted nipple." The 3D mammogram showed large mass of 'unknown substance'. Within minutes, I was in ultrasound. Women, don't you always think that the severity of the problem is directly related to how many times they click the camera on the mouse? She was one happy clicking tech! "Lori stay right where you are. I'm going to get the radiologist." Dr. Painter explains that scans were showing a VERY large mass of 'unknown foreign tissue matter' and recommended a needle biopsy right away. The ladies went into this full compassionate, loving mode..... "Are you OK? Do you need to call anyone?" Huh! I wonder if I should be getting worried about a pulled muscle???? No, I don't need to call anyone. It's not a big deal. Suck it up and press on as I'm tapping my watch and telling them all I'm having lunch with my Star Student, Mattie. (I can see you shaking your head. STOP it!) Topical numbing, a super long needle shot to numb, and then 1-2-3, click click goes the needle biopsy tool. It wasn't too bad ~ mostly pressure. And then ZAP... he hit a bad one and he didn't count to 3. CRAP ~ that hurt. A couple more pictures in another mammogram to make sure the titanium markers are in place and I'm out of there. The first mammogram tech came into the 2nd room and said "I just have to tell you something.... I'm SO GLAD you didn't accept the pulled muscle story. You may have just saved your own life." The next good news was that the pathologists are very quick and should have results by Friday afternoon. They will be sent to the Primary, but, since I'm the patient in waiting, they also would call be directly so that I didn't have to live through another eternally long weekend without information.
Lunch was good. Mattie makes me happy. And the next 2 days were long in spite of it all. It would be 2:30 on Friday the 13th before I would hear.... "Lori, your biopsies are positive for ductal carcinoma. You do have breast cancer." If you've known me for more than five minutes, you know that in trauma I go directly into business mode. No time to cry or fall apart. General surgeon appointment, Dr. Girardi at Bixby for Wednesday. Dr. Mowat, the Oncologist, was booked through January 30th in Adrian, but could possibly see me in Sylvania, OH sooner., find out Monday for Thursday appointment. Another week before enough answers to take action. Even FAITH was being stretched like a rubber band.
Cynthia, Lukus & Mattie came for the weekend. We had fun moments and sad moments. We played games and made great food. We told stories and snuggled to watch movies. I've always said if I got cancer, and I was FULL of it, I would NOT do any treatment. My experiences watching others go through chemo and radiation seemed more like torture and they still died in the end. Their last days were not quality days and maybe they could have stayed strong longer, creating more memories, if they had NOT had treatment. I was standing strong on that stance the first weekend. Cynthia heard and understood that I was giving up, not fighting, ready to die. She didn't hear that I wanted QUALITY days, not QUANTITY. Most important thing in all of this story is right here:
I HAVE A GREAT EXIT PLAN. I LOVE JESUS WITH MY WHOLE HEART, SOUL AND MIND. I AM NOT AFRAID TO DIE ON THIS EARTH BECAUSE MY ETERNAL HOME IS IN HEAVEN.