Adam and I have been talking for some time about life throwing us a curve ball: the death of a loved one or an unexpected illness. I never saw the ball coming my way, but it did. After a routine but carelessly delayed mammogram, I was called in for a follow-up appointment. Since I'd been through a follow-up before - dense breast tissue requires it, apparently - I didn't expect to be in the office long. But I was told to wait, to not get dressed, because a doctor was going to examine my images. As time passed and I learned that I was going in for an ultrasound, I began to wonder if I needed to worry. The technician was a conscientious and friendly woman who told me that I wasn't going to make my hair appointment that afternoon. She spent a good deal of time trying to find something I didn't know existed. When she thought she had what she needed, she left to consult the doctor. I texted Adam that everything seemed to be rather serious. He must have known something then, because he texted me back and started with "Hon," my favorite, rare, and most soothing endearment of his. When the tech returned, she needed to pinpoint exactly what the doctor needed to see. I remember her saying that she wasn't going to let me go until they knew exactly what was up with me. She left again and quickly returned with a radiologist who said that there was something suspicious in my right breast. When I asked what that meant, he said maybe cancer. The next step was a biopsy to determine if the mass was indeed carcinoma. Nine days later, I went in for the procedure with the wonderful Dr. Sacks at the Women's Wellness Center in Mission Viejo. He has the best bedside manner, is quite skilled at not leaving a scar, and honest. He said he didn't want to sugarcoat it: normal breast tissue is horizontal and my mass was vertical; normal breast tissue is yellow and my three tissue samples were white. He said it was highly likely that I had cancer. Three days later, his hypothesis became fact. A different, very soft spoken doctor told me that I have invasive ductal carcinoma, but that it was small and detected early. The preliminary pathology report indicated that my tumor is hormone receptor positive and my eventual pathology indicated that it is HER2 negative. Basically, I have the most common, most treatable kind of breast cancer, news which initially made me sigh a bit of relief. I was positive and at times jovial as I had to have an MRI and a follow-up MRI biopsy to rule out additional areas of concern as also cancerous. As the weeks have gone by and the various doctors' appointments compounded, including two different visits to plastic surgeons and a meeting with a 10-doctor panel, the reality of it all has set in and so has the anxiety. I'm learning to breathe deeply, to not feel so guilty for talking about it all the time, and to engage in some self-care. As of today, I have a very good plan for surgery based on the expertise of doctors and my desired outcome: cancer-free and a happy me. Now I just need to plan around the surgery itself, tentatively scheduled for May 23rd, and the weeks that follow.
I'm going to be fine. I know I will. But I also know that I'm going to need some help along the way. I'm so grateful to all of my friends who have reached out, offered words of kindness and support, and expressed a desire to help. I'll keep you all posted.