I'm 41 years old. Today, May 25, 2011 is the day I was officially diagnosed with breast cancer. I say "officially" because, basically, I already knew.
At my annual visit-o-fun with the OB/GYN, my doctor found a lump in my left breast. When he found it, I laughed. See, I JUST survived Renal Cancer and I've already lost half my thyroid to a benign (but very rare) tumor. Another lump? Really? I was joking when I told my friends and family to call my "Lumpy." But, now they really are starting to call me that. Who can blame them? My doctor was taken aback by my response. Probably people don't usually laugh when he finds a lump in their breast. I think he sent in a referral for psychiatric care after that appointment.
However, he felt pretty confident that it was "just a cyst." He put my mind so much at ease that I didn't even make the mammogram appointment until a week later. I had already had a benign lump removed from my right breast at age 13 (talk about AWKWARD!), so I figured it was just more of the same. Another reason for the "Lumpy" nickname to stick. In fact, I made the appointment as quickly as I did because my mother kept calling me everyday to ask if I'd made the appointment yet. That gets old fast.
My first mammogram was May 18, 2011. My mom went with me. She likes to see other people tortured. I'm kidding (sort of). She went with me to offer her moral support. I wasn't too concerned, as I said. The mammogram was pretty typical (from what I'd heard of them). After manhandling my boobs and being touched all over by some woman that now owes me dinner, I was led to sit in a "calming room." There was one of those little counter top waterfalls, those always make me think about having to pee. I spent the majority of the time trying to NOT think about having to pee. I guess, in a way, it did take my mind off of things.
Unfortunately, the boob-manhandler came BACK for me. They needed more "pictures." I really didn't know that my boob could move that way or in that many directions. I should enter a contest at the fair or something. Anyway, more "pictures" of my poor boob followed. I almost passed out. Hey, don't judge! It's very hard to hold your breath, stand perfectly still AND have your boob smooshed all at the same time. The result is that I felt really woozy and had to sit down between each picture. The boob-manhandler was not amused by my wimpiness. She also didn't like any of my boob jokes. Probably they hear boob jokes all day long. Hey, have you heard the one about the boob, the Rabbi and the Catholic Priest....
But, I digress. This is where I started to feel a little concerned, but my optimistic nature just kicked in. Damn that optimism! I just figured, "Hey, they are being thorough!" After a few more minutes concentrating on NOT concentrating on pee in the calming room, I was taken to have an ultrasound of the questionable boob.
An ULTRASOUND OF THE BOOB! I've had many ultrasounds before. I have two children and have had a laundry list of health problems that have ended up with me on the other end of the warm gel and ultrasound wand. But, never of my BOOB! It's just...well...WRONG! Anyway, this was done by a different lady who was very nice and DID laugh at some of my boob jokes. I still wasn't terribly concerned, I knew they were just looking to see if the lump was a cyst or not. However, having warming gel put all over your boob...well, it's exactly as weird as it sounds. Plus, that gel gets EVERYWHERE! I think I found some on my ankle.
I'm not even sure how long the ultrasound took. A little less than FOREVER is a good time estimate. There was a lot of measuring a lot of poking around and, as I said before, A LOT of gel. Still calm and optimistic, the technician told me she needed to get the doctor in charge and she left the room.
And that is where my optimism failed me, finally. I lost it. I KNEW it was bad. They never leave the room to get the head doctor because they are going to give you an award or something. It's always because they've found something bad, really bad. I've been through this drill before! By the time the technician re-entered with the doctor, I was in tears and completely panicked. They were very kind and understanding and they gave me a box of those hospital tissues and told me I could HAVE the WHOLE BOX! I like free things. Plus, with as many people who had seen and touched my boob there, they owed me SOMETHING!
After the doctor looked around a bit, she put her hand on my arm. Again, never a good sign. I had three lumps. THREE! See, I like to be an over-achiever. I couldn't only have ONE, I had to have THREE! It turns out that one lump, they weren't terribly concerned about, "probably a cyst," I was told. Another one was questionable and the one my doctor had found? That one was "bad." That was the word she used, "BAD." "Do you think cancer?" I asked tentatively. "Yes," she replied.
I've already faced down cancer once before this year and I'm not even sure I'm CURED of that yet! And now, again, 5 months later, cancer again!? I didn't even know what to feel. They were both so nice to me and told me, "Hey, THIS is what we do here - we CURE Cancer!"
I was allowed to leave behind the lovely floral hospital gown and get dressed. I sat and cried for several minutes in the dressing room trying to put myself together before going to the lobby to tell my mother that it was not good news. When I met my Mom in the lobby, she cheerfully asked, "Well, how was it?!" I just shook my head and said, "It's not good news Mom." Several other women in the lobby looked on sadly. This is where my mother said, "Well, DAMN!" and then, "I have to go to the bathroom." She does that a lot. (And she's going to kill me for saying that...)
I was "fit into" the schedule for the following Monday for a biopsy. Oh, I'm sorry, not just ONE biopsy - but THREE. THREE! I hate needles. Like a lot. A lot A lot! However, I came home and researched everything I could find (I like to KNOW) and read all about breast biopsies until I felt woozy and started to pass out. I was as prepared as I could be.
The following Monday, May 23, my husband drove me to the Breast Center in Everett for the biopsy. It was insanely early and anyone who knows me knows that I do NOT appreciate early-risers. We were the first ones there. After checking in, we sat on the lobby couch and my husband complained that it was hard and uncomfortable. I told him when they started talking about sticking multiple needles in his boob, I'd have some sympathy, but I wanted to hear nothing of the hard couch that he would have to endure for the next 90 minutes while he played "Angry Birds" on his phone.
The biopsy really wasn't bad. And, I'm a big chicken so if I say it's not bad, it's really not. They numb each area and that is a bit of a pinch and then do a biopsy of each area. I actually watched the biopsy on the ultrasound screen and that was pretty cool to see the needle going towards each area. I was just so thankful that I had an ultrasound guided biopsy - and not "the usual kind."
"The Usual Kind" of biopsy - involves you laying on your stomach with your boob through a hole in the table! And then they ratchet you up like a car (thanks to my friend, Pam W. for making this analogy) and the doctor rolls under you and does the biopsy from underneath. I've never seen this before but the picture in my head is downright hilarious. I have a sick sense of humor though...
Anyway, the biopsy was fine. The ladies that did it were both really neat and we chatted about the new BBQ grill the doctor had just gotten and who we thought would win American Idol (all bets on Scotty). Again, the doctor confirmed what the other doctor had suspected, one was a cyst - two were very likely cancer. Afterwards, I was told that if I iced exactly as the directions stated (20 minutes on/20 minutes off), there would be minimal pain and no bruising. That was a bold-faced lie. I was the perfect textbook icer and I'm here to tell you that my boob is very sore and a rainbow of colors from yellow to blue to brown. It's quite a beautiful array of colors actually, I just wish it weren't on my breast.
This brings me to Wednesday morning, the day I found out. You have to make an appointment to find out your results and go in - they don't do it over the phone. Pretty much, that rule screams, "YOU HAVE CANCER!" My husband went with me again and we were led back to a private room where we met "Joy," a NP who would help us navigate the beginning of this journey. (The irony of her name being "Joy" is not lost on my, by the way)
We all sat in comfy chairs and she told me, "You have breast cancer." I said, "Yes, I know..." Just as suspected, the one lump was a cyst, the other two are cancer. We went over all the results and medical mumblejumble. Whatever it is, we caught it early. Both lumps are under 2 centimeters - Stage I or II. (The Stage will be determined after surgery when we know whether there is involvement in the lymph nodes) Joy was great, she was very reassuring and she made all the initial appointments with all the doctors which was just so incredibly helpful. As my mind was spinning, she was calling and arranging days and times and confirming appointments and addresses. I think I saw a little halo on her head, but I can't be sure.
So, this is where we are. I have breast cancer. 5 months after renal cancer. Since it is a Grade 2 cancer (mid-high aggressive), things start very quickly. Genetic testing, MRI, appointments with surgeons, oncologist and other specialists - all within a week.
In the midst of all of this, I sadly turned to my husband and said, "I'm so sorry I'm so defective!" It's not lost on me how much HE goes through every time there is something wrong with me. We've been married 12 years and, during that time, I've had 2 very difficult pregnancies, one emergency c-section, one planned c-section, one cancer scare, 3 other surgeries and renal cancer - and now, breast cancer. After I apologized for being defective, my husband, in his usual supportive manner replied, "Aww, that's okay honey. I already knew you were defective." How sweet.
I invite you to join me on this journey via this blog. I can't guarantee that I'll keep up with it - I don't like commitments and I'm not much for blogs - everyone and his pet stylist has one! But, I do think I have something to say, for once. Plus, I just really like the word "BOOB."
(Boob Count = 19)