For the record, I have never once asked this. My question was more like, “Why not me?”
On May 21st of this year, just before we were getting started with my routine mammogram, I casually mentioned to the technician that I had a dent in my left boob. I had noticed it earlier in the year and had felt around for a lump. I didn’t feel anything. My hubby noticed it too but we both thought it was just part of aging. We didn’t know. But the technician did. She immediately asked me if she could call my primary care physician to request approval to do a diagnostic mammogram instead of the normal screening one. It didn’t take but a few minutes and she was back with the approval and took a zillion images. Then she said she needed the ultrasound tech to check things out. A few minutes later, I was laying on a table and an ultrasound tech was rubbing jelly all over my left boob. She even checked my armpit and said she was checking my lymph nodes.
I was doing well through all of this and wasn’t freaking out at all. I knew my boobs were very dense and I honestly didn’t think anything about all the fuss. However, when the radiologist came in to talk to me about a 1” mass that had showed up that wasn’t there the previous year, I started getting worried. As he was leaving the room, I asked him how my lymph nodes looked and he quickly said they looked fine.
What they didn’t tell me that day that I now know because I have the reports. My mass was “highly suspicious for breast cancer.”
The next day, I found this article.
You see, the dent was being caused by the tumor pulling the skin. I was getting really worried.
I went back in for a biopsy two days later on May 23rd. I was thrilled that they could work me in so quickly for the biopsy but I wasn’t prepared for it. I’ve heard from many people since this and some women do just fine during the biopsy. However, a very good friend of mine admitted that the biopsy part was the most painful in all of her breast cancer journey. It hurt! I’m not going to sugar coat it. They take this long needle and first put in the numbing medicine. Then they go back in there and grab a few samples of the tumor and pull them out. You hear popping noises and that part was scary for me but manageable. Everything was fine until they were all finished and I set up. I blacked out immediately! I scared the technician so much. It was only for a second and since I used to be a big fainter back in my late teens and early 20s, I knew exactly what was happening. The worst thing was I got nauseated. I asked for help and the tech was running around everywhere trying to find me a barf bag. Luckily, my stomach settled down and I didn’t end up vomiting. They gave me some Ginger Ale and crackers and after about an hour, I was good to drive myself home. Looking back, I don’t think I fainted because of the pain or the medicine or anything. I think it was due to stress.
Next came the big wait for the results. May 23rd was a Thursday and the normal turnaround time was 3-5 days. My only problem here was that the Memorial Day weekend was coming upon us and I knew it would probably be Tuesday before I could hear anything. We were headed out on vacation and it really did help to get my mind off everything. I’ll be honest though. Form May 21 on, breast cancer was the first thing I would think about when my eyes would open in the morning and the last thing I would think about before finally falling to sleep. I tried to work that Friday after the biopsy and I did get a little work done but I kept catching myself on Dr. Google. This was a big no no and I knew it but I couldn’t help it. I tried to not think about it while we were on vacation and I was successful most of the time.
On Tuesday, May 28th, the radiologist called me with the results. She was all cheerful, asking me about my wound at the biopsy site and how it was healing and for a split second I thought everything was okay. Then she let me know it was cancer. Women I have spoken to since did not get there results over the phone. I’m not sure why my radiology center handles it this way. I hated getting the news this way but then again, I didn’t want to wait any longer. Within seconds after hanging up with the radiologist, a Patient Navigator called me to set up an appointment with a breast surgeon. She kept apologizing for saying that the first available appointment wasn’t until June 10th because my surgeon was going to be out of the office. I was still on vacation and since I was in shock, I happily agreed to June 10th. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t have waited so long. It was only 1 week after I got back from vacation but the waiting has been the very hardest of all.
June 10th finally came and I leaned that my breast cancer as Estrogen + Progesterone + and Her2 -. My doc said if you get breast cancer, you want those markers to be just what mine were. My clinical pathology at this point was Stage 1 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. The tumor measured 2cm on the ultrasound. The surgeon was nice and very qualified but I didn’t like that she wouldn’t give me her opinion of what to do. My choices were lumpectomy and see if we get clear edges, radiation and the 5 year pill to block the estrogen or a mastectomy and the 5 year pill. The only thing the surgeon did recommend for certainty was that I get an MRI. Since my boobs are dense, she wanted the MRI to make sure nothing else was hiding in there. A good friend had suggested I get an MRI so I was thrilled. Or so I thought. The MRI meant more waiting.
The MRI was June 12. Since I fainted during the biopsy, I was on high alert for the MRI. I wasn’t worried about the claustrophobic nature of the test. I was worried that I might get nauseated again and have to stop the procedure. I know, I know. I am a baby! I stress at the drop of a hat. Luckily, the MRI went very well. I think it lasted about a half hour. I was very cold and they did put a warm blanket on me that helped a lot. I did start to shiver a little and I was so scared that it would mess up the test. For the MRI, you get an IV and then you lay down on your tummy and let your boobs hang out through this little attachment. It is very loud and you hear all kinds of knocking and banging noises. I chose to wear headphones and they played relaxing music. I really surprised myself with how well I did.
June 12th was a Wednesday and they said I should hear back in 2-3 days. I was going crazy by the end of the day on Friday and I still hadn’t heard anything. My patient navigator told me my surgeon was out on Fridays but she was sure she would call me on Monday. I decided to call the radiology center. I don’t think they should have done this but they let me know that they faxed the surgeon the report earlier that day and offered to email it to me. I let them. I really shouldn’t have allowed them to do this. When I got the report late that Friday afternoon, I was panicked! The MRI measured the tumor to be a little over 5cm with other satellite areas of concern within the left breast. I don’t think I slept a wink on Friday night even with the good news the MRI showed. (no evidence of disease in the right breast, lymph nodes, liver, or sternum)
I’ve been an on again off again vegetarian/vegan since 2009. But on that fateful May 21st day of the first tests, I promised God that no matter what, I would be vegan for the rest of my life. I first got interested in vegetarianism and being vegan for health reasons. I really do believe we aren’t meant to eat so much of the factory farmed meat in the United States. Then through the years, I stated being drawn to being vegan for the ethical reasons. It breaks my heart how animals suffer. I’m fine with occasional fishing and even hunting to an extent. I know that many animals just don’t have many natural predators anymore. I have a problem if you don’t use what you shoot for food. If it’s just for sport, count me out.
I’ve actually been juicing since we got back from vacation. I try to drink 64 ounces of fresh juice a day.
Well, I was heading out to Food Lion on Saturday the day after I got the MRI results to get some carrots. I purposely left my phone in the house. Sometimes, I think we are tied to our phones and I wanted a break. My hubby came running out to me as I was driving out the driveway holding my phone. He just thought I had forgotten it and wanted me to be safe. People, my grocery store is all of 3 miles away from our home. However, I took it from him and thanked him as cheerfully as I could. This was a God thing for sure because, just as I got to Food Lion, my breast surgeon called me.
She caught me off guard calling me on a Saturday but I was so thrilled. She said she was on call that weekend and had noticed my MRI fax on her machine. She let me know of the increased size and also the satellite nodules. She just wouldn’t give me her recommendations. All she kept saying was that it was my choice. I could still try the lumpectomy but she warned me that my breast would be very disfigured. Or I could go straight to the mastectomy. We decided at that point to move up my genetic testing so I could make a better decision.
I really wanted to know if I’m carrying that breast cancer gene so I could decide if I should just go ahead and get a double mastectomy. That test was set for June 21st.
So there you go. May 21 to June 21. That’s the first 30 days of my cancer journey. I actually really dislike describing this as “my cancer journey”. I’ve got to think of another way to describe this $hit! If you have any ideas, please share!
This post is so long already so I’ll stop now and pick back up tomorrow.