I’ve always been very grateful for technology and how far it has advanced. Last year, when I was called back in for a second set of mammograms I didn’t fully appreciate the way the call back was handled, but was grateful for a negative set of results after the second exam itself.
The call back this year went similarly, I had a great family vacation to Hawaii before the second visit. When the technician walked me over to a room to review the results with a radiologist (‘no don’t get dressed just in case they want to take more images’ should have been an indicator) I looked around the room thinking, hmm, sofa for two people and one chair, no desk, this isn’t normal. I remember him talking about the bell curve; I wasn’t left (no cancer) and didn’t appear clearly right (definitely cancer) so I was in the middle and they needed to do more tests. I could wait 6 months to see if the calcification reduced, which doesn’t normally happen, or go through a biopsy. When can the biopsy be done? Now if you want. Let’s do it.
An hour later I was on my way back to the office. You’ll be called within a couple of days. I felt grateful again for the opportunity to be in capable and caring hands and couldn’t imagine the results would be different from last year.
I was fortunate enough when the phone rang the next day to be alone in a conference room to receive the doctor’s call. The biopsy is positive for cancer. DCIS, 2, this is good news; if you are going to have cancer this is the best cancer to have. I recall saying I don’t understand how this is good news. My brain went into a fog. I’ve scheduled a referral for you with a breast surgeon who will likely be able to see you fairly soon. It still amazes me how the mind turns to fear and worse case with the absence of information.
The next 72 hours were fearful, tearful, feeling protective of my 8 year old, wow, tough to understand how within a year I am healthy and now I am not. My husband and I talked incessantly, moving in and out of waves regarding what we didn’t know. The not knowing had to be the hardest part, was it terminal, was it advanced, was it treatable, how will this affect my family, you can’t leave us yet, I’m the breadwinner but I can be extremely thankful that my husband is the stay at home dad so there is great stability notwithstanding for our son…relief that I could get in to see the surgeon within 48 hours. Pretty quickly, our huge waves became of relief to learn I hit the breast cancer lotto, if such a thing is possible, stage 0, grade 2, treatable and normally 99% + curable. Yes, surgery is involved, and that won’t be a cake walk even for a stubborn, optimistic, mentally strong and pretty fit me. Decisions are just beginning, is there a chance it affects the other side, partial removal, full removal, pros/cons, side effects of surgery, reconstruction or join the breast free club, how much time to take away from work. Some of it seems mechanical to me, you know, reconstruction or not doesn’t won’t affect the time with my son before he leaves for college. I’ll take Minecraft time with him any day, the quilting, reading or cooking can wait. It doesn’t affect the time I spend with my husband, as we cherish our morning coffee time or wine time after I arrive home from work. It doesn’t affect my love for the outdoors, it is enhancing the lens by which I see things. But life was pretty darned simple a week ago when I only complained that there weren’t enough hours in the day for me to enjoy everything I love. A shift has occurred, with the receipt of words “the biopsy is positive for cancer”.
I stressed out more over the past 4 days about who to share this with and picking up the phone to call them than some of the decisions I need to make. I’m a giver. It isn’t easy telling others about me. Though I’d want to know if it were them which walked me over the ledge of keeping it close to home. The ensuing support as I share what is going on for me is like having a warm hug wrapped around my shoulders, as the love and unconditional caring of my friends and family and boss envelop me. It is very comforting to know they are there for anything at anytime should I need something.
I’m coming out of all this 6 days after the diagnosis as happy to be alive, happy to be diagnosed with a modest form of breast cancer with a shorter recovery path than most, happy to be reminded of continuing to embrace only real things in life that matter with the people I love.
The next few weeks/months won’t look like the Fall I imagined. Fall is my favorite time of year, and amidst post surgery recovery, I’ll certainly have a couple extra unencumbered weeks to feel the autumn air come in, watch the California leaves change, and savor a few sunsets through arm and neck exercises. Perseverance, a good attitude and time will have me healing soon and allow me to fully appreciative of the gift of life and love of the many special people in my life.