On Monday, August 28th, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
It’s probably the dirtiest word in the English language—at least one of them—right up there with the F word. Such an ugly, stupid little word. A word that can mean so many different things to so many different people.
In all fairness, I got lucky with my cancer. It’s curable. It’s not terminal. It’s not a brain tumor. It’s not inoperable. I’m not going to lose a limb. This entire experience is just going to be a blip on the radar one day.
Doesn’t make it suck any less, though.
When I received the diagnosis, I immediately decided I needed to document this experience. Writing for me has always been relaxing, and I assume/hope this will be no different. It will be an outlet for me; a way to communicate everything I’m going through so I can share it with my family and friends, and maybe even look back on it one day when I need to remind myself that I’m a survivor. Maybe it’ll even inspire someone else, give them comfort in their own journey; maybe it won’t.
Funny, when I decided I wanted to write about it, I wished I’d started when I first found the lump. But really, who wants to assume the worst when they find a lump? I sure didn’t. I’ll backtrack at some point and go back to finding the lump and the procedures that led me to the diagnosis, but for now I’m going to move forward.
So the diagnosis…invasive ductal carcinoma. Yuck. Double yuck. When I received the initial diagnosis, we were still waiting for the rest of the biopsy results which would indicate whether the cancer was protein or hormone sensitive, or something like that. I was kind of in a fog during that part of the conversation, and my notes from the phone call looked like pure chicken scratch. I think I even threw them away while cleaning by accident (I swear, it’s like I’m nesting). So the rest of the biopsy results determine whether I will need to undergo chemo or have some kind of hormone therapy.
Chemo. Blech. Seriously, my biggest concern at that point (not even kidding) was that if I had to go through chemo, I might vomit…after the chemo. I’ve heard/read/seen on TV where people get sick from chemo. I hate throwing up. Absolutely despise it. I can probably count on one hand the times I’ve vomited in my life (aside from early childhood as I don’t remember much from back then because, yeah, it’s was more than 30 years ago).
Here’s another thing that floors me. I’m 35 years old. I think I was in denial that my lump, let’s call it Jean-Paul (French accent and all, just because – and JP for short), was anything because I’m only 35. I either naively thought that breast cancer happened to women older than me, and the occasional male, or I didn’t think about it much at all. Interesting how I accepted its possibility in men more than in women in their 30s. I was so wrong. My doctor had diagnosed 3 other women in their 30s the day I went in for my biopsy.
By now you probably have an idea that my stream of consciousness, which I’m pouring all over this post, is sort of all over the place. It’s hard to focus on one particular thing when there is SO MUCH running through your brain. That’s how I feel – utterly overwhelmed. I’m overwhelmed, but I’m positive. Optimistic even.
My cancer is curable.
Not everyone is that lucky.
So back to the diagnosis. I got a call back from my doctor a few days later with the rest of the biopsy results (after playing phone tag because she called while I was in class, and like a good little student, my phone was tucked away in my backpack on silent). All my finger-crossing that it wasn’t the kind of cancer that required chemo was for naught. It is indeed a protein-based cancer that will need to be treated with chemo. Boo. I just hope the anti-nausea meds work, but I’m not holding my breath. If I lose my hair, I’m probably not going to like it, but I hate feeling nauseous more than I love my hair. How’s that for priorities?
I’ve got HER-2/NEU. My doctor asked me if I’d done any research on the internet. I said no, which is still sort of surprising to me. I’m the kind of person that wants information and facts. I want to know everything about everything so I can make well-informed decisions. Oddly enough, I didn’t research this. Why, you ask? Well, because I loathe Dr. Google. A cramp in a pinky toe can turn into an aneurysm in about 3 seconds flat with the right web search. So I didn’t want to do that. Granted, when I first found JP (the lump…stay with me here), I did a little searching to see what I might be dealing with. But that was it. I looked at the list of potentials, and made a plan. I didn’t agonize over what each and every possibility was and what it meant because it could have been anything and I didn’t want to drive myself insane and end up with an anxiety disorder on top of whatever the heck JP was. I’ll include more about that in a later “flashback” post, though.
So HER-2/NEU, chemo, and an appointment with my specialist and an oncologist on September 8th. I’m having some imaging done this week (MRI, bone scan, CAT scan) – to determine size and see if there is cancer anywhere else, which I’ll talk more about later.
That’s where I’m at right now.
This post may not have made any sense whatsoever, but, like I mentioned before, my stream of consciousness is sort of all over the place. Had I started these posts immediately, they’d probably be a little better organized.
**Shrugs** Oh well.