Unfortunately, I am not in total charge of the roadmap that God has laid out for me….so I don’t get to decide certain aspects of my life. Aspects like when the road I am traveling on has a HUGE orange and white sign stating that the road I was expecting to take is now CLOSED and that I need to take a DETOUR onto a road I have never traveled before.
The good news is that this road has been/and is being traveled by others, so it is not totally unchartered territory. That’s a relief. I don’t like to be the only one. In fact, I find comfort in not being alone in feeling a certain way and always find it more reassuring to be validated by others. You too? Oh good…it’s not just me….that always makes me feel better. ;)
So, where exactly is this new DETOUR taking me and what does this mean? I have asked many questions in the past week and have gotten some answers (both from others that have taken the road and those that have just “heard” about it). I realize that I might see the same scenery along the way, but I also know that I will have my OWN story to tell.
This is how my story begins (starting with a little backdrop about my family)…
In 2009, my dear mom found a cancerous lump in her breast at the age of 61. Needing to have surgery to remove that lump, she was taken off of a blood thinning medication that was preventing her from having blood clots. The lump was removed, but she experienced a heart attack in the days that followed. She was never able to recover from that heart attack and sadly passed away surrounded by all of us that loved her dearly! (LOVE & MISS YOU SO MUCH MOM!!) In the midst of it all, my mother’s sister was also experiencing breast cancer of a more serious nature. I am also sad to say that my aunt lost her battle with breast cancer in the year to follow. (LOVE & MISS YOU TOO AUNT EL!!)
In the back of my mind, I knew I should really get a mammogram and get checked out. However, part of me wanted to know and part of me really didn’t. L Fast forward to February of 2012….it was time. My friend Amy gave me a pamphlet about a “Girls Night Out” at the breast center in Maple Grove…have a mammogram, a glass of wine, appetizers, a massage. (If I was going to have a mammogram, THIS was the way to do it!) I went in and had my initial mammogram and received a call back for further testing. UH-OH. I was worried and didn’t know what that meant….they assured me that this happens a lot after the baseline mammogram because it is the first one.
So, back I went for an ultrasound. The doctor said that I had an enlarged lymph node and that he didn’t think it was anything to worry about. He said that lymph nodes fight off colds and such and sometimes they are enlarged because of that and I shouldn’t worry about it. Really? R-E-L-I-E-F! He said we could follow up again next year…
Jump ahead 6 months to August….I met with my OB/GYN for my yearly exam. I told her about my mammogram and she recommended I get a 6 month follow up to make sure everything was ok. Bless her heart for being diligent about having me go in to follow up before a year’s time. SHAME on me for not making an actual appointment until December.
Here is where my story gets to be a little bit of a whirlwind, so forgive me as I bombard you with the details of my past week. There is a lot of information, but I wanted to give you a snapshot of where I have been and where I am about to go…
Tuesday, December 18th I had an ultrasound and the doctor said he saw 2 lymph nodes that looked enlarged and irregular in shape. He recommended a biopsy. L
Wednesday, December 19th I had a biopsy of my lymph nodes and then sat down with a nurse scheduler to talk about the labs that were sent to the U to be tested for cancer. She told me that I might not get results until Christmas Eve day…5 days away! UGH. I was in tears just thinking about it all and trying to process it by myself. The realization of the long wait, the thought of Aaron possibly changing jobs and insurance and the headache with all of that was overwhelming.
What I really wanted most was to call my mom, which of course brought more tears. L The nurse scheduler asked if I needed a hug, which I warmly welcomed! It was so thoughtful of her to be so comforting in the midst of my uncertainty. I told her my concerns with insurance possibly changing and that I wanted to get everything done STAT….any appointments I could schedule before the end of the year, I wanted to just get them done. She said she would do what she could to help speed things along.
Thursday, December 20th Aaron was working from home and received a phone call from a new employer extending him a job offer that he accepted. At the same time, I got a phone call from the nurse with the news that they found CANCER in my lymph nodes. WHAT?!?!? This CAN’T be happening!! I am only 36 years old. Let’s just say I was a big PUDDLE afterwards. Tears, fears, emotions of all sorts….I couldn’t stop thinking the worst case scenario. I was a mess, but tried to keep my emotions in check because we weren’t ready to tell the kids yet.
Friday, December 21st I went back to the doctor for more tests. I had a mammogram and they found a small nodule in my breast (about 6mm in size). After finding the nodule, they did another ultrasound, another biopsy and then another mammogram. 45 minutes later I met with the Oncologist for the very first time. She confirmed the breast cancer diagnosis and said that our treatment plan would be based on if the cancer was localized or if it had spread. L If it was localized to the breast and the lymph nodes, then it could be “curable” and we could use surgery /chemo/radiation to get rid of it. If it had spread, however, then surgery would not be an option and it would be “treatable” but not “curable”. The only way to tell if the cancer had spread, was for me to have a PET/CT full body scan, which we were trying to get scheduled for the week of Christmas.
Sunday, December 23rd I had a breast MRI to confirm that there wasn’t anything else they might have missed in the mammogram/ultrasound. (I was so thankful to have the nurse talk me through the whole MRI process….once I was in the machine I felt all hot and panicky….I did NOT like the feeling of being so enclosed! YUCK!!) Was SO happy to finally be done with that test!!
Wednesday, December 26th I met with a surgeon to discuss surgery and reconstruction as a possible option if my cancer was indeed localized. After meeting with the surgeon, I went and had an Echocardiogram to check the stability and strength of my heart. (I needed to get a baseline of my heart because cancer drugs can be hard on your heart.)
Friday, December 28th I went in for a full body PET/CT scan to see if the cancer had spread and then met with my Oncologist for 2.5 hours to discuss next steps.
What I know today, Saturday, December 29th…
- The cancer has NOT spread! HOORAY!!
- The type of breast cancer I have is an aggressive form (HER2 positive), but it is also one that is highly responsive to hormone therapy (estrogen & progesterone positive receptors).
- I will have 6 treatments of chemo over an 18 week timeframe. Following chemo, I will have at least 4 weeks of recovery before having surgery to remove the cancer. Based on how surgery goes, we will possibly also treat with radiation.
- I hope to get in to see the surgeon this week to get a port put in for chemotherapy treatments and also hope to get my first round of chemo done and over with.
It has been an EMOTIONAL week with lots of uncertainty and exhausting discussions. As sad as I am to say that I have cancer, if I am going to have cancer….this is the kind to have! The doctor has been optimistic in talking about treatment, and I am hopeful that we are able to cure it and prevent it from ever returning!
I have the most amazing family and friends!! I have been graced with love, support and prayers this past week and I know that it is the support of everyone that will carry me through this!
Thank you for taking the time to sift through all that I have written. I hope that this blog will provide a resource for me to keep everyone in the loop and also a way for me to freely express whatever life brings my way…
Love to all….