If you’ve known me for more than 2 minutes, you know that I do not have the ability to beat around the bush. It’s just not in me. So here it is, I HAVE BREAST CANCER. I am 35 years old and have (with exception to bedrest and newborn days of having no sleep) been a physically active person. I haven’t worn store brand deodorant for the past 5 years b/c it makes my pits feel weird. I eat pretty well, but also love burgers, fries and pizza. And I’ve recently been switching over my household and beauty products to toxin-free alternatives.
All that said, cancer doesn’t care. Every new care provider I meet says “OH, you are so young”. Yes, I am. But I’m also learning of more and more twenty-somethings that are also experiencing this. Again, cancer just DOES NOT CARE!
How I found the lump: I was not great at doing self exams monthly. However, in early June I was carrying someone on my back in a baby carrier and the buckle was twisted and kept digging into my under arm area. It made it quite tender and caused me to feel around and inspect the bruise. As a result of that, I found my lump. I waited 4-5 weeks before calling the doctor though b/c I knew that small lumps could be the result of where you are in your menstrual cycle OR too much caffeine (and I had been loading up on so much caffeine!). So after the 4-5 week wait time, the mass didn’t go away so I called my gyn. I went in for an exam and she sent me to the St John Breast Center for a mammogram and ultrasound. As I was waiting, I had a really bad feeling just wash over me. It was the same feeling that came when I had my first miscarriage. It felt exactly the same, no denying it. It wasn’t that I was being negative, it just felt familiar. It was awful and stuck with me during the procedures. It didn’t get any better when they needed to repeat a “special” mammogram on my left side. And it felt even worse when they spent extra time imaging my lymph nodes under my right armpit. So obviously, it was no surprise when the radiologist came in and said I needed to get some sites biopsied. Sparing details of how a breast biopsy works, I’ll skip to the results. The left side was just microcalcifications but the right side and lymph node came back as cancerous, and they labeled it as “aggressive”.
Here is what we know so far: I have a 1.6cm x 1.5cm x 1.4cm (give or take some millimeters) tumor in my right breast, there is also lymph node involvement. By MRI, only one lymph node seems to be affected. The tumor is NOT estrogen, progesterone or HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) receptive, so therefore it is called TRIPLE NEGATIVE BREAST CANCER. (here’s an info link for anyone who wants to know more https://tnbcfoundation.org/
understanding-triple-negative- breast-cancer/ ). I have also done the genetic testing and I do NOT have the BRCA genetic mutation (http://ww5.komen.org/ BreastCancer/ InheritedGeneticMutations.html ). This is great news for my girls!!!!!
Here’s what is still to come: Monday August 28th I will have a port placed and Wednesday August 30th I will have PET scan to find out if the cancer has spread anywhere else besides the 2 known locations. Sandwiched between those appointments, I will meet with my dietitian to go over my food sensitivity test, micronutrient test and MTHFR test. Chemo will start sometime the week after Labor Day, although exact day has not been decided yet. For 8 weeks (4 sessions, every two weeks) I will receive a combination of Adriamycin and Cytoxan. After that, for 12 weeks (one treatment per week) I will receive Taxol (possibly in combination with Carboplatin, but that is still to be determined). After all the chemo is over, I will receive a 4-6 week break and then have surgery. Given my negative BRCA results, then I do not have to have a double mastectomy. As treatment progresses, we will asses whether a lumpectomy can be performed or if a mastectomy is needed. The main reason they want to do chemo first is due to the location. The tumor is abutting my chest muscle. If they were to do surgery right now, the surgeon would need to take some muscle tissue in order to have clear margins (http://www.breastcancer.org/
symptoms/diagnosis/margins ). The hope is that chemo will shrink the tumor enough that the surgeon can get clear margins WITHOUT having to cut into the chest muscle. Following chemo and surgery, I will most likely have radiation. But that is so far into the future (next spring), that I’m not really focusing on that right now.
Here’s what I need: First and foremost, I need you to NOT say anything to my children before next week. We are traveling to Kansas this weekend and plan to tell them while we are driving (captive audience is the best audience?). But really, they should not really ever be the ones who have to field the questions about how I am feeling. I do not want them to carry the burden of my diagnosis. My kids have not made a negative association with the word cancer yet, and I do not plan to use the word around them a lot. We will tell them it is indeed breast cancer, but I imagine in day to day we will probably talk more about my “sickness”. I think they understand the word “sick” a bit better than “cancer” anyway. Also in relation to the kids, I need you to keep up a confident face when we talk and the kids are present. I do not want to mislead them, but I want us all to remain positive and confident! I've got so much to live for. God has guided my life from the time I was an infant, and I know that there's more that he wants me to do on this Earth. Right now I'm feeling very positive. But, I know there will be times when my attitude and outlook sink pretty low…and that’s where you step in!
I think this novel is long enough for now. I’ll be updating via my FB (and perhaps copy to the ole blog) in the future, I think that will just be the easiest. I wish I could have told each one of you personally, but there’s gonna come a time when we meet in the grocery store and I’m not going to have hair and you’re going to notice my really weird flat spot on the back of my head. And then I’ll tell you the story, and then I might have to repeat it again 3 times in the same day. And while I don’t mind sharing my story, it gets exhausting.
Our lives have been in running at 10,000rpm’s here lately. Know that if I’ve dropped the ball on anything, I’m extremely sorry. I’m learning that for the next year of my life I will need to shift my priorities significantly. I have to start putting myself first…and it feels so weird (anyone who has ever been a caretaker to any age of dependent knows this feeling!). But I know it is vital for complete healing.
I’m terrible at asking for help, and if someone says “just let me know how I can help”, I will probably never ask! It’s not that I don’t want your help, it’s just that I feel like I’m putting you out. I came across this article the other day and it has a list (some applicable to me, some may not be) of some great things that I might need in the future. I know I wish I would have thought of these things when a friend of mine was going through treatments. I’m also going to attach an article from Jet Hatmaker that I just found interesting and completely applicable.
PS: Congrats if you've made it this far :)