Last night, my doctor called with the biopsy results. When I heard her voice and realized it was after 6pm, I knew it wasn’t good news. And I was right. I had just gotten my son out of the tub. The conversation lasted the exact amount of time that it took me to diaper him, put him in his pajamas, and comb his hair. Nothing she told me was new – I was armed with all of the knowledge already. When I hung up the phone, the words “I have breast cancer” went through my head. And then I began to sob.
Luckily my husband was on his way home from work, but I had managed to calm down a bit by the time he walked through the door. We did our nightly ritual of playing with our son, then putting him to bed. Then my husband made some phone calls and I sent some emails – some to my friends, but also to work to find out about leave and other issues.
Of course, all day today I have felt soreness in the biopsy spot. It could be psychosomatic or normal tenderness from my period. At this point, I guess I’m just glad that within a month or so, I will have nothing to worry about because my breasts will be gone entirely.
I sent this email to my family and friends this morning:
I am extremely lucky that this was caught when it was. I’m even luckier that my cousin Sandi discovered this genetic mutation in our family, and that my father was tested in order to determine if I should be too. If I hadn’t known about this, I would not have been having mammograms for the last seven years. I would have waited until I was 40, which means this pre-cancer growing inside me now would certainly have been a full-blown and invasive tumor by the time it was found. I am so grateful to Sandi and my father who gave me the gift of being able to take my health future into my own hands.
My next steps are several – I will be having and MRI and CT scan next week. I’ve already met with two surgeons and have appointments with three more. I want to find someone I’m comfortable with before I turn over a major part of my body to him/her! For now, I don’t really know anything other than that – the surgery will most likely be in the next 4-6 weeks. Depending on what sort of surgery I choose, recovery will vary, so I don’t really know yet what that will be like. Thankfully, and this is ‘the good part’ – having a mastectomy will mean that I shouldn’t need any treatment – so no chemo or radiation! Once the surgery’s done, the cancer is done!
I am uncertain right now about what will happen with my job – I will be talking to HR and my department Chair over the next few days. I will definitely give everyone an update once everything is decided.
I have three favors to ask of all of you. The first is not to constantly ask me how I’m feeling. You may of course ask other questions! But just know that I feel fine. I am not sick. This is overwhelming, but I’m used to having a lot of stuff thrown at me at one time, and I am lucky to be in Pittsburgh now where I have not only the most supportive and loving husband on earth, but I also have my parents here to help, and access to top-notch medical facilities and practitioners.
The second favor is a bit presumptuous, so forgive me, but just in case…. if you have any urge to send me anything with a pink ribbon on it, use your money to make a donation to FORCE or other cancer research. I do not want my entire life littered with pink ribbons!
The third is that you should feel free to discuss this with anyone even if they might know me (I am only sending this to a small group of people). It’s not a secret. I’m not worried about it being out in the community or people gossiping or whatever. I just ask that you make sure to mention that I knew about this because of genetic testing. More people should know that they too can get genetic testing, which makes them eligible for insurance-covered mammograms before age 40, and means more breast cancer is caught in the earliest stages.
I’m not at all worried about this. The only thing I’m sad about is that recovery from surgery means I won’t be able to pick up my son for almost a month – having that restriction for 24 hrs following the biopsy was torture! But otherwise, I know I’m going to be just fine.