In November shortly before Thanksgiving, I rolled over one night and noticed a small "bump" in my breast. Was it really there? Could I really feel something? I had all the holidays ahead and if it was "something", it would cast a huge pall over all the festivities. I had a mammogram scheduled for January...why not leave it to then to diagnose anything mysterious.
January came, mammogram time and with it all traces of the vague memory I'd had of the mystery bump disappeared. I forgot to mention it to my trusted friend Joyce,-the mammogram technician. Results came back in a few weeks clear. I never gave it another fleeting thought....until one night time with the same position in bed when I noticed a larger bump in the same place and the memory came flooding back. My mother had breast cancer when she was 66. I am 62. My maternal grandmother had it when she was in her 30's. My paternal died of bone cancer which is usually a secondary not primary cancer. This particular grandmother was very private about her life as were the times so this type of cancer was rarely talked about.
This gene seemed certainly in my family.
The next day at work in surgery, some of us were talking about a younger nurse's newly found breast lump. I mentioned that I, too, had found one. Many of my co-workers said "you'd better call and get an appointment ASAP". And so I did. That was 2 weeks ago. The surgeon ordered an ultrasound on hearing about my appointment. The next day she asked about how it went. I told her that the "medical vibe" was not good. While having it done, I questioned the tech about fluid being in the lump, hoping that it was cystic and therefore most likely benign. She said something that I fuzzily remember and I said "so there is no fluid in it" and she agreed....not a good sign Soon, two radiologists came in to take a core biopsy and the tone of that was serious and sympathetic. The comment I remember was "we wish you good luck..."
My surgeon said she'd have results soon and we continued our day. My appointment was at 9:00am on Friday March 16th. As she walked into the office I looked at her face and knew what the results were as she confirmed, "You were right." I never wanted to be so wrong in my life. She gave me a few options which we discussed and a lumpectomy was scheduled. Also an MRI was scheduled and a full mastectomy would rest on these results to see if it had spread. I was confidant in this area (why?) that would not happen.
The MRI was the following Friday with other pre-op tests...EKG, chest x-ray and blood work. I decided some man thought this one up because you go in face down and place both breasts into two holes designed for them lying flat face down for an hour. That was a little bit of torture.
Saturday morning, there was a knock at my door and my surgeon Dr. Mary bounded into our kitchen showing me the MRI results. She said "I just couldn't call you on the phone about this". I will always feel that this was one of the classiest things ever done for me. Coming to my home to tell me results that she knew I did not want to hear. I can't even say I was welcoming or warm. I was just....sad.
Once I knew that the mass was growing toward my chest wall, and could visually see it on the MRI, I knew that a full mastectomy had to be done and then there were the axillary nodes to worry about. Lymph nodes control the fluid system in this region and without them, the arm can swell mightily. If one has cancer, it can spread rapidly. Cancer in one is important enough to remove many in the area to reduce chance of spread.
Surgery was scheduled for Thursday the 29th of March.
I work with an awesome staff of nurses. When one of us is hurting, the others rally behind and are wonderfully supportive. I was amazed when I came into work on Wednesday to see that everyone had brought in their favorite dish...a "carry-in" as we call it, to give me fighting spirit. They had put a banner on the wall with bras hanging down. It said "We Support YOU!" I hooted when I saw it...wow, what a team! I went home with an arm full of flowers, a homemade blanket and other gifts of encouragement.
The next day, we went into the hospital and were met by the pre-op nurses who all had pink ribbons pinned to their chests. I had to go down to x-ray to have radioactive dye injected to "light-up" the sentinal (main) lymph node. On the way we saw staff from our supply-processing departments who too, had pink ribbons pinned on. It's an overwhelming feeling to see this. I started to cry.
That's all I remember until it was all over. Drugs are a peaceful thing and welcomed relief. I almost lost the farm again when I was told later that once I was asleep, Dr. Mary, my surgeon, asked if the operating room team could please hold hands and pray over me. Kathy Starkey, the scrub nurse said that she added a post to the prayer "-and now Lord, thanks for letting me go to work with mascara dripping into my mask..." Ha!
I went home yesterday and think there is nothing to prepare you for this. I'm s.o.r.e but am doing really well and I have to thank all the prayers for that. Cancer was found in just a small portion of one lymph node. (post script...the cancer was found in 6 of the nodes on permanent lab tests)
This surgery is phase one. I still have work to go back to and then there is chemo, loss of hair and radiation. I don't look forward to any of it but I can and will live through all of it. If reading any of this can help even one person, it will be worth it.
If there is anything that I learned from my mother, it was her basic philosophy of life. Whenever anything bad came up she would always say "Just get through it!" And then she would add, "then we can look forward to the next good thing". She was always about doing work etc. first and then being able to enjoy the party that came after. I feel that way too.
.....And so I am about to embark on the journey of "JUST GET THROUGH IT".
14 hours ago