Monday, January 4, 2010, I took my morning shower before work. Everything was fine and healthy. Tuesday, January 5, there was a small little bump in my left breast. It kind of felt like a jelly bean, and was about the same size. I thought it odd, but didn’t give it another thought until I went to bed. I laid on my back and did a self-breast exam. The lump was still there. Now, I am a middle-aged woman, and was at the time, too. Breast tissue is reactive to gravity. If I lay on my back, my breasts do too. 😡 The lump did not move. It was still hard and in the very same spot. The next morning I called my doctor. He examined me on Thursday, and (I love him for this!) said, “Well. I am not really sure, and am not too concerned at this point. However, I am not the expert at this, so let’s send you to her.”
I was scheduled right away and saw her on Monday, January 11. I had a physical exam and she couldn’t find anything. They did a mammogram and couldn’t find anything. So they did an ultrasound and finally found it. They had a cancelation in their day so I was able to have biopsy the same day. They made an appointment for the following Monday (January 18) to go over the results with me. It was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day so I had the day off from work. My husband offered to go with me. I said he was being silly. I am the epitome of good health. All of my blood work is in the exact middle of levels for the tests they run. My bad cholesterol is very low. My good cholesterol is very high. My blood pressure is relatively low and healthy. I was just sure I was wasting my time by even going in, but they always schedule a return visit for biopsies.
The doctor and nurse came in and sat down. I was reading and was in the middle of a paragraph. I politely put my finger on the word, so when they told me it was all clear, I could finish the paragraph and be on my merry way. I completely lost my place in my book when the doctor sighed heavily and said, “I am completely surprised by this because I thought it was nothing, but you have cancer.” Much like when the doctor told me that my second child was a girl when I was *just* sure that I was carrying a boy, I stared at her dumbfounded and asked if she was sure.
I really don’t recall all the words that were said at that time, but I clearly remember being told that my results were shared with the hospital’s cancer board. I remember being very offended, frightened, and angry that I had a condition that needed a board–a board of DOCTORS, no less–to discuss my course of action. The doctor had an opening that Thursday in her schedule for surgery. Since I wanted this offensive growth gone, I jumped at it. I had a lumpectomy–that’s where they take the tumor and surrounding tissue, and they only had to remove one lymph node. I caught it early enough the cancer had not spread. This was one day before my birthday. Happy flippin’ birthday to me!
As far as cancer horror stories go, mine was a cake walk. I joke that I had Cancer Lite. I had a close friend, Traci, diagnosed the same week as I was. Mind you, she had been sick for a year and a half, and they finally found out she was sick from cancer, not stomach ailments. She is still off work–cancer-free, but off work due to all the treatments and medicines and procedures. I got out of my cancer experience very easy.
I had six weeks of radiation. At the end of that I started a medicine called tamoxifen. It is a “fake” estrogen that goes into my system, and if there are any cancer cells they attach to the medicine instead of me and starve to death. A decrease in estrogen is basically aging. It’s not just the cancer cells that react to the medicine. My body is aging slightly faster than other women my age. I have compared aches and pains stories with my sisters, and one of them is a twin. They feel great and still feel young. I wake every morning with stiff joints and sore muscles. I feel like I have been in a minor car accident and have the aches and pains associated with that. Every damn day. But I wake up each day. I’ll take the pain.