It’s cancer

by Val

Let’s kick this off with a timeline of how we even got to hearing “I’m sorry to tell you it’s malignant”.

8/23/19: I find a lump in my right breast while showering. I physically recoil back from that touch and begin to rationalize what it could be.  I know it needs a mammogram but when I call they say that it’s too early for my screening exam. I am 10 months out of my first mammogram. A mammogram that assigned me a B-RAD category 2 which says benign findings. I have been educated by my dear friend to start using different terms to get this done. I know I need to go through my doctor for a diagnostic mammogram. However, I am leaving for vacation the very next day after finding this lump.  It is going to have to wait. I try to convince myself that it is a pulled muscle and that it is getting smaller but even on vacation there is this heavy feeling on my chest that makes it hard to breath and I know it’s not getting smaller and not a pulled muscle. 

9/7/19: I have my appointment with my OBGYN. She comes into the office with the order for the mammogram already prepared before she even touches me.  After the exam she agrees it needs to be looked into further. 

9/12/19: It’s my birthday and this picture is my view.  I am scared out of my mind and holding back tears. I’ve had the mammogram and we immediately moved on to an ultrasound. My OBGYN had warned me that would likely move into doing an ultrasound so this is not unexpected. It is however unexpected when they say I need a biopsy and they would like to do it the next day. They explain the next day is out of convince but now I wonder if it was out of urgency instead. Val Tip: If you are going to have a mammogram on your birthday that you think is going to indicate you have cancer, then make sure you also have a best friend who unbeknownst to you will wait in the waiting room with your husband and has birthday gifts waiting for you.  It really does relieve some of the anxiety to have gifts waiting for you. 

9/13/19: Same damn picture staring back at me. I hate this view! But I find something to laugh at still. I was allowed to chose what kind of marker they put in to signify where the biopsy was done. I told them thank you for giving me bling for my birthday. I was told to expect results in about a week.

From 9/13 to 9/26 life had this cloud of unknown hanging over us and it was during that time that the idea to document my journey began to form. At first I stalked MyChart with the passion of a crazy ex-girlfriend.The mammogram was posted first. It was  assigned a Bi-Rads Category 5. That’s a pretty good jump from the Bi-Rad 2 I was 10 months earlier. John Hopkins says a Bi-Rad 5 is cancer 95% of the time. Ok, I could be the 5%. I was googling and Pinterest-ing EVERYTHING. I know you are supposed to stay off the internet in times like these but the only thing I could control was educating my self. My mind couldn’t rest and I needed to know what I was headed for.

During this waiting time, we celebrated our 17th anniversary.  We attended a friend’s wedding and they had arranged for us to dance to our wedding song “Thank You”  by Led Zeppelin. During that dance this unknown slipped away for a few moments but I also held my husband wondering if this would be a last time I got to dance with him.  I looked around at friends attending the wedding and wondered if this would be the last time I saw them. I wanted to talk about it but we didn’t. It wasn’t the time or place to do so. Plus we really didn’t know anything.

As the days went by and I wasn’t getting any answers I did have to expand the circle of people who knew.  I needed people who interacted with me everyday to understand where my mind was really. It was getting harder to wear the I’m okay mask. I lost all composure at my chiropractor’s office and just sobbed on her table while she did my alignment and reassured me it was going to be okay. I called my step-dad after I left my chiropractors office and I fell apart again. He told me I was going to have to find some peace in the waiting and I knew he was right. I had to return to center and couldn’t keep falling apart. Life was still moving on even if I was waiting for answers. 

On the floor with legs crossed and fingers pinched is where I went. I was trying to use mediation to namaste my way back to peace. I also sought comfort from the Spiritual Life Coordinator at my job. I found peace and answers with her. 

I stopped checking MyChart as much. I began to accept that I probably was the 95%. The two weeks it took to get a diagnosis was rough but I also found gratitude about things during that time. I was grateful that someone was taking the time to look over my stuff and not rushing a reading.  I was also grateful for my people, including my husband because they all checked on me, laughed with me, and told me to get over myself when that was what I needed. I was also grateful that I was being taught a lesson in patience because that’s a listen I needed.

9/26/19: I was over being patient and done with the waiting. I want answers now. This is what I was complaining about to a co-worker while my phone was in another room ringing with the call I was complaining about but now missing.  Life has a sense of humor and I can appreciate that. 

I was asked to come to the office.  I told my husband, Carl,  that I was pretty sure where this going.  When my OBGYN came in she asked me if I knew why I was there.  I explained how much googling I had done and I had a pretty good idea of where this was headed. She also added that when it’s good news they don’t ask you to come in.  She never said the word cancer or malignant to me. I told her where I wanted to go for treatment and she told me she was glad that was my choice.  She asked to hug me and she was crying when she did. I may have been crying too but I don’t remember.  I was just ready to get on to treating this.

Carl and I left the office and immediately began the task of telling people what was going on. We told my parents in person and I could see the fear in my mom’s eyes.  I called my uncle and I could hear the fear in his voice. I made them the promise that you really can’t make,you know promises that I would be okay. I believe I will be okay but at this point I didn’t even know what we were dealing with. I also felt confident that my cancer didn’t know who it was dealing with either.  For example, an hour after getting the news I was cracking inappropriate jokes about dirty beer taps not being the thing that would kill me. Carl let me know it was a bit too soon for those kind of jokes. 

I’m not happy about this but I’m also not completely sad. I mean I cry and feel overwhelmed sometimes but do you know all the things I am going to learn on this journey? I am already discovering such compassion for women who have trailed before me. They are amazing in ways I never knew. I’m learning things that show how naive I am. Did you know some people lose all their hair with chemo. I mean ALL of it. I sat in Panera trying to help my friend visualize what I could look like with no eyebrows when I shared this could be a possibility.

I don’t look forward to all the icky stuff but I am kind of excited about all the growing and appreciating I am going to do. I promise I will be paying forward all the love and support I have received. I look forward to finding out what that looks like too.  For now everything is normal until it’s not and we will deal with the not when it comes. 

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Ally 07/23/2021 - 2:35 am

Val this was beautifully stated so interesting. You are an amazing woman and we can all learn from you.

Val 07/23/2021 - 11:38 pm

Thank you Ally! I appreciate all the kind words and support you have given me through this journey!


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