Archive | April 2017

The evil Rollercoaster

That first and second week left me mentally, emotionally and physically drained!  I had no idea I had set foot onto an evil roller coaster that was gonna take me up to highs then swoosh back down to lows and whip me around like a rag doll.   And just not let up or let me off.   Appointment after appointment kept flooding in.  I was so overwhelmed with it all it’s amazing I didn’t lose my shit or have a nervous breakdown.  I was poked and prodded and felt up and run through machines and more ultrasounds and it just didn’t stop.  It was ruthless.  The rest of February was nothing but doctors and tests and more information.  If I thought February was rough, it’s nothing compared to what was looming over the horizon.  😞

Feb. 23 –

I had to do an MRI, my first one ever!   They want to make sure that none of those little suckers have gotten loose and swam to my lymph nodes.   We have lymph nodes in our armpits and around our neck and if any have gotten loose they would go to our lymph nodes in the armpits first because those nodes feed off of the breast.  And if they did, I would need surgery to remove those nodes. 😦    They have to hook me up to an IV so they can inject contrast to see the images better.    The tech can’t find my veins.   I have very sneaky veins, they like to play hide and seek.   She tried all of the possible areas.  By the time she found one, in my least favorite spot even,  I had bandages on all areas!   I looked like I had been making tracks.    That machine was huge and NOISY, geez,  good thing they gave me some headphones to wear and listen to music during the procedure.   It wasn’t so bad but it did take FOREVER!   and it was cold in there.   We’re all done!  I can change and go home.  I would have results soon.  I hope it comes back good.  

Feb. 28 – results.  

 I get the call with my results.   The MRI showed nothing in my lymph nodes.  They are clear!!  Thank the Lord, but. . . . they see a shaded area in my left breast that needs further evaluation.   Man alive!!!   Is this ever gonna end?   With every bit of good news I get,  it seems like I get double the bad news 😟  I can’t take this anymore.    They have me scheduled quickly for ANOTHER ultrasound and ANOTHER MRI guided biopsy at the end of the week.   *SIGH*

That evil roller coaster whips me around like a silly ass rag doll through March

 

Mar. 3 –  

 Ultrasound and biopsy day.   Well, here I am yet again at the butt ass crack of dawn to do more testing at the imaging center.  I really hope nothing is wrong with my left side.  I don’t need extra things to worry about.   It’s already super stressful and exhausting on all levels.  I have one of my ‘work sisters’ with me, MaryBeth,  she is another one of my cancer crusaders.   She too has been with me since I told her my news,  they no longer let me do anything alone 💚 All of my ‘work sisters’ have been fabulous!!  See, I have no bio sisters,  they are my sisters,  I have 3.  So she is here with me for support and company.   After the last time I was alone, I got the shock of my life and it was here, at this place.   So, now I ask someone to come with me.  My work sisters are so different outside of work.   They’re awesome!!!  I just love them!

Time to get ready for the ultrasound, that will be the first test.    Nope, they can’t see anything from the ultrasound, the area in question is way too small.  Thank God for that. . .I guess?     This will need the high tech machinery of the MRI.   I’m sent to do that.     Now I’m back with the noisy machine.   I meet the doctor who will perform this biopsy.    He is soooo cool.  LOVE THIS DOCTOR.   He wants to make me as comfortable and happy and relaxed as he possibly can.   They must of told him of my experience with the first biopsy,  remember 1. . .2. . .3. . .POP?    Yeah, I’m still traumatized by that.   Anyway,  he was super good with me, gave me lots of numbing medicine to be comfortable as ever.    The only thing I felt was pressure, no pain at all.  He was very attentive to how I was feeling.   He took 7 samples and that wasn’t bad at all.   And he did make me feel  comfortable.  We’re all done.   I need to do a mammy,  not a regular one but a simple one with not so much squeezing.   They need an image of the titanium chip he inserted into the breast at the area, to let future technicians know that the area has already been addressed.  I forgot to mention that my right breast also has a titanium chip from my first biopsy.  This is a mandatory procedure when we go in for biopsies, a titanium chip is inserted to the area.   You don’t feel them at all, but will always be there, they are never removed.  They stay with you for a lifetime.  And no, they don’t set off medal detectors.   The doc comes out and explains I should have results in a few days.  He was super awesome.  MaryBeth even says,  “if I ever have to come in for a biopsy,  I want HIM to do mine!!”   Haha,  he was great.  Ultrasound and MRI done!!   I can go home.  

Mar. 6 – Echocardiogram.    

I need to do an echo to make sure my heart is healthy enough to endure the heavy chemo they have planned for me.   I didn’t ask anyone to come with me to this cuz it’s just a heart scan, but geez, once I got here I was overcome with anxiety.  Like bad.   My heart just about beat right out of my chest.  I almost started crying, so here I am texting my friends to try and calm me down.  

When I first found out my news, I reached out to Tammy, she is the one who also went through what I’m going through right now.  Every little thing I go through, I ask her about and what it was like.   I’m grateful I have her to walk me through things.  So naturally,  I’m talking to her right now, trying to bring my anxiety level down.  

We do the echo, we’re done in like a 1/2 hour.  I leave.  Why was I in such a panic?  I think everything that is happening so fast, is getting to me.  It just doesn’t slow down.   I’m trying to stay strong and positive and I think it’s wearing me down.   Plus, I’m still working through all of this,  I’m not missing a beat.  And its wearing on me bad. 

Mar. 7 – Results of 2nd Biopsy of left side

I get my results from the MRI guided biopsy.  Great news!!!  Everything is clear for that breast and so are my lymph nodes!  Wow, finally some reassuring news.   Do you know how bad I’ve been needing good news?!    I really needed this!   🙇

Mar. 8 –  

Time to get down to business.    The hospital already has me scheduled for my chest port.   I will need a chest port inserted into my upper chest so that when I start receiving chemo, this is where it would be rather than through a vein on my arm.  Through here they will access my central vein.  I’m scheduled for the 13th of March.   eek.   That roller coaster is taking me through cork screws!!

Later that evening, I get a phone call from Trish,  she is the one who will be doing all of my scheduling at the cancer center.  The doctor would like to start chemo as soon as my chest port is in 😧  I had a feeling this was gonna happen.   She lets me choose a day of the week that will work for me.   I do Thursdays.   I’m off on Fridays and Saturdays, so this will give me a few days to recoupe.   My first treatment will be on the 16th 😥  Once again my evil roller coaster is picking up speed and whipping me around.    She gives me the weeks’ schedule of  appointments.   3/13 – chest port procedure,  3/15 – chemo class, 3/16 – 1st round of chemo & 3/17 – Neulasta- booster shot.   Here we go,  it’s all happening soo fast 😟.    Chest port, treatment, etc.   I don’t want chemo but I have to.  Chemo just scares me!   How is all of this gonna affect my son?   I’m gonna lose my hair.  I may be sick a lot and in bed and tired all the time.  I just break down and cry.  Honestly,  the reality of it all is just too much.  I can’t take it.  I cry my eyeballs out.  Chemo will go on through summer and the only thing I can think about, is how all of this will affect my son. 

I text my oldest brother, Jake, and tell him that chemo will start soon.  We both figured this was gonna happen once my port was in.  I’m soo scared.  But once all of that happens it’s time to get down to business. 

My treatment schedule:

4 cycles of intense chemo ( once every other week )  then 12 weeks of a different chemo   ( once every week )

I give Jake my treatment schedule and just *sigh* heavy.  He tells me,  “its just a trip down the beach with two sets of footprints”  Referencing, ‘Footprints in the Sand’.  I LOVED that he told me this and it did make me cry more, but I needed to be reminded of that.  In response, I said,  “Yes, I know and when I only see 1 set, I’ll know that I was carried.”    It’s not the kind of beach walk I was hoping to take but at least I won’t be alone.   My God is ALWAYS with me!!

footprints in the sand

Mar. 12 – Day before chest port

Lab work  ✔  No aspirin 5 days prior to procedure ✔   No ibuprofen 5 days prior to procedure ✔   No blood thinners prior to exam ✔   Need to have a driver with you ✔   Nothing to eat or drink after midnight  ✔   Check in time is 10:30, procedure at 11:00  ✔  I’m gonna starve!!!  😕

Mar. 13 – Chest port procedure day

It’s Monday, it’s procedure day.  I can’t have anything to eat or drink and my procedure isn’t until 11 and will last a couple of hours.  I have to go downtown, I hate downtown.  Good think Jake is with me.  I needed someone to be with me and drive cuz they’re gonna put me under for the procedure and I’ll probably be loopy.   I’m such a light weight when it comes to anesthesia.  

It’s amazing how calm I am today.  I have no nerves at all.  The doctor comes in and explains the procedure to me and shows me how and what will be going into my body and where it will be set.  After a few days I shouldn’t feel it at all.

http://www.upmc.com/patients-visitors/education/catheters/Pages/implanted-port-care.aspx

They’re running behind,  almost 12:30, I finally get rolled back.    I get all hooked up, the anesthesiologist is funny,  she’s great!  She asked me if she could get me anything and sarcastically I said, “like a hamburger!”   She couldn’t bring me any food but she did tell me she would give me a ‘kick ass’ cocktail that would put me in a twilight.    And in twilight I was.   I remember seeing the clock at 12:30 now it says 2:30.  Where did 2 hours just go?  It felt like 5 minutes.  They’re unhooking me and rolling me back out.    Everything went smoothly.   

20170313_143944

Me, right after surgery!  I’m soo groggy.

They find my brother and we go to recovery.  I’m exhausted!   And loopy and starving!!   They bring me apple juice and applesauce, mmmm.   Finally, a little something to eat and drink.  I swallow it up.  A few minutes later,  uh oh, mad heartburn is coming on.  Oh crap, I wasn’t able to take my acid reflux meds cuz I couldn’t take anything prior to the procedure and having apple juice and applesauce was NO BUENO!!    

4:30pm, we finally get to leave!!  On the way home  “I need to throw up, I feel like shit!!”  My head is pounding!  I was so dehydrated from not being able to have anything to drink from the night before causing my pounding headache, and my acid reflux was in full force.  I have a headache from hell.  The drive home seemed like an eternity not to mention it was rush hour from downtown.  I had to spill my guts, luckily we made it home.   I didn’t feel bad from the surgery itself but I did feel awful from everything else.   It was a horrible combination of dehydration and mad acid reflux.

After a little bit of rest, some food, my acid reflux meds and some rehydration.  I actually felt like my old self again.  Back to normal.  Just a bit sore and of course, tired from the day.  

I went to work the next day feeling as good as new.   

 

 

Sorry, I know this post was super long but I hope you stayed with me til the end.  It’s all part of my blind journey.  

 

Know your Lemons!!

We’re gonna take a break from my story and talk about early detection and self exams.  

 Ladies and also men, yes men,  always check yourselves!!  Men too can get breast cancer, as crazy as it sounds, it can happen.   So, please check yourselves often.    When we check ourselves we can find something long before a doctor ever will.   Admit it, how often do some of us even go to a doctor?  Some of us don’t go to a doctor until we really feel like crap or feel like we’re dying.   Always remember that when it comes to cancer, this could be too late.  

 CANCER DOESN’T CARE!!    

Plain and simple, cancer doesn’t give a crap.     Cancer doesn’t care what you have going on in your life,  it doesn’t care if you’re a brother or a sister or if you’re a parent.   It doesn’t care if you just got married or had a baby.   And it certainly doesn’t care how old you are!  You could be a teenager  (although rare),  a twenty-something, fifty-something or an elderly enjoying retirement and all the years they put in to get that.   It doesn’t care!!!     Cancer doesn’t care if you’re struggling in life or if you’re thriving.   And it doesn’t care what other health issues you may be dealing with.   Cancer is ruthless and remember it doesn’t care.

Cancer is Silent!!

Cancer is silent.   A very silent devil.    Cancer is not painful, not usually, until it reaches a painful stage and we start to feel ill.   By this time, it could be too late.    Early detection is key.   Don’t wait!  If something doesn’t feel right, have it checked right away!!

Be Proactive and KNOW YOUR LEMONS!!

Learn how to check your body and do self breast exams on a regular basis.   Like I said before, early detection is key.   Know your lemons.   Know what your breasts are supposed to feel like.   If they look different, feel different, have a different color to them or you have discharge, have it checked out.   It is always better to be safe than sorry.   That’s how I found my lump, by doing a self breast exam.   And because of this I scheduled a check up 2 months earlier than my normal visit.  Thank God for that for I caught it and took action early.   So can you.   If something doesn’t feel or look right, have it checked.  You know you’re body, if it shouldn’t be there then it shouldn’t.   This doesn’t just apply to breasts’.  Check all your lymph node areas for tenderness or lumps.  If you feel unusual fatigue or dull pain, have it checked.  Below is an image and a link on KNOW YOUR LEMONS – the 12 signs of breast cancer.   Please take a look at it.  It is very helpful.

Know your lemons

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-38609625 –  The 12 signs of breast cancer.

Self breast Exams

Try to do them often.   Whether in the shower or lying down,  get into the habit of always checking your breasts.    This could save your life.  

Breast-Self-Exam-in the shower

. . . . . . Or save your life lying down!!

 

breast exam lying down

http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/self_exam/bse_steps

Save the Boobies

HAPPY CHECKING YOUR BOOBIES!!!  😛

BE PROACTIVE AND STAY FREE AND CLEAR!

 

Love Sue

 

 

 

 

The Whirlwind

I got my news on the 13th,  finally owned up to it on the 14th, told a few other people on the 15th and by the end of the week and the next, I was thrust into a whirlwind of appointments that was ruthless and never ending.   I didn’t have time to process what was even happening.    And I still managed to show up to work with a smile on my face as if nothing was ever wrong.   I still don’t know how I pulled that off.   I guess it’s because I made a choice.  I made a choice to fight and not be a quitter.   A choice to stay positive, no matter how hard it was, with my chin up always.  I did EXACTLY what my Auntie Ross said to do,   ” Roll up your sleeves,  put up your dukes and FIGHT!!”   So I did.

I met with EVERYONE:   The nurse navigator, the oncologist,  the radiation oncologist, the surgeon, the high risk clinician, the social worker and had to have an MRI done and another ultrasound.  This will be my team of doctors starting now and throughout my treatment and they wanted to make things as less stressful for me as possible so that i could concentrate on getting cured.   I was examined by almost all of them.  In one week I had so many different hands on my boobs, feeling this and feeling that,  I didn’t enjoy a single one.  I don’t wanna be touched anymore!

More detailed information about my diagnosis was given to me and a better explanation.  By this time the shock of it all was slowly starting to wear off and I was able to listen.  But for me the bottom line is –  My boob is trying to kill me!  How awful is that?  It’s almost not fair!  This is the same breast that nursed my son when he was a baby.  So that he could get good nutrients and vitamins through breast milk to be a healthy baby,  which he turned out to be.   How is it that the same breast that nursed an innocent baby to good health is the same one that is trying to kill me now??  What the heck?  I need some esplaining here, cuz I just don’t understand.  It is almost not worth it to have boobs.  Yeah, I’m starting to feel that way. 

Anyway, here is some very helpful info:

My diagnosis – 

  • Positive for invasive adenocarcinoma
  • Histologic type:   Ductal
  • Nottingham grade:  (G1 – 3)  G3  ( I am at the highest grade ) 
  • Positive for moderately differentiated ductal carcinoma in-situ  ( meaning that the surrounding tissue of the tumor has signs of pre-cancerous cells )
  • Tumor size:   1.2 cm – 1.7cm

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/breast_center/breast_cancers_other_conditions/invasive_ductal_carcinoma.html

Immunohistochemical  studies: 

  • Estrogen receptor:   NEGATIVE
  • Progesterone receptor:   NEGATIVE
  • HER2 protein expression:  NEGATIVE

Normally, negative is good.  In my case, this is bad, real bad.   If either one of those receptors were positive then that is what would have caused my cancer.  It would have been hormone induced.  So, in order to kill the cancer, we would have only needed to kill the supply ( a positive receptor,  the hormone ).  Since all of mine are negative, hence the ‘triple negative’ breast cancer, the one and only form of treatment for me would be chemotherapy.   Nothing else would work.  😟

https://tnbcfoundation.org/understanding-triple-negative-breast-cancer/

After consulting with each doctor, they all had very similar and positive outcomes for me. 

  • I caught it very early
  • I’m young
  • I’m healthy
  • The tumor is very small
  • They said I had the best attitude 🙂 

They didn’t see any reason for me not to be cured!   That is their goal and mine:   CURATIVE

Today in 2017, breast cancer is 98% treatable and curable.   I pray I’m in the 98%. 

This is how things were going to play out – 

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation

There was the possibility of doing chemo before surgery in hopes of shrinking the tumor til maybe it would disappear.  But this would be up to the surgeon and frankly, surgery couldn’t come sooner.  Now that I knew what was in my body,  that painful little asshole couldn’t come out fast enough!   If surgery was yesterday I would’ve been just fine with it. 

Turns out, the surgeon thought it best to do chemo first.   She explained that if chemo would shrink the tumor then maybe she would be able to preserve most of my breast by not having to remove so much breast tissue.   Or maybe chemo would shrink it away all together.  It was small enough.   Talks about chemo, mastectomy, double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery left me so overwhelmed I burst into tears in her office.   Just last week,  I had a normal life,  and now all of this.   And knowing that chemo would actually be starting first left my  mind reeling.   Chemo scares the living shit out of me.  Not even gonna lie.   It’s a good thing I had someone with me this time, Clara Sue.  She is another one of my non biological sisters.   A ‘work sister’.  She’s been there non stop since I gave her my news.  She keeps me grounded and positive and gives me unconditional love and support.   I’ve come to lean on her more than I realize.  She’s my big sister.   I love her!!

Next.  I had to meet with the high risk clinician.  Oh boy, let’s see what she has to say.   It’s Karen, I know her!   She shops at the store where i work.   So, I am happy that its her, of course, not under these circumstances.   She is happy to see me, but not happy that I am there to SEE HER.    We talk about all of my family history related to any kinds of cancer.  She’s trying to pinpoint why, someone like me,  young, healthy,  ended up with breast cancer.   She suggested I do a genetic test to see if I carry the BRCA1, BRCA2 gene.   After carefully going over family history,  I fit into a guideline where it would be very wise for me to be tested.  

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/genetics/brca-fact-sheet

These were the guidelines:

Multiple cancers:  A combination of cancers on the same side of the family

  • 2 or more:  breast/ ovarian/ prostate/ pancreatic cancer
  • 2 or more:  colorectal / endometrial/ ovarian/ gastric/ other cancers

Young cancers:  Any 1 of the following cancers at age 50 or younger

  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Endometrial cancer

Rare cancers:  Any 1 of these rare presentations at ANY age

  • Ovarian cancer
  • Breast: male breast cancer or triple negative breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer with MSI/IHC, MSI associated histology
  • Endometrial cancer with abnormal MSI/IHC
  • 10 or more gastointestinal polyps

 

Sadly, I fit into all 3 of the categories:

  • I have 2 family members ( a cousin and and Aunt ) on the same side that have had breast cancer
  •  Me,  I am under 50 and diagnosed with breast cancer
  • I have a ‘rare cancer’:  triple negative

It was best I get tested.  If I am a carrier of the gene, this means there are HUGE implications for my loved ones.  It puts all of them at an increased risk for breast, ovarian, gastric, colorectal, pancreatic, melanoma, prostate and endometrial cancer.  It also puts me at a greater risk of developing a different kind of cancer,  like ovarian.    Wow, the bad news just didn’t stop coming in.  This stressed me out to no end.  Now my family could be affected?  😧  My son, my brothers, nieces and nephews.  Talk about a heavy heart.  Soo, with all of my loved ones on my mind and in my heart, I did the test.    Please, please, please Lord,  let it be negative.    Let this one be negative.   I won’t know results for about 4 weeks.  I’m gonna go out of my mind by that time.   

This test scares me!!   A lot.  It has me so worried..  It’s one thing to be worried about just me.   It is quite another to be worried about all of your loved ones who could be affected by this. 

What was happening to my life?   Suddenly I had no more control over it.   I was vulnerable.  I really hate this!!

Damn you cancer!!   We are not friends and I don’t want you in my life.

 

 

 

 

Bad News

Feb. 14th

 

I started my day in a fog.  I didn’t sleep at all.  I tossed and turned all night.   I think I was on autopilot from the get go.  I went to work and just floated about my day.  I had even forgotten it was Valentines’ til I had seen all the flowers and balloons later in my day.   It just didn’t seem real.  My nurse navigator got in touch with me, ready to start all appointments.   I still can’t believe this is happening.   How can this be?  I don’t feel sick at all.  I don’t feel like I have cancer.  There has to be a mistake.  I feel fine.   I just have pain.   This can’t be real.   I still need to tell my family.  My son and my brothers.  Oh how I hate giving them bad news.  Maybe I can just do this without them knowing.  Why bring them down?  I’ll tell them when it’s over.  Why worry my son?  I really hate this!

Oh cancer,  how I hate you and I’ve only known you 1 day

 

I get home.   I’m soo happy to see my son, yet so very sad.  He has no idea what’s happening.   I don’t have the heart to turn his world upside down.  

I call my Auntie,  she can tell something is wrong.   She asks how I’m doing and with a big sigh,  “not too good”.

Her,  “oh”

Me,   ” my news isn’t good.”      This is the first time I let myself feel what was happening.   “my biopsy came back positive for cancer”. 

She was very calm with me when I told her.   She didn’t freak out, she just stayed calm for me.   As we talked, I finally let myself cry as I told her how scared I was and that I hadn’t told my brothers or Dominic yet.   We talked about it, all the things they had told me, things I hadn’t even wrapped my mind around and things I still didn’t understand.   She reminded me how important it was to tell my brothers.  That no matter what, they would stand behind me.   And by no means would I want to do this alone.  I just didn’t know how.   I actually agonized over it.   Telling them.   I hate giving them bad news.   The last time I gave them bad news, I was telling them that our Father had passed.  That broke my heart in pieces and this was just as bad.  

She gave me that ‘Auntie’ pep talk.   Told me to cry it all out, have a meltdown, throw things, whatever I needed to do.  Then when I was done with all of that,  it was time to roll up my sleeves, put up my dukes and start fighting.    They would all be behind me and we would get through this together.    She pulled me out of that fog I was in and made me realize how stupid I was to think I could try and do this alone.   Why would I?   I need ALL of my loved ones!  This isn’t gonna be easy.   This is gonna be a battle.   I got off of the phone with her,   took a deep breathe and called my oldest brother and then my younger.    One by one I gave them my awful news and cried with both of them.  They too couldn’t believe what I had to tell them.   I was so scared and didn’t know what to do.   I still needed guidance,  I needed reassurance,  I needed everything and I still needed my parents.  I needed them to tell me like parents always do,  “everything is going to be okay. ”   Oh how scared I was.  I finally just cried and let myself feel everything that was happening.   The reality of it all hit me like a train going 100 mph. 

After a real good cry-out, I pulled myself together, wiped my splotchy face, walked over to the other room and told my son that we needed to talk.   I was about to give him the worst news he will probably EVER hear from me. 

He took one look at me and immediately knew something was wrong.   My voice was low, my face was serious and this scared him.    I told him that all the doctors appointments that I had been going to were for good reason.   I told him about the pain I had been having and that I went to check it out and what they found was cancer.  He had the same reaction I did.   Disbelief!   For several moments he didn’t say a word.  He stayed quiet.     “What?!”   “You have cancer?!”

Me,  “I do, but your Mama is tough, a fighter and we’re gonna get through this together. For you,  I won’t give up.  We’ll make it.”    I found amazing strength within myself when it came time to tell him, for I was very calm.  I didn’t want to brutally scare him.  I barely even cried as I got the news out to him.   I hugged him and said everything will be okay.  It’s just gonna get super crazy.   I told him about treatment,  chemo.   Everything I was gonna have to go through and it wasn’t until this moment he realized it was breast cancer.  His mouth dropped open and he looked at me like he was searching for answers.  He stayed surprisingly calm, just in shock.  We talked a bit more then he wanted to be alone.  I let him be.   Then, I went on to tell my nephews.    My 2 oldest nephews are like my other sons’.   We are very close and they too needed to know what was going on with their Auntie.   They were shocked!!

Once Dominic let the news sink in, it hit him hard.   He walked back into the room, broken hearted and sobbing with tears and my heart just shattered.   He cried and cried.  We cried together.   We hugged and cried.  My son doesn’t ever cry, ever.   So I knew he was scared.   I was scared.   Really scared.  I felt lost.   I had no idea what was gonna become of our lives.   Me, holding him tight,  ” Everything will be okay,  I won’t give up.   I will fight with everything in me.  You ARE worth everything I’m gonna have to go through.  I won’t ever leave you, I love you!!”

My nephews came over and made the night a bit more bearable.  I had my son and my nephews.   I cried my eyeballs out all that evening.   When they finally left, my house seemed to echo.  

We got ready for bed.  My son came to sleep with me.  We didn’t say anything more about that dreadful topic, we just lay in bed in the dark.   We laid in bed and we held hands.   We held hands until HE fell asleep and was off in a peaceful slumber.  

Oh how I love my son.  I will do anything for him.   ” Sleep good, my Lovey.  I love you!!”

 

You BASTARD ( cancer )!!!    I HATE what you’re doing to my life!!

 

 

 

 

The Sucker Punch

Feb. 13th – 

 

My Monday began like any other Monday.  I dropped my son off at the bus stop, came home, tended to the animals and started with house work.   Around mid morning I get a phone call from the imaging center.  I thought it was a courtesy call to see how I was feeling post biopsy, like they had said, instead it was a call telling me that my results were in.  She asked if I was able to come in for a consult in a few hours to discuss my test results, this puzzled me, but of course, I said, “sure, what time?”  We scheduled it for 1 o’clock.   This made me very nervous and my mind and thoughts were thrown into overdrive.   Panic immediately set in and the worst, no matter how hard I tried, came to mind.   I started crying.   Why can’t they tell me my results over the phone?   Why can’t they mail them like they usually do?  Why do I need to go in for a consult?   A consult for what?  Something is very wrong. 

Maybe it came back benign and they want to discuss a lumpectomy.    This is what my next steps were gonna be should it be benign.   I wanted that painful little sucker out of my body!!  But my gut was telling me other things.   Things I didn’t wanna hear.  My gut already knew what was going to unfold here shortly.

I drive to the imaging center, alone.  I have no one with me.  I’m extremely independent and have always done things like this on my own.   Why bother anyone to come with me?  I’ll be okay.   I’m strong. 

I get there and when I’m called to the back, I’m taken to this consult room and left there for a moment by myself.   I look around and this room gives me an eerie, empty feeling.  It’s calmly decorated with easy colors, a few flowers, a bookshelf with a phone, a sofa, coffee table and a couple of chairs at which I sat.   There are boxes of kleenex and my heart starts to pitter patter and it makes its way to my throat.   Why am I here?  In this room?   This room feels so lonely and sad.   A few moments later the doctor walks in with an assistant and a bunch of  papers.   He introduces himself and wastes no time and begins with – 

” I wish I had better news for you,  but unfortunately we found cancer.”

I look at him in total disbelief!   I literally can’t believe what he just told me.  Cancer?  How can that be?   Me?  Cancer?   What???  I’m in total shock.  I have no one with me, I’m all alone.   And I have cancer?  I had no words, nothing came out of my mouth.  I sat there emotionless.   No tears came out, no words, I couldn’t even think.   He began shooting out terms and words I had NEVER heard in my life!   Triple negative breast cancer.  No receptors to fight it off.  No estrogen receptor, no progesterone receptor, no Her2 receptor.    The best and only treatment for me would be chemotherapy.   I would need surgery and also radiation.

It was a sucker punch to my gut that knocked me flat on my ass!

 

What does all of this mean?   What are receptors?   What even is Her2?  I have never heard of any of this.   I need chemo?   What is triple negative?

Triple negative breast cancer.   Invasive ductal carcinoma.   It is the most common kind to have and also the most aggressive.   My tumor is 1.2 cm, it is small.  Maybe the size of my thumbnail and the goal is to cure me.   The surrounding tissue of the tumor has precancerous cells and at any moment some could break away and travel through my bloodstream to other places.   Chemotherapy is my ONLY option and there is also mastectomy.   Everything was coming at me so quickly that all I could do was just look straight ahead at him.

My world ferociously stopped yet it spun so quickly. 

When I was finally able to spit out a word, I told him,  ” I don’t understand!  I was just here 10 months ago and everything was clear.   How does something like this happen in that amount of time?”

He answered with,  “It is possible.”

Me,  ” I still don’t understand,  I don’t drink, I don’t smoke,  I don’t do drugs, overall, I’m pretty darn healthy and I believe I’m still young,  I’m only in my early 40’s.”

Him,  ” It is rare, but it can happen.”

Me,  ” And the area is painful,  I have always been told that the painful ones aren’t concerning or cancerous!!”   I’m starting to lose it.

Him,  ” No, they are not painful, that is very unusual and we don’t understand why it is painful, but some can be.  Again, it’s unusual, but it can happen. “

I have nothing else to say.  My mind just can’t think or process what he’s telling me.   He continues with ” a slew of doctors will be contacting you shortly.”  They have already sent my information to an oncologist.   Things will be happening very quickly.   And I will be meeting with many doctors to begin and discuss my treatment plan and that I will be in ‘good hands’.   He asked if I was okay and if there was anything I needed to say, and all I could mumble out was,  ” I’ll have a meltdown later”.

He left me with a stack of papers that had my diagnosis and all the information that I was going to need.  Rosie, the assistant, contacted the oncologist and the surgeon and they will be in touch with me soon.  She gave me a moment and walked me out.  I was still in total disbelief and shock, walking out the door. 

Once again, I’m sitting in my car.  This time with the news of me having breast cancer.  How did this come to be?  I’m really shaking.  My heart is in my throat and I think I’m choking on it.  Still, I have no tears to shed.  I pull out my phone and text my bestie and all I put was,

“Penny. . . . . my news isn’t good.”

Penny, is my very best friend.  I have know her for 25 years!  Seems like forever!  She is the sister I never had.  She knows just about everything about me, I tell her everything.   I tell her my happy news, sad news, funny news,  psychotic news, you name it.  We laugh at the stupidest things.   I tell her that we’re gonna be friends til we’re old and senile than we can become new friends.    She has seen me go through some of my worst times and no matter what, she is always there.  I just love her!  She IS my sister.   So, of course, she’s known all about this pain and lump and everything that I’ve been feeling since day 1.  She knows all about my ordeal and how I got to this day.

I left the parking lot and drove myself home.  How I even got there, I have no idea.  It was all a fog.   And all I could think once again was,  ” I need my Mom, I need both of my parents.  I need my Pops.  I don’t have either one of them, but I need them both right now.  Oh, how I need my parents!!  I don’t wanna do this alone. ”  😭

I got home, let myself in, went straight to the bathroom and blew my guts out.  My stomach was so unsettled.   I noticed Penny had sent several messages.  Messages like,  “Suzanne, what’s going on?”  “What’s happening?”  “Sue, are you okay?”

Me,  ” My biopsy came back positive.”

Her,  ” What?! “

I gather myself together and call her.   And with a voice as low as ever I went on to explain what the doctor had told me.  She couldn’t believe it!  Frankly, neither could I, even with the papers in front of me.  But she’s uplifting and positive,  like she always is, and told me that I was strong and that I ( we ) were gonna get through this.  Whatever it takes, I was gonna make it out the other end.  I needed to hear that.  But I was still in such a shock.  She reminded me that I had God in my life and people who loved me very much and that I was gonna get through this.  I did believe that.  We ended our conversation and I had a minor meltdown.   For some reason I just couldn’t cry it out.   I picked myself up, dusted off, managed to put on my happy face and waited for my son to come home from school.   I didn’t tell him a single thing and he suspected nothing.   All I had on my mind was, I have cancer,   how am I going to tell him?   How do I break that news to him?  I could never break his heart and this will break it.  How do I tell my brothers?  How do I tell anyone?

Later that day I spoke to one of my Aunties’.  We stay in touch all the time.  She is one of my Dads sisters’ and we talk almost daily.   She asked how my day was and I told her, “not so good.”   I hadn’t discussed my mammy or my biopsy with her and figured it was time to share.  I couldn’t bring myself to tell her my news but I did tell her that the findings on my mammy and biopsy were concerning and I was just waiting for my results even though I already had them.  I told her I should know by tomorrow.   I know I lied, but I just couldn’t get the words out of my mouth.  They were stuck in there and they didn’t want to come out.   She said that no matter what the news, she and the rest of the family would be behind me.   I hung up the phone with her feeling so guilty.    

I went about the rest of my day as if nothing had happened.  No, I didn’t tell my son.  No, I didn’t tell anyone.  At that moment, the only ones who knew were my bestie and her husband.   Later that afternoon she invited my son and I to dinner to get my mind off of things.   We went.  It was just what I needed.  Good company and other things to talk about.  Nothing was really said about my day.  We just enjoyed it, although I felt zombielike.   It didn’t seem like my world.    After we left I sent her a message,  ” Thanks for always being there!  Help me to stay positive and to not think the worst, you know how my mind gets carried away.  You’re the best!  I love you.  Don’t let me get depressed.”

My son and I came home.  I was mentally exhausted.  My heart was in turmoil.  I needed someone to talk to about it, someone who had been through it.  I needed guidance, reassurance, something.  I reached out to a friend I went to high school with, Tammy-Lou.  She herself had gone through her own scary journey and I followed it, for she posted it on facebook.  My heart was crushed when she announced her news and said she was going to need chemo.   She too, was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.   I remembered sending her positive thoughts and prayers and reminding her that she would get through it and she did.  So I reached out.  I needed her at that moment.  I needed her to walk me through it.  To tell me what to expect.  I’m sure she felt the same way I did when I told her my news.  And bam, just like that, she was there.  Ready and willing to help in any way.   Tammy, I’m so glad you were there for me.  I was going out of my mind.   Tammy, you reminded me that as scary as it was going to be to just. . . breathe, take it one foot in front of the other and just breathe.  To take a few minutes out of my day just for me.   Make sure to take care of myself mentally and physically and to take care of my boy.  Stay strong, you would always be there  💚💚.  I love you for that!!

Later, Dominic and I got ready for bed.  Nothing was said and no, I didn’t tell him anything.

With a goodnight kiss,  ” Goodnight my Lovey!  I love you to pieces!” 

My heart broke.  It broke for this little person that soon was gonna get horrible news about his Mama.  News that I was gonna give him.  News that was gonna leave both of our future’s uncertain.

I laid in bed with my son on my mind and a zillion other things.

I didn’t sleep a wink. . . . . . . . . . 

 

 

Time to get Poppin’

Feb. 10th – 

Biopsy day

Well, here I am.  It’s biopsy day and I’m trying to be calm and collected but I have butterflies.  And all the pain from the week before hadn’t really eased up.  The area was still very aggravated and very painful, even swollen from all that darn squeezing.   I get the ultrasound tech from the week before.  Yay.  I really liked her, she was great.   The reason I got her again was because this was gonna be an ultrasound guided biopsy to pinpoint the exact area that needs to be tested.   Here we go again.  It’s gonna be painful.  She sends me to change.   As I return, she’s unwrapping all the tools form their sterilized packaging and setting them about the rolling table the doctor will use.   I caught a glimpse of those tools and couldn’t help but become fixated on a somewhat fat needle that was at least 10 inches long!   *gulp*  What the heck??   I tell her with my sarcastic self, “well, that doesn’t look intimidating at all!”  She says, “just try not to look at it”.   Well, it’s a little too late for that.  It’s all laid out in front of me.  

The doctor comes in who’s going to perform the biopsy,  he’s nice.   He has a jokey side to himself.   This is calming.  At least he’s not so serious.    I get positioned on the examining table and he explains the procedure.  He’s gonna clean and numb the area with a local anesthetic, lidocain.   He’s gonna give me shots in the surrounding area and also inside.   He goes on to explain the actual procedure and what sounds I will hear.   When he takes a sample of the tissue the needle will give off a popping sound, similar to a pop gun.  He will let me know when this is going to happen.  He will need to take at least 3 samples.  I’m given the anesthetic.  I feel the small needle pricks, not so bad.   But I really feel the one that has to be inserted all the way into the breast.  Ouchie.   Also, too, because the tech had to push down on the ultrasound wand to get the best image for the doctor.  This really hurts.   And if I hadn’t said it before,  I’m no baby when it comes to pain, I’m actually pretty tough.   So, when I complain about pain, you know it’s hurting me. 

I keep my eyes glued to the monitor and he gets ready to begin.   He presses around my breast to make sure it is numb enough.   It feels numb to the touch.  He inserts the biopsy needle from the outer part of my breast.  Holy heck!   It is not numb on the inside.   I feel that sucker go all the way in and I tense up.   I see the needle on the monitor and it made it’s way to the black blob on the screen.  He’s gonna count to 3 and take a sample.  

1. . . . .2. . . . . 3. . . . . POP!!  Oh my Lord,  I jumped and just about flew off of that table!!   That popping noise seemed to echo through the walls.   He pressed on the area and asked if I was okay.   It hurt like hell and I told him it was painful.   He gave me more numbing medicine and waited a bit.   Sample 2, again,   1. . . . 2. . . . 3. . . . POP!   That popping noise to me was just traumatizing.   That wasn’t as painful but it was uncomfortable and by the time the 3rd one was done, I didn’t feel it at all.   He’s all done.  He explains the ‘at home’ aftercare.  I’m bandaged up with steri strips and guaze, told I was gonna have bruising and of course, pain and discomfort.  The tech gave me water and tylenol and a nice ice pack to take home.  Since it was Friday my results probably wouldn’t be in until Tuesday, they would call me.   I leave with a sigh of relief for the reason that it was finally over.  

I get in my car and text my bestie,  Penny,  ” that was the scariest procedure I’ve ever had done!”  😟

Her,   “are you okay?’

I didn’t feel okay.   There was a nervousness that kept taunting me. 

I drive home and have an all out meltdown.    I need my Mom.  😭  I don’t have my Mom, I lost her when I was 22 years old and I don’t have sisters.  I really, really need my Mom right now.   She needs to go through this with me.  I don’t wanna do this by myself.   I NEED her!  I get home, walk through the door and straight to the bathroom.  I just had to blow chunks.   My meltdown continued and my need for my Mom was stronger than ever.  

Me to Penny,  “I’m a bit better, I have lots of pain.  I came home and had a meltdown”

Penny,  ” Ohh Sue!  I pray you feel better.  Love you, Suzanne!  I don’t like when you’re in pain”.   

Me,  ” I’ll be okay.  I’m a tough girl.  I had a meltdown cuz it’s times like these I wish I still had my Mom.    Pain won’t last forever.”

My weekend went by in a blur

 

 

 

It’s time to get smashed! Yay!!! NOT!

Feb 3 – 

Mammy day

I go into to get my girls checked.   This is all routine for me, so I’m not nervous at all.   I get called to the back, I change, and I’m off to get squeezed.  I’m not looking forward to this at all, cuz it hurts already to get squeezed, but this time I have pain, so this is gonna hurt like hell!

My technician comes in, she seems nice.  She gets me ready, she puts a sticker on my painful area just so she can target that area more to see what’s going on.

Smashing time – yuck.  She gets me in the machine, does my left side first.  Eh, it hurt, but it wasn’t so bad.  All done.   Oh gosh, time for the right side.  I’m really dreading this.  I go on to tell her how painful the area already is and that this is gonna hurt.   She tells me, “she understands, she gets her boobs smashed all the time like every other female”.  For some reason, I don’t like how she told me that and that just bugged the living shit out of me.  

We do the same thing on my right side and get to squeezing.   Holy effing balls!!  ( excuse the language ).  It hurt to high heaven!   It hurt so bad that I jolted back a bit, causing breast tissue to come out of the machine and the sticker falling off, this bugged her to no end.   And with that, we had to do it again.   Now, we can’t get the sticker back in the right place.  And I just hurt!   She starts squeezing again.  Eff me.    This time, I could’t take it, she squeezed and the tears just rolled down my face.   “Hold your breath, don’t breathe”  ( machine takes picture, releases )  “okay, you can breathe now, are you okay?”   Me – with tears strolling down my face and a low voice,  😢  ” yes, I’m okay.”  trying to catch my breath.  I’m not really okay.  I hurt really, really bad and I kept telling her this.  But that didn’t seem to matter to her.  She was doing her job.  You see, there are people that do their job and their are people who do their job with love, compassion and kindness and she wasn’t any of those.  She was just doing her job.   Now to do a different angle.   Oh gosh, we’re not done?  Same outcome and lots of pain and a technician who had no heart.  

I was sent out to the waiting room while they looked over my films.  Throbbing pain.   I really disliked her and her comments on how ‘every female had to go through this’.  Well, no shit!!   I felt like telling her,  “bet you’ve never had your girls smashed with a painful ass lump??”  😠  I don’t like to be negative, but honestly, she was awful.  Very careless.  No concern for her patient.

Now they wanna do an ultrasound.  They need better imaging of what they found on the films.   So, I get sent in to do that.   The ultrasound tech was full of understanding after I told her how much pain I was in from the mammy.   And that this was gonna be painful cuz the area was already aggravated.  She really took this into consideration.  So, as she was performing the ultrasound, she did try to be gentle but still getting the job done, yes, there were times she had to press firmly but at least she would warm me.   After a few moments, my eyes caught sight of the monitor and all I could see was this black blob.  That’s all it was, a ‘blob’.   She concentrated on that area and took many images.    As she studied what I was looking at, I noticed that there were no smooth edges.  It was out of proportion to a cyst, which I’ve come to see quite often with my history.   It had rough edges. This bothered me very much.  She went on to scan under my armpit cuz we have lymph nodes there that feed off of the breast.    She didn’t say a word, she was keenly focused on what she was doing.  After many images, she was done.   She cleaned me off and allowed me to get dressed while she went to get the doctor.  I asked her how it looked, but I knew better.   Per their strict policies, they are not allowed to discuss what they see or find.  But her face said a lot.  

A few moments later, she returned with the doctor.  The doctor went on to say that the area in question was concerning and that it needed further follow up.    A biopsy.  *gulp*  a biopsy??  If you’re anything like me, the mere mention of a biopsy could only mean cancer.   My mind started spinning and panic came on.  I went on to plead my case, saying that I get fibroid cysts all the time and that this could just be another one.  She answered with, ” it doesn’t have the characteristics of a cyst, which are ‘smooth round edges'”.   She went on to say exactly what I had seen,  “it has rough edges,  But it’s better to be sure”.  She didn’t think it was anything to worry about and it was probably nothing, but best to do a biopsy cuz she’s a doctor who looks for cancer and wants to rule that out.  

I agreed and the technician already had my appointment set up for the following week for a biopsy of my right breast.  Now I was getting worried.  Something in the pit of my stomach wasn’t easing my worried thoughts.  I need a biopsy??  On my breast??  What?? I’ve never had one of those.  

My nerves are very unsettled