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. . . . . . . . . .