Yesterday I was diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s gross to even type.

The past week has been pure awful, and believe me when I say I’m trying to sanitize it here. I’ll give you the down and dirty, as that seems as good a place as any to start.  Here goes:

I’ve been doing annual mammograms since 40 – even had a baseline at 35 as requested by my doctor. Twice in the last 3 years, I’ve been “called back” for further testing, and told that I have dense breast tissue, and that I would likely be someone who gets called back more frequently.

During a regular visit with my health care provider recently, I shared with her that I felt something funky in my right breast, and she suggested I get it examined, and wrote out the order. Last Friday, I went in for the testing, and learned that I had a “highly suspicious” area that needed to be biopsied – so that happened on Monday.  Tuesday about 4:15, a very sweet nurse coordinator named Carol called to share the results with me, and I learned I have breast cancer.  (Yes, I’m leaving out a crap load of screaming, crying, a new anxiety medication that has had me sleeping roughly 20 hours/day, and every horrible thought you can possibly imagine – but that goes without saying, right?)

Here’s what I know so far, and it’s not much. I know that they biopsied 2 areas, and both have tested positive for breast cancer.  1 is called Invasive Ductal Carcinoma – Grade 1 and the other is Micro Invasive Mammary Carcinoma – Grade 2.  There will be further genetic testing results that guide the course of treatment and mean lots of crazy stuff that will be available tomorrow – but I don’t know more than what I’ve shared above for now.

I have an appointment Thursday with an oncology surgeon named Dr. Margit Bretzke who works through the United Breast Center in St. Paul. They are trying to hook me up with a Cancer Care Coordinator from the United Breast Center who helps to coordinate and troubleshoot a lot of things I can’t even begin to imagine at this point.  I’ll be grateful for that help to be sure.

We did share this news with the kids last night, though in super simplistic terms. They had been seriously lobbying to go to IHOP for the national Pancake Day shindig yesterday, and given the circumstances, it seemed like a better path to communicate about this craziness than anything else Tom & I could come up with at the moment.  I did use the word cancer, and told them the doctors need to remove some unhealthy parts from my right breast, and that I would share more as I learned more.  Henry “gets” it, and has had a teacher who walked this path and honestly shared with her students, so that helps.  E listened, said “ok” and then wanted help making a Cub Foods list.  Ada said “Eeew” several times, and I asked her why she felt that way.  She said “is anyone going to have to see your underwear?” and I told her likely not right away, but I would do my best to keep her in the know.

I’ve been fairly forthcoming here on the red couch in past years about my ongoing struggle with anxiety as it relates to parenting. It may not be a huge surprise that since Friday, I’ve been an emotional basket case, doing my very best to hold it together for our kids.  Even though the news was not what I had hoped, there is an element of comfort knowing for certain that I have cancer, and I hope as we learn more, and the next steps of this journey begin, that I’ll get my fighting spirit and sense and humor back – right now, I’m feeling kind of down and a little bit like life is kind of throwing some serious ugliness my way.  Self-pity – maybe, but for a few days, I’m going to let myself be ticked that in addition to autism, my kids need to cope with this.  After that, I hope I can find a pinch of humor in ridiculous situations, and that Tom & I will find a way for this bend in the road to teach our kids about perseverance, facing challenges as a family and how we can help one another, and most of all, the importance of a strong village.  The need of a village is not new to us as a family navigating autism – now we just need to add on in new and creative ways.

Most of all, I’m asking for a few good vibes if you can spare them. I’m not exactly certain what I am even asking for, except that reading things on the internet is not comforting.  Maybe that Dr. Bretzke will have news that is not even more devastating – and I say that knowing full well it is likely to get worse before it gets better.  Maybe that these crazy hormone tests come back well – whatever that means.

Last but certainly not least – I am thankful for all the amazing people in our lives who are able to support our family in word, deed or thought, over this next portion of our journey. My gratitude has always run deep for being lucky enough to connect with such a wide variety of awesome people, and now that feels truer than ever.  It really does take a village – heck, maybe even two!  Thanks for being part of mine.

Yesterday, as I was wandering aimlessly around the house, nervous and scared, I stumbled on a painting that Ada had been working on, and it made me smile. The inscription at the top reads “The world is full of cool stuff” and I love that her creative spirit is filled with such positive energy and beauty. I’m going to do my best to remember this even during the difficult days yet to come . . .


14 thoughts on “The Big “C”

  1. Dear Kam,
    As someone who has been on a 3 year journey, please reach out to me if I can be a shoulder to lean on. There are times when know one gets it.. I do. Call me in those times. I know you have a lot that you are involved in, but you need to remember to take care of yourself. Love ya kiddo! LIVESTRONG


  2. As usual, your words give us an accurate and down to earth glimpse into your crazy, love-filled, challenging but rewarding life! You have a gift and that gift will keep on giving. This may seem daunting but you indeed have a village larger than you ever imagined on your side, waiting to help, provide feedback and support and do whatever you need us to do to get you through this. You are so well-loved Kammy — that beautiful you is the one we get to care for now!


  3. I’m so sorry. Some families really get more than their share of opportunities to be strong. My heart is with you.


  4. I am so sorry you are facing this. While I don’t know you personally, I know you are a fearless advocate for those on the autism spectrum. I thank you for that. I offer my prayers of healing for you and for understanding for your family. May you remain strong in this journey.


  5. Kammy, I am so sorry you are dealing with this…it is not an easy thing and i would strongly recommend following the doctor’s orders, instilling humor and alcohol; not necessarily in that order. I will be thinking of you and wishing you all the best. Let me know if there is anything I can do to support you. Warm wishes!


  6. Kammy, I know this is not the strong friend reaction I want to have, but to say that I went into full on ugly cry would be an understatement. Of course you will have my constant prayers for you and your family. I want to help in anyway I can. I love Ada’s picture…that joy will continue to help you navigate this new journey. Despite your anxiety, you have immense strength & we all know you’re a fighter. Keep us posted. Love you, my friend!


  7. My prayers are certainly with you, Kammy. I know and feel your fear – it can be overwhelming!! You are strong, you are positive, you are loved…let that part of your life take over. You will meet amazing people on this frightening journey…let them be of comfort for you! Love ya, man!!!!


  8. Kammy, I’m a fellow parent from the Minnesota Nice FB group. I’m so sorry to hear of your diagnosis. I have worked in oncology research since 1998 (I’m not a clinician, but and I used to work with Dr. Bretzke. She’s fantastic, a very good surgeon! Those extra tests they are doing will help them choose what will be likely to be the most effective treatment for your tumor’s characteristics. Compared to some other cancers, we actually know a lot about how to personalize this process in breast cancer.

    I know this is so scary to face. It sounds like you have a lot of amazing friends rallying to support you. I work at the U of MN now, but I’m still pretty connected with people who work at most of the oncology clinics in the metro area. If you ever want me to ask around for choosing an oncologist or other specialist, or if you’d like to seek a second opinion on anything (really common), feel free to email me! Take care!


  9. I am on call any time day or night for you and Tom and grand children, as you well know.. I know we will all get through this and come out the other side even better than we are entering. It’s all this in between I will be there for you and family. I am so proud of you hanging on here day by day and sometimes minute by minute. It is becoming a little better each time you get more info and we no longer have to survive with no compass. Love you!! Mom


  10. Kammy I am beyond sorry that you and your family are having to deal with this. I’m sending you every good vibe I have, and lots of love.


  11. Kammy, I am just so sorry to hear that you are having to go through this… Please know that we are right next door and want to help in anyway we can. I can only imagine what you are going through. We are praying for you and the whole family. I would love to even just take a walk or something with you if you need some fresh air. Take it day by day, hour by hour if necessary.



  12. Kammy, Just read your post. My first reaction is it doesn’t seem fair that this is happening to you. I have so admired your courage as a Mom of kids with autism and how you have worked so hard with everything that has happened to your family. That being said, I know you will face cancer with courage too. My Mom had breast cancer and I could well be in your shoes someday. Please know you are in our thoughts and prayers. You are an inspiration. One day at a time you will get through this. Thanks for sharing your journey, I’ll be looking to see how you are doing and let me know if I can do anything to help.



  13. Hi Kammy. Don’t give up hope. You need to look into how to build your immune system up by the foods you eat. Go online and research. In addition cancer LOVES sugar. You seriously need to consider eliminating it from your diet. Starve the cancer. Let thy food be thy medicine let thy medicine be thy food. Our bodies are fighting toxic abnormal cells all the time. You need to boost your immune system. And, lower your stress!!!! Find a way. Now that soring is here get outside, go on walks, yoga, deep breathing, massage : ). I will send you some information. Do not give up HOPE!!!!!! Love ya–Laura


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