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 . . .