.....my life was changed forever! Actually, it's hard to believe that it has been an entire year. It seems like just yesterday, everything was "normal".
Last June, I detected a very small, bb sized lump on my right breast....near the surface of my skin. I was convinced that it was cancer. I can't explain the feeling....except I just knew that there was something wrong. I was scheduled for a mammogram within the week. The mammogram showed nothing...even with magnification and coned down compression views. There just wasn't anything there! I was so relieved. As a precaution, they did an ultrasound and found that the little tiny lump that I felt was something called a sebaceous cyst. Phew!
The drive home that day was incredible! I am sure that the women out there reading this who have experienced a clean bill of health after a mammogram, know exactly how that feels! It's like you've been given a stay of execution...a reprieve from something dreaded. I was free of worrying about breast cancer for another year!
I guess I had been home for all of 20 minutes, when I received a call from the hospital. I knew right away that my proverbial "ball had dropped". It was the radiologist that had read my films. She introduced herself and apologized for her call which she was sure had scared me (Umm, yeah!). However, after reviewing my films for a second time with a magnifying glass, she noticed an area of microcalcifications on my left breast that needed a second look. I went back in right away. We had extra films done as well as another ultrasound. She couldn't be sure without a biopsy but she said it was likely very early DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ). While a diagnosis of cancer is never a good thing, the radiologist said that DCIS is basically pre cancer and is almost always 100% curable.
The next day I had something called a stereotactic biopsy. The pathology results from this test showed that instead of the DCIS...I had IDC (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma). This meant that the cancer was not contained inside the milk duct but had begun to leak out into other areas of my breast. Not exactly the news that I was hoping for.
I went on to have a Fine-Needle Biopsy, MRI of both breasts (this was BRUTAL), and Modified Radical Mastectomy of the left breast. They removed 37 lymph nodes and ALL were negative for cancer! I walked around with 2 drains sutured to my side for almost two weeks. They required draining every few hours. It was miserable. After I had recovered from surgery, I had an abdomen/pelvis Cat Scan, Bone Scan and MUGA Scan all to get baseline information before beginning Chemotherapy. I began chemo on September 25 and my last treatment was on December 1st. I had 4 rounds of Cytoxan and Taxotere every 21 days as well as 4 shots of Neulasta (the day after chemo) to help boost my white blood cells.
I lost all my hair (and I do mean ALL). But, it has since grown back and is extremely curly! The inside of my mouth still feels as though it has been burned and I have some neuropathy in my hands and feet. These things may or may not get any better. Only time will tell.
In February, I had a total hysterectomy. Basically, it was precautionary because of the hormone therapy that is part of my cancer treatment.
Needless to say, this has been a very hard year for me. However, I have also witnessed the love of God in ways I never thought possible. There really are people on this earth that are the hands and feet of God! I could never repay the kindnesses shown to me and my family! Most important to me have been the prayers, masses and sacrifices offered for me. Simply amazing.
I think I have gone through all the phases of dealing with a potential terminal illness. I've been angry, scared, irritable, accusatory and indifferent. I have been happy, sad, depressed and anxious. I have been thankful, pissed off and at my wits end! And many, many times I have been peaceful! Sometimes it seems as though I am having an out of body experience. Like...this really isn't happening to me. Sometimes it seems like it is all a bad dream. Oh, how I wish it was. I look at my kids and my husband and wonder...why me? And then, I look again and I am just thankful that I've been given the gift of this family at all. I am so blessed.
Through this cancer journey I have met so many people. I call them angels from God. These are people that I never would have met had it not been for cancer. For this reason, I am grateful for this disease. It has allowed me a perspective that I would not have had otherwise. It has allowed me to see my life through a different pair of eyes. None of us know the exact moment when the Lord will call us home. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1007 states:
Death is the end of earthly life. Our lives are measured by time, in the course of which we change, grow old and, as with all living beings on earth, death seems like the normal end of life. That aspect of death lends urgency to our lives: remembering our mortality helps us realize that we have only a limited time in which to bring our lives to fulfillment:
Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth,....before the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. (Eccl 12:1,7)
As I sit here and mull over all that I have experienced and learned over the course of this year, I am reminded that I have an appointment for a mammogram (for the right side) on July 21st and if all goes well with that, then I will be scheduled for a PET Scan in December. All of this will tell me if the cancer has returned or metastasized somewhere else.
So, this is my life now. This is how I will live until God takes me home. I will live out my vocation as a mom of 3 gorgeous gifts and wife to the best man in the entire world! I will live each day as it comes. I will worry at least once a year when I have to be reminded of this awful disease. And then, I will forget.....I will be normal.....until next year.