Did I forget to mention How I Got Here. I did. So, rewind. It is a hot summer, the summer of 2008. In June, we went to Atlantis on Paradise Island to see all the marine life. While there, I pretty much felt like shit. Thought I ate some bad conch soup. Saw on the TV that Tim Russert passed away suddenly. He is the brother of one of my best friend’s sister-in-law…I know him, about four times removed. His sudden death made me feel ill…or was it the conch soup? I can’t sleep very well, my side aches. Or is it the double bed is too small for my hubby and me? I have an excuse for every lousy feeling that I have. That vacation was a lot of fun. Except, did I mention, I felt like shit. My youngest daughter attended a couple of great softball camps that summer led by one of the four pro softball teams in the nation, the Akron Racers. One problem, though, the camps require a partner. I was her partner. I caught while she pitched. Well, I tried to catch, but I couldn’t bend over very well. Must be the extra weight. We also headed to NYC that summer. It was blazing hot. The subways were almost unbearable. As we hit the outdoors, the heat of the city smacked us in the face each morning. Within an hour, I was wilted. By the days end, I was a wet noodle. These conditions led to a yeast infection. I went to the gynecologist and saw her nurse practitioner. Yep, it was a yeast infection. And, while she was at it, could she give her opinion on this hard spot on the underside of my left breast, please. I noticed it about 10 days after I had a follow up visit with that aforementioned breast surgeon…about 24 days after a clean mammogram. Given those circumstances, it must be fibroid tissue, right? Probably just fibro-cystic, the nurse practitioner says, but given your family history, let’s do another mammo and couple it with an ultrasound. So, I made the appointment. It was after softball season was over because I was my little one’s coach. It was after John’s work picnic. That work picnic! The theme was “a country fair”. I wore short overalls. My pie won the pie baking contest and I was actually quite thrilled. Later, I found out John was the judge. Haha, I was pretty disappointed!
Finally, the day came. I was alone at that appointment. After all, I probably just had some fibro-cystic tissue. The mammogram went fine. I could see a large white patch in the suspicious area. “Does the lump you feel come and go?”, the tech asked. “Yes, it increases right before my period and decreases right after”, I answer. “Good!” See, no need to worry, just fibroids. The ultrasound room was cold. I had to lay still. I counted flecks in the ceiling. The wand was then in my left armpit. What’s it doing there? Oh, shit, that’s where lymph nodes are hanging out. Shit, shit, shit. I knew. My heart was pounding. The tech left the room and told me to just wait a minute. She came back. She pushed harder on the underside of my breast and again under my arm pit. Her face was a blank page. How do they do that? I’d get teary, I think. I was put in the holding cell. That room where you sit alone and wait for the radiologist. She finally arrived…with a social worker. Shit, shit, shit. I knew. The tech didn’t cry, but now I knew. “Hard lump. Highly suspicious. Call your gyno”. “She’s on vacation, but I already have a relationship with a breast surgeon.” “Good. Call him. Biopsy”. Before I even got home, the surgeon’s office called. Shit, shit, shit. It was Friday afternoon. The needle aspiration would be Monday.
Monday came. As I had suspected, I probably had cancer. But, no worries, it was a small lump, caught it early. Ok, it’s never good to be able to palpate a lump. Sorry, I know that. A needle aspiration was done. Wait a week for results. As I was driving to Shoe Carnival with my youngest, I got the call from the surgeon’s office. “Abnormal Cells. May be cancer, may not be. Need a breast MRI”. A breast MRI needs to be done a certain time in your menstrual cycle. I’d have to wait a couple of weeks. OK, for a couple more weeks I won’t have cancer. I went to Cedar Point and rode roller coasters. I got my kids ready for school. I made a CD with mellow music…48 minutes worth. I was ready to lie still and see what was growing inside me.
The MRI techs liked my mellow music CD. Somehow that seemed so important at the time. I remember telling John as soon as I got out of the test, “hey, they really liked my music.” But I’m sure the techs saw it. They never led on for a minute. See, I wasn’t that scared for the MRI. I was just going to find out I had cancer in my left breast. I figured I already knew that. I really was focused on having to lie completely still for 48 minutes. Even with the music, I almost hit the panic button near the end. Whole body MRIs are inhumane, if necessary, tests. Hated it.
A few days later I got the results. Not from a doctor. Once again, I got pretty big news from the receptionist at the breast surgeon’s office. The lump appeared bigger on the MRI then we originally thought it was. And, there are shadows on your liver. Hmm, is my liver playing some sort of game? Shadow characters for the techs entertainment, perhaps? Didn’t know my liver had a sense of humor. The receptionist seems awfully glum. Why did she call? Oh ya, big tumor and shadows indicating possible metastasis. WTF?! Why is she telling me this? I called John at work. I got off the phone and went to bed. It was a Friday. The doctor called later. He seemed unconcerned about my liver. “Breast MRIs are not meant to evaluate your liver, just your breast”. He was concerned that the tumor seemed to be 3cm in size. I’d need chemo before a lumpectomy in order to shrink the tumor. I began to shake. Chemo hadn’t really entered my mind. I was thinking lumpectomy, radiation, aromatase inhibitor. That’s the course I was familiar with. While my head was still buzzing with chemo news, doc threw out that, well, I better get an abdominal CT just to be sure the liver’s alright.