Warning: This is really fucked up and very not-funny. Although humor is the only way I know to cope with hard feelings so if I say something inappropriate or that doesn’t settle well with you sorry-I literally have no other way.
That’s how I started the text I sent to my nearest and dearest to explain that, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I mean, there’s really no good way to tell people what is going on. No good time, no good words, no good reaction. People who hear this news from their dear friend or family member are left speechless and commonly reply “What? That is so fucked up.” They are worried they won’t say the right thing, but lean in so I can tell you a little secret…..we have no idea what to say either! I know-You think people with cancer suddenly become wise and know just what to do and say all the time because of our new found perspective on life and death, but really that’s bullshit and we’ll blurt out CANCER and make all y’all feel just as uncomfortable as we do. Shit.
After people are shocked and speechless, they usually want to hear the story of how this happened, how long this has been going on, what the prognosis is, et al. So here it is. Let’s get this technical shit out of the way so we can move on to the more fluffy, cuddly, hardcore inspirational bullshit I plan to spout during this time I have the stage.
I had no idea. I went to the doctor because I had a sore throat and swollen lymph node that had been sore for a while due to allergies. I also decided to mention these weird bumps that had existed on my left breast right near the cleavage. I thought they were under the skin pimples, you know what I’m talking about? Anyhow, I’d scrubbed the shit out of them but they didn’t go away, so I inquired about them when I was at the docs.
She didn’t quite know what it was but suggested maybe it was Sebaceous Cysts which are small non-cancerous cysts that usually don’t need treatment but sometimes need to be removed. Just in case, she decided to send me to the Breast Guru, Dr. Mary Stanley who could have a look-see just to be sure. So they scheduled an appointment for me two weeks later.
Being the emotional protector that I am, I told no one about this appointment. Not my husband, my mother or my best friends. I thought it was nothing, so why worry my biggest fans? During the two weeks I was waiting for my appointment, I realized that there might be another lump in my left breast, but I couldn’t decide if it was a lump or just part of my breast. But I did decide I should ask the doctor about it.
So I did. And she she gave it the little look-see I was promised and then she said, “I’m a pretty worried about that lump. I think it might be cancer.” And I said, “WHAT? I didn’t even tell my husband I was coming here.” And she was like, “I know.” But me, being a half-glass full kind of girl inquired about the other possibilities, to which she replied, “I will be surprised if it is not cancer, but….” And then some other words came out, but I forget what they were.
What she eventually (after a biopsy of my lump and a lymph node as well as needle aspirations from my original bumps, which she calls nodules) discovered was that all three sites, the lump, the node and the nodules all contain cancer cells. Following my initial appointment, I had a mammogram which detected a second lump in my right breast. The second lump is about half the size (2 centimeters) as the first lump (4 1/2 centimeters). The second lump was biopsied, but the results have not come back yet.
Dr. Stanley said that the cancer “technically” has metastasized to my skin leaving me “technically” with metastatic disease, however because of the location of the nodules (on my breast) she thinks we can still eliminate the cancer. Which is good! This is good news people! So even though she thinks she “technically” thinks she needs to call this stage IV (only because science says so), she thinks it will be easier to eliminate than if the cancer had spread anywhere off my breast. The second lump is another “primary sight” so not metastatic and the treatment will not be different.
Dr. Sanders, the oncologist, is calling it stage IIIB. He says because it hasn’t metastasized to a distant sight (lungs, liver, kidneys) we can do this. And because I like my glass half full (remember?) I’m calling this a win!
I do have some scans in a few days, bone and CT, just to be sure that the cancer hasn’t spread to some other organ in the body, but Dr. Stanley and Dr. Sanders are feeling optimistic, and so I am too (that’s actually mostly how I feel about life). So are you ready? I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to take medicine that will make me sicker than I feel right now in order to make me feel better….Cancer is confusing. Let’s get over it.