I found out I had cancer the week after Thanksgiving and let me tell you– I did NOT expect that doozy.
I had felt a large hard mass in my left breast some time in early November but put off going to the doctor since I assumed it was just a normal part of breastfeeding. In case you don’t already know, breasts do crazy things when they are feeding babies, like change size and shape and feel from minute to minute. My daughter was almost 10 months old.
Two weeks later the large mass was still there and I knew I had to call. The office got me a same-day appointment and so the whole family and I trekked into my primary care doctor’s office at Beth Israel in Boston the day after Thanksgiving.
And from the time we arrived on Friday until the following Wednesday, life went like this:
1:30 p.m.- Young good-looking male resident checks out my breast, comments on large-ness of the mass. Goes to get his boss.
2 p.m.- Boss doctor also comments on the large-ness. Says that’s a “good sign” (presumably he thought something so large was benign) and sends me to get an ultrasound and mammogram, which he calls “probably overkill.”
3-4 p.m.- Ultrasounded and mammogrammed up.
4:30 p.m. Ultrasound doctor comes in and looks at the screen. Says she sees troublesome microcalcifications in a generalized area and one of my lymph nodes is enlarged. Says a biopsy is needed asap. She and the tech urge restraint with Google over the weekend. I mentally discard that suggestion immediately.
I Google the crap out of microcalcifications and tumors and breast cancer. Learn that 80% of biopsied boobs test negative for cancer but determine that if I DO have cancer, I’d be stage III (note: Dr. Megan was correct).
10 a.m.- Biopsy of my breast and one lymph node. I get the ultrasound doc at the end of the appointment to tell me straight up that she thinks it’s cancer.
9:30 a.m.- My primary care doctor calls. It’s cancer and it’s aggressive. I hang up and start crying. First I call my husband and then I call my Aunt Jane, who is a head nurse at a hospital. I go to her house and she takes control, making phone calls and breaking stuff down for me. My husband and mother come and by the afternoon, I have an appointment with a cancer team from MGH scheduled for Monday. Aunt Jane really saved the day.
Having cancer is a crazy thing. I can go long stretches of time feeling like it’s no big deal and conducting my life as usual and then out of the blue get walloped with fear and anxiety about the future and the total weirdness of it all. I’m regularly getting injected with toxic drugs. In a few months, I’ll lose my breasts and have impostors take their place. I don’t know whether I’ll die young or not. But I still have two kids to raise, a husband to love, family and friends to hang with, and all that keeps me grounded.