My Life: Round 2.
Here we go..
On March 7th, a month ago today, I was diagnosed with an early stage breast cancer in my left breast called DCIS, which stands for “ductal carcinoma in situ”. This type of cancer is formed in milk ducts, is non-invasive (‘in situ’ is latin for ‘in place’), and is considered “Stage 0” cancer. Confusing, I know.
You hear the word “cancer” and everything else after that kind of runs together while your mind is busy flipping through images of your children, your family, and your life. I was told that in this kind of predicament, an initial reaction like that is “normal”.
There’s a stage zero??
Stage 0: this cancer is not invasive, meaning it does not spread to any surrounding tissue or lymph nodes. In the world of the awful “c-word”, DCIS is basically getting a nasty knee scrape. This is totally isolated and not related to any other forms or types of cancer, as far as the medical profession knows right now. I have no family history of breast cancer or any other cancer, for that matter. Thank you, God. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
The c-word: ready or not
The very first emotion that I remember feeling was heartbreak. How could something like this be happening, again? How could I possibly be in the minority of odds, again?? Sitting in the conference room with the radiologist and oncology nurse I could feel Jake’s blank stare, but I didn’t have it in me to look him in the eyes. I wanted to time travel back, or even to the immediate future, anywhere but that moment when I knew my husband was being put through something like this… again. So much information was being thrown at us, albeit gently and empathetically, that I think we both sat there listening but unable to process hardly any of it. Here we are… again. I can’t say I was caught off-guard by the positive results as much as I was disappointed. I had prayed so hard every day during those 3 weeks of misery… but the center of my being, my inner self, felt it coming.
The weeks leading up to that day were beyond difficult; I watched my family mourn and begin grieving when my grandma passed while I was barely holding on to my last shred of composure, hoping and praying the biopsy would be negative. It was exactly one week after her passing that I received the diagnosis. I felt a pang of heavy guilt knowing that I was going to have to pass this information on to my family when we just had my grandma’s funeral mere days before.
The scariest part of this for me, so far, has been the attachment of the “c-word” itself, not the prognosis or the treatment options. My future is bright – I am incredibly fortunate to have had this found at such a young age and in such an early stage. However, it took about three different doctors explaining the diagnosis before I finally calmed down. We met with a breast surgeon the next day who gave me the treatment options (physically drawing each option as a diagram on paper), explaining each and its respectful statistical analysis for remission/cure. I knew walking in her office that day what I wanted; I had made up my mind the day of my mammogram.
The least invasive treatment would be a lumpectomy and radiation with bi-annual bilateral mammograms. I would also have to have MRI scans done due to the density of my breast tissue, in order to view anything that may arise as closely as possible. That option wasn’t for me. I won’t live my life six months at a time.
The second option was a single (affected/left breast) mastectomy. This would eliminate the need for radiation; however, I would still have (single side) mammograms/other scans on my right breast to monitor any potential changes. Many women choose this route and elect to have the single removed breast reconstructed to closely match the remaining breast. That option wasn’t for me, either. If one of my breasts is defective with no known or proven cause, then I can’t (won’t) justify keeping the other.
For my mental well being, the removal/treatment of this c-word inside of me, and most of all: to ensure my family and I will never have to go through this again, I have chosen to have a double mastectomy. I have not had a single second thought about this decision and I’m some kind of eager for surgery day to be here. To be declared cancer free.
This time around we won’t be blindsided. I have the opportunity and responsibility to make the life-changing decisions that will give me a future for (and with) my children, husband, and family – and I am surrounded by medical professionals who collectively turned a simple check into a life-saving scan and diagnosis… because they took it seriously, they didn’t just assume the ‘favorable odds’ were enough, and because they left nothing to chance.
This time it’s my choice.
This time, fear turned into empowerment.
This time I’m informed and aware.
This time, this second round of my life, I’m still going to rise.
Still, I Rise.
More to come.