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Discovering I had the "C" Word...

Updated: Feb 4

Hello my bombshell beauts! I thought for todays post I would go through my diagnosis and how I got the news to give you all some details about the first few days and why I thought there may be something wrong.

When I was diagnosed in February 2020 that is all I craved...details details details. It is actually why a little more than a year post diagnosis I finally decided to start my blog. Josh always encouraged me to create a blog to journal this journey and because I have so much insight and details to share and I have a passion for helping everyone who receives this diagnosis to be able to navigate this far easier than I did. He saw (through facetime and texts) the struggle I had and the need to take in everything and wish there was more "real" in the world of cancer diagnosis and information. It is my hope that this blog gives the details I so desperately craved so someone else can feel a little ease in her journey and know what to expect. I remember from the time of biopsy how I would stay up at night and google everything I could to include the type of breast cancer I had to treatments to life expectancy. And let me just tell you the internet does a great job of scaring the hell out of you. It should not be this difficult to find information on what to expect from a disease that effects 1 in 8 women. I do not mean details like "how long do I have to live" or "will I lose my hair and will it ever come back" (because lets get real I looked those amazing fun facts up too and according to the internet I should be dead and bald) but real details you want to know. Details like "what is this rash after treatment" and "what does treatment really look like and what will it feel like." Or even "When should I get a wig" and "which one should I get"?

For those of us that have had a cancer diagnosis you know that the moment you hear the words "you have cancer" is a moment you do not forget in fact it is a moment that changes your life forever in so many ways. I remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, how it felt and all the thoughts in my head at that same moment in February of 2020. The closest thing to compare this feeling to would be the feeling of September 11, 2001 as we heard that two planes crash into the World Trade Centers in NYC or for my parents era the day JFK was shot. We all remember everything in these traumatic moments including what everything around us felt like, our thoughts and even sometimes smells. It is a surreal moment when trauma occurs and one that can cause PTSD- I will talk about that in another post but PTSD is real in cancer patients. In fact 80% of newly diagnosed patients with breast cancer experience PTSD symptoms...y'all! 80%! With a number like that it deserves a post of its own so be on the lookout for that coming up.

I make no apologies for being a Christian God fearing woman so with that I believe God masterfully made us to remember traumatic moments vividly to fulfill our purpose or as some call it our calling or destiny. Those callings are usually discovered in moments of trauma and triumph. If we can remember the details so vividly in these moments, moments that are seared into our brains, our story is easier to tell and the details fall into place like a an excerpt from a Nicholas Sparks book. So here is my story.

It was the end of February 2020, Covid had just started being an "issue" and masks were not really being worn all of the time around here. My husband was one month into his 4th deployment to the Middle East. My children were at school. My mom was at work at the University of South Carolina. My dad was at my home visiting with his wife from Nashville. My sister was at her home. I was in my bathroom. I was waiting for this call. I had my mammogram about two weeks before and a biopsy several days before. I feel like there is so much information and I want you all to know each part so its hard to know where to begin. So lets begin a couple weeks before at my mammogram and how it came to be.

I have the most wonderful GYN. He is diligent and the first to be "over cautious" rather than the "its nothing" physician and praise GOD he is. In fact, one year prior at 40 I had my first mammogram and he ordered a diagnostic mammogram because I have "dense breast tissue." What does that mean? It means my breasts were lumpy. Oh yay thanks for that right?! But this was important to know because lumps were more common for me especially during my period. In fact I had found a lump that was tender a few weeks prior to this appointment in the shower. I brought this up at my annual exam with him (or as my bff and I call it- the yearly violation appointment). I would love to pretend I am one of those diligent in self exams but I am not. I knew a painful lump was not normal but with dense breast tissue "diagnosis" it was not crazy abnormal either. After all I had just had a hysterectomy leaving one ovary (so I was not immediately into menopause) so having tender breasts was not abnormal certain times of the month even with a partial hysterectomy. As he examined me he said he felt a small lump, probably was not anything and since this is the other breast from a year ago that had a small lump that was confirmed to be dense breast tissue he continued with ordering another diagnostic mammogram and off I went a week later. For those of you unfamiliar with what a diagnostic mammogram is- it is simply a regular mammogram with an ultrasound after to ensure they see everything in this lumpy tissue.

So the mammogram went off without a hitch. Ok that's a was painful and having 34D natural breasts (thanks mom!) that were squeezed between a juicing machine it was not enjoyable. But nonetheless I made it through 2 years in a row. The first year I went in for the ultrasound part and was cleared that day and off I went not to give it another thought.

Fast forward to 2020. Second mammogram...praise God I did not let Covid stop me...I go in and my sweet friend, Cindy from church years prior was the mammographer that day. That is not a coincidence. In fact she rarely worked and she was filling in PRN that day. Love when God shows up and is in your face with His love for us! Juicing machine in full effect. But this time Cindy's face looked slightly concerned not at all like the mammographer last time who did not even bat an eye about the session. In her sweet voice Cindy said to come with her for the ultrasound portion and that she was going to make sure I got into her favorite one. A sweet loving gesture from a dear friend but looking back one I know she did because she knew something was not "normal." This next step of the ultrasound seemed much like the prior year... Until she started to look under my arm...slllllloooooooowly. I knew this was different but I did have a lump so I was sure she was just being careful and thorough after all I was Cindy's friend, right? After the ultrasound, I went in to get dressed and waited on the doctor who was on call that day to review all that was ordered. I remember everything about him especially how he sat down and sat knee to knee with me in a small room and how he removed his mask, leaned in and said "I am sure it is nothing but there is a mass and we want to do a biopsy." It was in that moment I realized I was alone. This was just routine. I was not prepared for this. I was not supposed to see a doctor. I was supposed to be told by the radiologist all looked fine and we will see you in a year. Josh was 8000 miles away and was 8 hours ahead in time. Would he be asleep? Do I worry him? I still did not think it was big deal even at that moment. I got up, walked out and that's when I saw my sweet friend Cindy again waiting for me to walk me out. I looked at her and burst into tears. I was terrified and all she did was hug me. I knew she knew something but even in all of that I did not let that thought creep in. Isn't that crazy that all signs pointed to all these people knew and they were trying to get me to remain calm until they knew for sure and my mind still would not process it like that.

I called Josh and he assured me it was nothing and it would be much like the year before. We even joked about if it was breast cancer that may be ok it would be small and heck i will get new boobs at 42 and have the mommy makeover I always wanted. Its not a big deal. Right? Joking seemed like the only thing we could do. Look at the bright side. Live in my final days of naiveite.

Biopsy day came and I went alone. They asked that no one come because of Covid and I was not getting any news that day anyway so why bother or worry anyone. The biopsy was a piece of cake with the exception of the massive bruise it left for days after. The nurses were wonderful as they assured me that if it was breast cancer it was so tiny and probably less than 2mm and a lumpectomy would probably be all I would need. They said don't get worked up over the weekend and sent me on my way feeling pretty good. This biopsy was on a Thursday. SOOOOOOOO that meant I would not hear until Monday. OHHHHHHHHH MG! That is a lifetime when you are waiting for news like this. My dad came into town that next day and spent the weekend with me knowing he would leave when I found out the "it is nothing" news on Monday that we were sure we would be getting. Josh made me promise to call him as soon as the nurse navigator called me on Monday though I had no idea when that would be. I do not remember being too anxious that weekend because I did not believe I had cancer and remember I had that thought that even if it was I would get rid of it and get new boobs. (insert face to the hand emoji because I am an idiot).

Monday came...around noon my phone rang. The nurse navigator was on the other end and she said "Do you have a minute to talk? Are you somewhere you can speak?" Would you believe even in that moment I did not think I had cancer? Looking back I want to tell myself I completely understand why I am blonde now. It would be the next words that changed my life forever. The next words changed all my loved ones life forever. The next words took me from a naïve regular woman living her best life to a woman that would know way more than I ever wanted to about healthcare and the cancer journey .."It is breast cancer." Do you that in that moment my knees did not buckle. I did not cry. I clarified one time that she said "IT IS" and then my mind went immediately to how do I tell my mom, how do I tell my husband, how do I walk out and tell my dad who is sitting in the next room and has no clue she called and then the gut punch do I tell my children? The answer? One person at a time- you just get through it.

As I was thinking of the logistics and the trauma of all I have to tell the nurse navigator is telling me about my next steps to include my appointment that was set up already by her for the next day. She gave me all the details including who I was seeing and that in that appointment they would tell me what type it was and my options. I just agreed. I had no clue what I was doing so I just said ok to it all. So I have what?

*This picture is me right after my biopsy. I sent it to my husband in the Middle East to show him it was not a big deal. The woman in that mirror has breast cancer at that very moment and has no clue.


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