You Have Cancer

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Microcalcifications.
Have you heard of those?
I had not, until I received a phone call on August 14, 2018, sharing that there were some found on my mammogram and that I’d need to come in for a follow-up.
They’re probably nothing, she said.
And, to be fair, she was likely right.
Only about 10% of microcalcifications are cancerous.

I didn’t even tell Nate.
Why bother, they were likely nothing.

In the follow up 3D Mammogram, it wasn’t hard to see that the tech didn’t like what she saw.
The pathologist told me I’d need a biopsy.
The Breast Specialist helped me schedule a pre-surgery appointment.
I had to stop on my drive home because I was hyperventilating.

What had my body done?
It had betrayed me?
No. It couldn’t be cancer.

Looking at data, it didn’t seem like it would be, so I remained hopeful.
My biopsy was on September 7th and had to be surgical, due to the location of the microcalcifications right under my nipple, very near the surface.

Oh, and when you’re told that a wire localization is “no big deal” that is a farce.
They take you in during pre-op, squeeze your breast in the mammogram machine, give you shots, put in a wire, and guess what, it’s really unpleasant.
Silly to pretend it’s “no big deal.”
If I could go back in time, I’d ask for a valium. Serious.

I opted for a MAC sedation, which is used most often for colonoscopy procedures.
I did recover quickly from the sedation and the pain was very minimal.
In fact, I went to coach a tournament the next day.

The surgeon told me it would take 2-3 days for pathology.
It took eleven days.
That was horrible. Fear woke me up at night. Worry dominated my downtime.

Then the nurse called to tell me I had Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, and that I was ER +.
I responded: well, that is good.
She paused and asked for clarification.
I said, due to my own personal research, I knew this was the ideal type of Breast Cancer, that my outcomes were good, and that if I had to have Breast Cancer, this was what I had hoped for.

The next day, my Dad, Nate and I went in and met with my surgeon. She was outstanding. She spent 40 minutes talking it out with us.

I had several options and opted for a full right breast mastectomy.
The treatment plan called for a full mastectomy, and then that it was highly likely that no other treatment would be needed.

Looking at reconstruction, I do not have enough body fat to reconstruct naturally. My nipple would have to go because my cancerous tissue was right under it. I couldn’t get on board with removing one foreign agent from my body just to put in another (implants).

Also, I’m an A cup. I believe the euphemism for this is that I have “athletic breasts.” So, using a prosthesis is relatively easy, and I can actually get by often times without one.

So, while overwhelmed and rattled, I felt like this was pretty dang easy in the scheme of things. I knew far too many women whose battles were a heck of a lot more difficult than a major surgery. So, I was resolved to move forward.

However, telling other people you have cancer is horrible.
I believe that I am on this Earth to serve others.
I’m a teacher and a coach.
I’m a Mom.
I believe in lifting, not creating burdens for others.

And, I lost my Mom in 2015 to COPD after several years of slow decline.
This included 7-months of Hospice Care.
My daughters know death.
My Dad knows death.
My husband already nursed me through this tragedy.
I hated offering any more pain or fear to my family and loved ones.
I hated having to tell my volleyball players that I have cancer.
One of my players had a Mom in Hospice Care, dying of Breast Cancer.
Too much.
Unfair. To them. To all of the people I loved best.

But, I found a way, by telling the truth.
Thankfully, the truth did not include anyone talking about me dying.
That made it easier.

My mastectomy was October 15, 2018. It went well.
The initial look at my 3 sentinel lymph nodes in the OR showed no cancer deposits.
My margins were clean.
My pain was minimal.
I went back to coach within 5 days of surgery.
It seemed that this whole cancer thing was, while disconcerting, going to be a bump in the road that I had survived.

But, my cancer story had only begun.

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