Words you never want to hear. You have Cancer. Now what.
In 3 little words your entire life changes in the blink of an eye.
I made a pack that when I turned 45, I would get my first mammogram. I figured I’d do it on 10/1, my anniversary, so I’d never forget the need to do it yearly. That was in 2012.
They found some dense shading areas that day and told me to come back for a diagnostic mammogram and not to worry about it as it was likely density related. My follow up exam was scheduled for 10/28. That morning, I was contacted by the hospital and told I would need to be rescheduled as the hospital was closing the testing areas early due to hurricane Sandy. My husband asked them to squeeze my appt in and they agreed to do this for me. It was a good thing that he pushed, because by that appt, the density had turned into a defined mass the size of a pea. The next 3 weeks were a whirlwind of emotions and appts, most of which would be a blur if not for my husband who kept things in focus. Between biopsies/ lab appts/ genetic testing/ consults with radiation oncology/etc… this was all extremely overwhelming, and I was a wreck. We finally agreed to a treatment plan: Lumpectomy followed by radiation and then life could return to normal. Yay… finally a glimmer of hope… ….. 12/21/12…. Life would change, but I could start to heal…
7 days before surgery I went for pre op testing…. I decided to do my lab work prior to coming into work. By the time I arrived at work, my surgeon was on the phone, telling me my labs were concerning and that I needed to go for a MRI of my abdomen… Huh??? The cancers in my breast….. Well my boss drove me to the hospital for the MRI….. Now life changes…
They found MULTIPLE tumors in my liver… 3 were large enough to biopsy. That led to my first PET Scan… and then the waiting……
At 10:33 PM, 12/21/12 My home phone rang… it was the surgeon. The only words I heard were…. Get your affairs in order, no, surgery wasn’t an option and my cancer was metastatic, stage 4…. And several other things that all sounded much like an adult in a Charlie Brown cartoon…. None of it made sense.. and suddenly my plan for hope turned into planning for life without me… WTH…..
The things that you thought were so important seem so trivial and now the only thing that matters is deciding whether to live or die and whether the fight is one you can win or if you have any fight left in you. They say war is hell. Fighting cancer is not for the squeamish and you don’t, correction, Can’t fight it alone.
Cancer changes you. From the moment you know. You are suddenly transported from the you of yesterday to someone you never knew you could or would be. Once you accept that truth, you can fight. The YOU of yesterday is gone and now it’s time to embrace the YOU of today and who YOU will be tomorrow. When the doctors tell you to get your affairs in order, and won’t give you a timeline, your mind starts to really spin, and you feel your life spinning hopelessly out of control. What do you do first, who’s going to be there for your family? What are you going to do without your best friend and what will happen to him when you’re gone…. It would have been so easy to just curl up and give up…. My husband would never have let me do that!!! We decided to fight.. and pray!!! We allowed ourselves a small window to grieve what was, and then decided on a battle plan for the future. I hear stories about my prognosis and the likelihood of mortality, and I can honestly say it scares me most that I might not be here but, what drives me forward is knowing that as long as fight, I have a chance.
The first thing that went was modesty and privacy.. Your life is no longer your own. Everyone has an opinion or a treatment and while well meaning, as the person living this nightmare, you have no desire to hear it and no ability to filter how you feel. Emotions are raw.
Before the change, I don’t think I truly valued the life God blessed me with. Looking in the mirror at who I am now, reminds me that life is precious and no matter how long I have, I need to make each day count.
Pink fishing came into our lives at our most vulnerable time and we are forever grateful for them. They have been there since the early days of my fight, embracing both my husband and me. They’ve listened to our story and shared their own. They’ve provided resources and knowledge to so many people. My biggest complaint in this fight is the lack of knowledge of the disease and the fear of navigating it on our own. Pink Fishing provides a network of resources to get answers and develop a plan…. They are PRICELESS!!
It’s our goal to do whatever we can to find a cure and support anyone going through this disease, so no one is alone.