Breast cancer round two: early detection is the key to surviving

Breast cancer round two: early detection is the key to surviving

Recently I wrote about my visit to the oncologist.  I wrote about how happy I was. I wrote about how grateful I was. What I forgot to mention was that I had yet to get my annual mammogram. Without that piece of information I was able to pretend that breast cancer would never invade my body again. It hadn't for 10 years. Why would it this time when the Doctor had felt nothing?

Fail.

I went for the mammogram. I joked with the technician about how I always experienced deja vu having the test. I went to the waiting area (us former cancer patients get to be told right away if something is wrong, how lucky for us!) and checked my watch. It was 9:25AM. Awesome I thought! I'll be at the office before 10, this is great. Enter technician.

I remember being told the radiologist saw something and wanted a few more pictures. I remember feeling as though I was going to pass out. I could not stand up and a complete stranger (for who I will be forever grateful and I only know her name is Suzanne) came and held me up, hugging me while I cried. She said she had been there before and understood. But she did not know this was my round two.

The radiologist and staff at Highland Park Hospital are nothing short of amazing. My hand was held, my tears were dried. I was immediately scheduled for an "ultrasound guided needle biopsy". And I mean immediately - it was done right then. My husband had rushed over and was at my side every minute.

And then the waiting. Could have been a lymph gland. Could have been a cyst. IT DOESN"T HAVE TO BE CANCER I was told.

Fail.

I had to wait 48 hours for the results. Never in the history of my life has waiting ever been so excruciating. I had to hide it from my girls; my father. Why worry them if it was in fact, nothing? I prayed; a lot. I reached out to certain people for prayers. I had never done that before but I felt desperate. The girl who stood up to cancer 10 years ago and lived to tell was falling apart.

The news finally came after those 48 painful hours. I was not surprised when the Doctor informed me that I had a new primary cancer in my other breast. Not a recurrence, a whole new case. But there was good news...IS good news. The tumor is small, really small. It's treatable. But now that I'd had breast cancer twice, I'd have to make some decisions that I shouldn't have to even think about.

I told my girls. They are scared. I told my father. What parent wants to hear that their child, no matter what their age, has cancer? A second time no less? But I am confident. My attitude will never waiver. And they know this. I have done this before; I will do it again. For this, they need not fear.

I have what is called a triple negative breast cancer. It is a more difficult cancer to treat insofar as it does not respond to drugs such as Tamoxifen. It must be treated with chemotherapy. And as anyone out there who has been through it once will tell you, it's not something you would ever welcome back. But, it is what is is.

I am being tested for the BRCA gene mutation. This is what Angelina Jolie had done and caused her to choose a double mastectomy. Hers was preventative; mine would be to try to avoid yet a third breast cancer.

I have a lot of waiting to do. Waiting for test results of the gene mutation. Waiting to schedule surgery and which type I will have. Waiting for the pathology report on the tumor once it's out. Waiting, waiting and more waiting. But I will not wait to encourage every single woman who reads this blog to never, ever, ever wait to get your mammograms. No excuses, no reasons why you can't go. I hear them all the time.

I'll be writing about my journey from time to time. I don't want it to take over my blog - this is a place where I like to have fun, to share my thoughts and observations. Yet, breast cancer is too serious of a subject to sweep under the table. If I can have even the smallest of voices in educating women on the importance of early detection, something positive will come out of this. I will be the poster child for it - I will stay alive because of it.

And for that, I'll consider this whole episode a win.

PS - Want to know how to respond to people who you have just discovered have cancer?  Please read these Cancer Etiquette guidelines, written by a wonderful fellow blogger. They may be direct, but they're very true and much appreciated by us cancer folks.

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