It’s the eve of the eve of the most important surgery I’ve ever had. It’s a surgery that will bring my risk of breast cancer from approximately 84% down to approximately 8%.
It started about a month ago. Upon performing my monthly breast self-exam, I noticed a spot that had not been there before. Checking my calendar, I saw that my next appointment with my breast specialist was in April. I wavered back and forth about calling and going in earlier… what a nervous nellie I was becoming! But finally I decided to go ahead and make an appointment.
To be completely thorough, my doctor and the radiologist said they were going to do a complete exam of both breasts, mammogram and sonogram. Call it irony, call it providence (I choose providence), the spot I was worried about was nothing… but they found something else. Something that had accumulated since my last mammogram 4 months ago.
The next step was a biopsy. Let no one tell you biopsies are no big deal. Yeah, they “deaden” it, but it still hurts, including the deadening shot. I managed to keep from bawling until they were done, but then it was over-the-waterfall.
Here’s the good news (perhaps I should have led with this): I do NOT have cancer. The cells they took in the biopsy were classified as “atypia.” In the chart the doctor drew out for me, atypia is one precarious step away from cancer, but NOT yet cancer.
As I’ve said in other venues, I’ve been waiting for the “cancer shoe” to drop for over 20 years. My family history of breast cancer is ridiculous – my sister died at age 36. My mother, grandmother, and aunt all had breast cancer as well. I’ve always known this day was probably coming. Because of that, I have been obsessively vigilant about monitoring my breasts. I started getting yearly mammograms at age 28. About 15 years ago, I started seeing a breast specialist – it’s all he does. About 6 or 7 years ago, becoming more and more nervous about my breast health, I started going every 6 months, with a full mammogram and sonogram each time. I perform self-checks every month.
So I’ve always known that if and when breast cancer once again raises its ugly head in my family (me), I would be right on top of it.
….And here we are. One step away from the cancer. It took me and my husband approximately 15 seconds to decide the best plan of action. It’s a no-brainer. Everything has to go. I will be getting a complete bilateral mastectomy, with reconstruction happening during the same surgery.
I am completely at peace with this decision. It means I will not ever have to worry about chemo or radiation. It means I will be here to continue raising my girls. It means I will live to see my grandchildren. It means I will grow old with my husband. It means my parents and brothers won’t have to bury another daughter or sister. It’s GOOD NEWS. We’ve caught it before it can begin.
Okay, now I have to confess… I’m terrified. This is big, major surgery, with a difficult recovery period. I won’t go into some stuff I have to do before the surgery, but I promise it would make you cringe, especially the women.
So, during church this morning, I couldn’t keep from worrying and stressing and obsessing and feeling REALLY sorry for myself.
Then, during the announcements at the end of the service, they told of a 4-year-old boy – the son of a friend of a church member’s – who had been diagnosed with leukemia. And they told of a member who is having difficulties with walking who could not be there today. Then, when service was over, I stood up and noticed a young woman who was recently widowed by a long-fought cancer – she still looks shell-shocked.
It’s all about perspective, people. I would take my lot over theirs any day. Yeah, it’s gonna be hard. Boohoo. I’m going to LIVE.
I can’t promise I won’t still have times of being afraid and feeling sorry for myself. But overall, I’m so incredibly thankful. I will come out of this strong and healthy and present.
Thanks to all of you who have been so kind and encouraging, and for your prayers. Please keep them coming.