I have had several friends ask HOW I was diagnosed… Initially that was hard to explain to everyone because, as this all set in, I fell apart… I cried on a dime… it was really hard to explain anything to anyone and stay strong. Now, I am strong and I can.
It all began after we got back from our trip home to Illinois for Thanksgiving, I was having a very rough week, our home wasn’t ready to go back to, my kids got head lice, I popped a tire and then my donut went flat, we were staying with friends and my very sensitive 4 year old was waking at 4 am crying and asking when we could go home… it was all just so much. So one morning, I was laying on the bed in the room we were staying in, crying with my back to my husband. So, he put one arm under me and both around me to hold me while I cried. I was wearing thin pajamas and no bra so, as he hugged me tightly, the arm that came around felt something on the side of my left breast. He said, “What is this?” I immediately responded, “Oh, I am sure it is nothing”… then I felt it… and I said “oh, maybe that is something”.
Honestly, I didn’t feel like it probably was anything… I talked to several friends who told me they had gotten lumps from too much caffeine, etc and theirs were no big deal and I was drinking a cup or two of coffee a day… so, I was sure that was it. Still that same Friday morning, I messaged a friend who had previously had breast cancer and asked her what kind of doctor I should see. See suggested a gynecologist so, I Googled “Gynecologist near me” and chose the office with the highest reviews and called… They asked me which doctor I wanted and I told them, I didn’t care… that I just wanted to have them check this lump out just in case but, I was sure it was nothing… I figured, my insurance deductible for 2016 was paid from chiropractic appointments so, I may as well hurry and get it checked out before 2017 rolled around. I was sure it would be nothing and I would be done with it before the new year. Well, they made my appointment for the following Wednesday.
I went in to the appointment, quite nonchalant… actually thinking I was wasting my money and time… because I am never sick… Again, my vitals were perfect… low BP, good heart rate, overweight but, otherwise very healthy. Then the doctor came in, a very kind, young girl. She talked to me very nicely and talked to my 4 year old who was along. She felt for the lump and asked if my lump moved around in my breast, I wasn’t sure so I felt it myself and said it didn’t. She then did her exam and said she felt a lump but, that it DID move around easily… which perplexed me because what I was feeling did NOT and I could not feel it on the typical breast exam which is what she had just done. Regardless, she said she was referring me for an ultrasound and sent me on my way.
Later that day, I got a phone call that I had an ultrasound appointment for the following Friday afternoon.
On Friday, I went to the ultrasound appointment and took both of my girls with me. No one had mentioned that I would be getting a mammogram as well or that my girls would not be allowed in the mammogram with me. So… they called me and informed me that my children weren’t allowed so, they needed to stay in the waiting room. I gave them my phone and left them there watching Youtube… 4 and 5 years old… praying they wouldn’t get in a fight.
They took me to a small room and had me change into a “toilet paper gown” and remove ALL deodorant. Apparently deodorant will show up on a mammogram. A few minutes later, a tech came and took me into the mammogram room and did the mammogram which honestly wasn’t as terrible as I had imagined from stories… They do press your breast but, they do not SMASH it. It is definitely more uncomfortable than painful. I later joked with one of the techs that “none of these tests are very glamorous” if that gives you and idea.
The tech didn’t show me the mammogram or anything and honestly, I didn’t know at that time that it was right on the screen and she could show it to me, I thought it was like other tests where you have to wait for results. I found out later that I could have at least seen the image right then, not that I would have known anything from it but it is interesting.
Well, the tech took me back to the little room and then brought my girls in. They hadn’t fought and had sat very quietly together… since then several employees of Peninsula Diagnostic(where the tests took place) have mentioned how well behaved my girls are, thank goodness. That was a relief. A few minutes later, someone came in and led myself and the girls to the ultrasound room.
Dr. Marks came in and began the ultrasound. Only on the left breast because that was the one in question. She looked around and I could see these circles in the ultrasound screen but, honestly… I STILL wasn’t worried at this point. She kept measuring them and I could tell she was really looking at the one. I stayed quiet and waited. Finally, she pointed out the 2 small circles. She told me the one circle was liquid filled so it was a cyst and typically nothing to worry about. She said the other circle however; was solid. She said they are usually a fibroid adenoma and nothing to worry about. Then… she told me that there are usually key identifiers that a lump is a fibroid adenoma and that mine didn’t have them so she wanted a biopsy. I still wasn’t concerned. Then she said, “I can’t be 99% sure this isn’t cancer, honestly, I can’t even be 95% sure it isn’t cancer”. This is the moment I got scared. This is the moment I realized something might really be wrong… but, I still knew it could be a fibroid adenoma so, I figured whatever… lets get this over.
They made the biopsy appointment for the following Tuesday.
So… that weekend, something happened. I am not sure when or how but, somehow I knew how things were going to go, Scott came home on the following Monday and asked me if I was scared and I told him, “I feel like this biopsy is NOT going to come back ok but, in the end, I feel like everything will be ok”… I don’t know how I knew that or even when that thought set in. It just did, it was there. Still everyone I talked to told me how they had had similar situations and theirs turned out to be nothing so, I felt like thinking like that was overreacting… but, still… somehow I KNEW.
The following day, Scott was taking his California Electrical Exam anyway, so he wasn’t working that day anyway, so it worked out perfectly that he stayed with the girls that morning during my biopsy appointment. I went in for my appointment and it all went so fast. They quickly had me put on my “toilet paper gown” and took me to an exam table. The radiologist that day was one I hadn’t seen before but, she ultrasound the lump and said she would need to use a spinal needle since it was so far in and against my chest wall. She was worried that if she tried to go from the front, she would hit my chest wall… which sounds pretty painful in my opinion. So… she began the numbing which is pretty interesting… for so many reason. First they stick you with a local anesthetic to numb the area. Then they slowly work a needle in and add anesthetic as they go. I literally did not feel anything after the initial stick aside from pressure. Interesting enough though, I got to watch the needle go in… all the way in… right to the lump on the ultrasound screen. So, once she had me fully numbed, it was time for the actual biopsy… I describe this as watching a javelin. She stuck the biopsy needle in to what appeared on the screen to be about an inch from the lump and then informed me there would be a popping sound. Then… there was a popping sound and a needle shot straight though the lump. she did this 3 times, taking portions of the lump with each.
Now, the thing they didn’t tall me about till after the fact… They kept talking about a “marker” well, I am never sick, I definitely didn’t research any of this… I had no idea what she was talking about. Well, this marker is a tiny, piece of titanium they insert to the lump site in order to be able to find it later for removal or for future checks.
They then took me to do another mammogram of my left breast to be sure the marker stuck and the tech showed it to me on the screen. The marker showed but, interestingly enough… the lump does not… Even though the marker is in or very near the lump.
I still don’t know how I feel about that marker… you hear so many crazy things about RFID tags and such… but, I also get it… I do, I get it… I do wish they had discussed it with me prior but, maybe that is why they didn’t… Maybe a lot of people think the way I do, I don’t know. Anyway, what is done is done.
The next few days went my quickly. I had LOTS of orders to do and was spending a lot of time with my friend Alyssa. So much was going on. Peninsula Diagnostic had told me that my biopsy results would be back within 2-3 days… Somehow, I knew I would get a call when I woke up on Thursday morning and I spent that whole day anxious. In the back of my mind, I knew what I would learn. Alyssa was over and we had been crafting and she was packing up her stuff to leave. She had carried everything out and was putting her dog in the car. I think it was cold and raining… or at least in my mind it was that day. I was inside and my phone rang, I saw it was a California phone number and knew this was the call I had been expecting. I answered and Dr. Marks, who had done my ultrasound said, “Hi, Michelle, this is Dr. Marks, your biopsy results came back and unfortunately that spot is not a fibroid adenoma like I had hoped, it is breast cancer”… Then she kept talking… while I felt like everything inside of me drained out. My little girls were in the living room, I looked out the window and saw Alyssa about to walk around her truck to leave so I ran outside and started waving her down to stay… while still listening to Dr. Marks as best as I could. She said a lot of things about they were making me an appointment at a cancer center and surgery and lumpectomy and radiation and chemotherapy and how I was so young. It was all a whirlwind. I didn’t know what to think or how to process it all. Alyssa stayed and hugged me and told me to call Scott who was out with his buddies. I fell apart. I don’t entirely remember that whole night, I got so many phone calls from doctors and friends who had heard. Everyone cried… even the doctors… It was all so much…
Something happened the next morning though… I was making coffee and I was losing my mind, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t think, I was just functioning… Suddenly from somewhere a voice simply said, “I told you it would be OK”… I attribute this to God talking to me. Still that entire weekend, I struggled, I cried, I pictured my family living without me. It was by far the hardest weekend of my life.
Now, I still don’t understand WHY I have to struggle through this but, I feel like I have a purpose that maybe I wasn’t fulfilling before. I think I was focusing too much of my time on the wrong things and this is God’s way of refocusing me. I think maybe part of my purpose is to help others find their way in this battle. Whatever it is, I am here and ready… I’m not really scared any more. I dread the days where I will be weak, probably the weakest I have ever been but, I know with God and my Tribe, I will WIN this.