In October of 2009, I was given the news no woman ever wants to hear. I had breast cancer.
I knew that I had a lump, but my family doctor didn’t think it was anything to be concerned about; he wanted to be sure, though. I went for a mammogram and later, Skippy the Radiologist (my nickname for him – he looked like he’d just graduated high school) told me I had three tumors in my right breast and a smaller one in the left. He wanted biopsies to be sure, but he was pretty confident I had breast cancer.
The first thing I thought was that I can get through this. Matt and I almost lost a child; if we could get through that, we could get through anything. The second thing I thought (hoped) was that the biopsies would prove Skippy wrong.
I got out to the car and sitting alone with my thoughts, I cried. After a while, I had to make the phone call to Matt and share that it was cancer; something neither of us wanted to hear. As I drove home, I wondered how I was going to tell the children.
When they heard the news, they huddled around me; I knew I had to be strong. These kids were scared out of their minds, and the last thing they needed was their mother falling apart. Crying and feeling sorry for myself was no longer an option.
I nervously scheduled the biopsies. I didn’t know what to expect and thankfully, I had the best doctor, Dr. Laurie Sebastiano. She came dancing into the procedure room with her radio, immediately putting me at ease. The biopsies on the right breast were easy, however, the left side proved different.
Even with enough lidocaine to paralyze an elephant, I felt each attempt to gather a specimen. The doctor tried many times. It hurt so bad, I was crying; Dr. Sebastiano wanted to stop. I wanted it out of me, and if this was going to help get that done, then I wanted to finish it.
The phone call came a day later; it was confirmed. I had breast cancer.
A week after the biopsies, Matt and I met with my surgeon, Dr. Quiros, also a pretty young guy (seriously, what is UP with being older than your doctors)?
He came in and I readied myself to be told that I needed surgery, and maybe some radiation. I wasn’t prepared to hear the following sentence, “If you want to live, you have to have a mastectomy on the right breast. The left side will probably be a lumpectomy, but I won’t know until we get in there.”
I felt the wind being knocked out of Matt as he heard the news; his face went grey. I turned on the auto pilot light and went about making arrangements for the surgery, and behaving as if nothing was wrong. I guess I figured if I behaved like I wasn’t scared, I wouldn’t be. After Matt had a day to absorb the reality, we faced the upcoming fight just like we’ve faced everything in the past 25 years – together.
We scheduled my surgery for November 23, a few days before Thanksgiving. I thought it was really lousy timing, but I wanted the cancer out so I’d be around for next year’s Thanksgiving.
Prior to surgery, I met with my plastic surgeon. He told me that he would insert a tissue expander under the muscle after Dr. Quiros had done the mastectomy. Then, as I went through chemo, they’d gradually fill the expander, and after radiation, they could insert implants. Something about that made me feel better, knowing that there would be something there.
But that’s the problem with cancer. Things don’t always go according to plan; this was no exception ...
Read more in Lucy's journey with breast cancer next week.
IMPORTANT NOTE! Breast biopsies are usually NOT painful. The area that Dr. Sebastiano was sampling came from a nerve sheath that isn’t typically found in breast tissue. Mine was a complete anomaly. Please don’t hesitate to get the biopsies – they save lives.
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