If you're reading this blog then you've already heard our news. I was diagnosed Monday, April 19, 2010 with breast cancer. My first appointment with the oncologist landed on our youngest son's first birthday. Ten days before our 5 year anniversary.
We won't know what type of cancer it is until after my second surgery which we expect to happen early next week.
Here's how it all happened...
I started thinking I was pregnant right around mid-February. My body was changing in weird ways that I could only explain away as a pregnancy. (For example, my tastes changed and food didn't taste the same anymore.) None of the symptoms were big or hindered regular life in any way. I only paid any attention to the symptoms because I thought it was far too early to be pregnant again. Although a third, and possibly, fourth child were in our future plans, we weren't quite ready.
The next thing I noticed was a certain fullness in my left side. This was probably the end of February. There still wasn't anything to report to a doctor, though.
Beginning of March I felt a lump. It seemed pretty big but I managed to ignore it for two or three days. This is when God started to prepare me for the diagnosis we would finally get. I heard scriptures and stories that strengthened my understanding of Eternity. I had a heavy heart for those around me who had turned a blind eye or deaf ear to the truth in the Bible. I began to pray and ask God how I could serve.
And then one day Terry walked in to the bathroom as I was changing and I said, "I found a lump." He didn't have time to react; he was being called to by the kids in the other room. But I already had a feeling we were headed somewhere scary and so I remember everything about that moment. Several times in the next few weeks I'd think back to that moment and realize the significance of it. That it was most likely the beginning for us.
I scheduled an appointment with the doctor and was told that I wasn't high priority because of my age. People just don't get breast cancer in their 20s. If you're diagnosed in your forties, you're considered a young patient. So I waited three long weeks to see the doctor. All the while the lump seemed to grow. I told only a few people about the lump, mostly asking for prayers. I was keenly aware of my unique position. If I were to get a negative outcome- that is to say if the tests were negative for cancer- I could at least have gained perspective as to how a person waiting for a diagnosis might feel. There would be much to gain from being in my shoes so I tried to pay attention and consider all possibilities and outcomes.
But I couldn't shake the feeling that it was cancer. I'm so grateful that God laid the groundwork for me and prepared me for the news.
During that first appointment I had an initial exam, an ultrasound, and a mammogram. I was asked standard breast cancer questions several times: Do I have a history of breast cancer in the family? Was I younger than thirty when I had my children (being younger than 30 decreases your chances of bc), had I breastfed my babies (bfing decreases your chances of bc, too). All of my answers were no so at every step along the way someone was there assuring me that it wasn't cancer. But when no one could tell me what it might be instead, I continued to doubt. I continued to seek God and search for His peace.
And after a lumpectomy this passed Monday, when I was only seconds awake from my anesthesia sleep, I remember the anesthesiologist saying, "It is cancer..." I'm sure she said something else after that, but I didn't hear. Instead I asked her the strangest question. I said, "I'm not done having babies. Can I have another baby?"
In fact, since Monday, we've learned that I *might* be able to have another baby. Chemotherapy sends 1 out of 5 women in to early menopause. I'm taking shots to shut down my ovaries right now and protect them from the chemo.
What else we know:
It's a "moderate" size. It's an aggressive cancer. It grew fast.
The doctor's best guess is that it is a stage 1 or 2. We won't know for sure until after the next surgery where they will sample the nodes to see if it's spread. During this same surgery they will attempt to get all of the cancerous tissue they left behind. They'll put in a porta-cath because I have hard-to-find veins and this will make chemo easier.
What we don't know:
If it's spread to the ducts yet.
If it's hormone sensitive (meaning hormone therapy would be effective and increase my "cure rate."
Right now I'm supposed to be making a decision regarding mastectomy.
We've got a lot of decisions to make in the next few weeks. Chemotherapy will begin as soon as they're sure they've surgically removed all of the cancer. The doctor said that, unfortunately, the younger you are the more likely to be nauseous after the treatments. But, I shouldn't have as much fatigue.
This post is getting insanely long, but I can't end it without saying a huge "thank you!!" to all of you. The response we've gotten from friends, family, acquaintances, friends of friends, and near strangers has been unbelievable! The calls, emails, flowers, prayers, and food are much appreciated. We're lucky to have so much family near-by and I dare say there isn't a woman out there who can boast a better support group than I've got from my friends. And Terry and I are especially blessed, and mindful of God's perfect timing, when it comes to our Small Group at Copperfield Church. We fell in with a loving, biblically-minded group of people at just the right time. Without them, we just might have all starved this week! This first surgery left me without the use of my left arm for a while and having food provided for us was awesome (and SO tasty!).
With the life and routine of two young kids being our focus during all of this, we won't be shy about asking for help in an effort to keep their lives normal.
There will be many more posts, if the rambling in my brain is any indication. Check back for more info. And send your prayers our way. We believe God will do a lot of good through us if we only let him.