As we have entered the month of March, I am obviously bombarded with dates; March 1st, 11th, and 28th; biopsy, diagnosis, and mastectomy, respectively. And to be honest, it's more like March 1st, 11th, 16th, 19th, 23rd, 28th.
March 1st - I was so scared for the biopsy, the radiologist even called me the night before because she knew that I was terrified of needles. I begged them to let Keith come in and although they never let partners accompany patients, they made an exception in my case. I obviously thought the worst of it was over after they bandaged me up and although I was curious about the results, I certainly never suspected cancer.
March 11th was the day I found out. I still remember walking into my doctor's office and hearing Rihanna playing in the pharmacy beside the elevator. I was vibrating with nerves in the waiting room but still thought it was nothing; I was anxious for the results. The doctor came in and started making small talk, I told her I just wanted the results and her exact words were 'it's not good'. She told me it was cancer and my response was 'Holy shit, I wasn't expecting that.' Nothing can prepare you for that moment. My mom was withme and she was just as shocked as I was. I wanted to protect her and I'm sure she was thinking the same about me. I didn't want her to hear the news although I'm not sure how I would have told her. I was on the phone with the breast healthcentre within about 5 minutes to figure out the next steps. My chest was heavy and my legs were weak but I didn't feel like I had cancer. Nothing inside of me made me feel sick. We got in the car, and I called Keith. How do you tell someone that you love, that you have cancer?
The 16th was the first time the word 'mastectomy' became a part of my reality, the first time I found out that children may not be part of my future, the first time I found out I would lose a nipple, and the first time I found out how severe of a situation this was, and how little time they had to react and therefore I had, to make decisions.
The 19th was my MRI, which I'm sure isn't a big deal to most but it was my next big needle after the biopsy. Many fear the closed space of an MRI, I feared the needle. Once they had the IV hooked up, I was fine and to be honest I almost fell asleep in the confined space. The needle however, it caused many many many tears. I knew the MRI was going to show how much the cancer had spread and I knew that I didn't want the words 'liver', 'bones', or 'lymph nodes' said at my next appointment.
The 23rd was when I met my plastic surgeon. The whole expander process hadn't really been explained in detail so there were that many more tears in his office when I found out that they must inflate the 'implant in training' by injecting it with saline up to 12 times. I can't tell you how petrified I was sitting in that office. All that kept going through my head was 'is a breast that important?' I had 5 days to determine whether I wanted to go through with the process or not. I left his office thinking I was going to go through with it but on the drive home I wondered how I was going to handle each injection. Needless to say, I did figure out some way to get my breast back, well if you can call this a breast.
I don't suspect it will be an easy month but I am grateful that what I have gone through is in the past. I think the first of each occasion is difficult; first birthday post-diagnosis was a little tough considering I was in treatment, bald, not used to only having one breast, and going through hot flashes in the middle of August. My first Christmas post-treatment was a little teary eyed having not known if I was going to see Christmas back in March. And now this will be my first anniversary of my diagnosis and it is met with some opposing feelings.
Is it something we are supposed to recognize but not celebrate or am I supposed to be thrilled that the first year is behind me (the hardest year) and I feel pretty good about life? I can no longer say 'a year ago' to indicate my life before cancer, now I have to say 'over a year ago' which only makes me realize that I've had cancer for way too long. I'm assuming that most of these dates will fad away with the exception of the 11th; it will be an anniversary for the rest of my life and I hope I don't accumulate any more cancer anniversaries, because I feel like I have enough dates to keep track of as it is.
So, as an anniversary gift, I would appreciate that all you women check your breasts. At this point, I don't give a shit about guidelines and I think I'm living proof that 40 is just too late to start self examinations. So, if you're in your teens, twenties, thirties, or older - do self examinations once a month and I can't stress this enough; if you find something, tell your doctor. It probably is nothing but it's better to find out at stage 1 than stage 4.