How breast cancer has changed my life.
From all the journeys I have found myself on, I never once foresaw the Universe putting me on the path I now stand. If you could look at a physical map of my life, you would see a huge turning point marked on the morning of January 19th, 2016, the morning I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After having my first ever mammogram at the age of 41, followed by ultrasound imaging, the hard mass that was found was immediately concluded to be malignant. Upon hearing the words, "I'm concerned" and "Breast cancer" fall from the doctor's mouth, a paralyzing fog drifted in and settled over my mind and any memory of what she said beyond those words now eludes me, washed away from the immediate shock and disbelief.
Although she delivered this news with absolute certainty, my mind wandered to the idea she may have been mistaken, that maybe the biopsy results would show otherwise. I waited one week for confirmation from those results. I had an opportunity to go in sooner but my new reality was entirely unfathomable to me, and I made things worse for myself by waiting longer than necessary to learn what lay ahead. I would like to say I faced those days with strength, courage and optimism, but that wasn't the case. I was quite terrified. Every day lasted it's own eternity, pushing through each hour felt just like one of those dreams where you want to run as fast as you can but for some reason can barely move a step forward. A movie reel of different chapters and people in my life played through my mind continuously. My entire life was literally flashing before my eyes. An avalanche of thoughts and memories flooded my mind of everyone I had ever loved, people who had loved me, different experiences, places and moments that have shaped me. Friends and family helped me come to my senses and I finally called to go in and see someone as soon as possible to face the music. I couldn't face another day of waiting.
It was confirmed. I had breast cancer. Ironically, that turned out to be the first day since the 19th, that I felt a sense of hope. I felt a window open and light spill in as my Surgical Oncologist said the words, "Early stage".
I had surgery on Wednesday, February 24th, which went very well. Returning home, I was overcome by immense relief and elation knowing that intrusive mass was no longer residing in, and hijacking my body.
Even further good news, is that on March 3rd I was informed it hadn't spread to my lymph nodes or the surrounding tissue. I feel a sense of victory.. or possibly just 'good fortune', and feel my scars represent that victory (or good fortune..), but I am also still very much on-guard and cautious and not at all ready to allow myself a complete celebration. The next step in this journey involves further tests as well as either chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments sometime in the near future.
The outpouring of support and love from my friends and family have kept my spirits up and given me the strength needed to face this. So far, I feel I may have been given another chance to live a healthy life, in mind, body and spirit. I love my life, and love all the challenges and struggles that have come with it. Every moment feels like a gift and I am overcome with gratitude for the love of my family, friends and even strangers and people I may have only previously known as acquaintances who have shared their story with me and offered their support and friendship. I also realize how fortunate I am to live in a country that provides good healthcare and I am so grateful to my Surgical Oncologist and all the medical folk who have, and are taking good care of me.
I would like to urge everyone to not ignore any signs your body gives you that you need to get something looked at, no matter what is going on in your life otherwise. I delayed visiting a clinic when I knew I should have gone in immediately. Each one of our lives is so fragile, and should never be gambled with. If you have any suspicious symptoms of any kind, go see a doctor. One just helped save my life. My world has completely changed since January 19th. Please take care of yourself.
P.S. I have received a few messages and emails from people asking what first made me go in for a mammogram. The lump was very close to the surface of my skin, it was hard to miss. This is another reason I am incredibly lucky. Had it been growing in a less detectable or obvious area, I never would have noticed it and never would have gone to a walk-in clinic to have a doctor examine me. I might still be sitting here today with it growing inside me. The thought of that horrifies me. Please go get yourselves checked out. The sooner something like this is caught the better!