It all started with what I thought might be an infection in my right tit. Back in the late spring or early summer, I noticed a very slight drop of rust-colored discharge (I know, gag) on the tip of my nip one morning. I was totally unconcerned and figured maybe I was recovering from a mild infection in a milk duct after having weaned my youngest son, Eli a few months prior. At some point later in the summer, I noticed it again. This time I decided to do what any good ol’ American would do, and I consulted the internet. Holy shit. Words like “malignancy” and “tumor” and “symptom of breast cancer” were flying at me off of every medical site. Despite learning that what I was experiencing was far from normal and that I should get busy doing a breast self-exam, I still wasn’t alarmed.
I’ve gotta be honest. I never took the self-exam all that seriously prior to this. Foolishly, I thought my age, health, and lack of family history made me exempt. Breast cancer was, frankly, just absolutely no where on my radar. Then one Friday evening in August I casually began feeling around my right boob for lumps. Almost immediately I felt it. A lumpy area. It was hard to know how concerned to be. I mean, breasts are kinda lumpy! I blurted out to my husband that I’d found something. I’ll never forget the look on his face. It was as though I was speaking of something completely insane and impossible.
September 4, 2012: Had an appointment with my midwife “just to check things out”. She wasn’t too concerned, but sent me to have an ultrasound. I was still sure that this was nothing to worry about.
Sept. 12, 2012: Showed up for my ultrasound in my workout clothes expecting to be on the treadmill in an hour. Three hours later I sat in my truck nauseous and trembling. I called my mom and said, “Mom, they think I may have cancer”. After 2 separate ultrasounds and a mammogram, the radiologist had calmly closed the door behind her and asked if I had come alone. WTF?!? I knew what that meant. I told her that I did not have anyone with me as I felt hot, pained tears sliding down my face. She explained that she saw lots of calcifications on the images which made her highly suspicious of cancer. I’d have to have a biopsy to be sure, but that wouldn’t be for nearly 2 weeks!
The following twelve days were a blur of panic, confusion, doubt, denial, fear and more fear. While my mom and husband seemed totally confident that this could not be cancer, I wasn’t so sure. They were not with me when the radiologist hugged me and said she was sorry. They didn’t see the concern in her expression. I tried to be positive and remember that the odds were on my side. Women my age don’t get breast cancer. Right?
Sept. 24, 2012: Had the biopsy. It sucked. I almost fainted. Had to lay down and drink a juice box. I cried. I was told I’d have results at my Dr. appointment 2 days later, if not sooner. I went home and waited. I hoped that no news meant good news. It didn’t.
Sept. 26, 2012: After 2 nerve-wracking days with very little sleep or food, I walked into the appointment that I knew was going to change the rest of my life. My mom was with me. We were made to wait for what felt like years. Finally, this well-respected breast surgeon walked in and told us that the calcifications seen on my mammogram are the “footprints of where cancer has been” in my breast. I don’t remember a whole lot else about that evening. I know I tried not to puke. I tried to keep myself together and not lose it. I tried to stay strong for my mother who looked the most terrified I’d ever seen her. At that moment, I knew her heartache was even worse than mine. We were both in a fog, commenting on how surreal it was. Emilio was waiting for us when we pulled into the driveway. One look at us and he knew. All of that impossibility he was relying on, all of his doubt that this could actually happen to us crumbled before me. We spent the remainder of the evening trying to battle out of the paralyzing cloud of shock looming over and discussing what would be next. This included an MRI the very next morning and a second appointment with the breast surgeon in the afternoon. Needless to say, I had far more tears than rest that night.