As a little girl growing up in the 1970s I loved the Wonder Woman show starring Lynda Carter. She was smart, tough, powerful and battled bad guys with ease and beauty. Nothing could stop her.
Would Wonder Woman get breast cancer? Is she really invincible? Or is crime fighting so all-consuming that she indulges in occasional fast food, doesn't drink the recommended daily 8 glasses of water, counts walking stairs as exercise and procrastinates on scheduling her doctor's appointments?
I'd like to think Wonder Woman has issues like the rest of us. I try to do it all, knowing it's impossible. Something has to give and unfortunately this time it was me.
I found the lump by luck
I guess you could say finding the lump was good luck but right now it's hard to think of this as any kind of good. I was watching tv when I felt it in my left breast. I couldn't help but go to "that place" but Jason tried his best to say don't worry. I told myself it was nothing. It couldn't happen to me. My primary care doctor also did her best to assure me it was likely nothing as she wrote up a referral to get a mammogram and ultrasound.
Like many stories, this one has a lesson: get your mammogram. I had missed a couple years. And who actually remembers to check themselves monthly in the shower? Some days I have a hard time remembering to go to the bathroom.
All that convincing myself it was nothing quickly ended
A week later my boobs are getting smooshed in a machine by a very nice lady. Nice lady reviewed my images with the radiologist and came back twice for additional smooshing. Then the radiologist started measuring and checking things with the ultrasound. I just knew it wasn't good.
"You have two masses in your left breast. The small one is a fibroadenoma and the larger one is suspicious for cancer," said the radiologist. I started crying. Nice lady said it was a perfectly normal reaction. For a second you imagine her witnessing this moment every day. For her it is sadly normal. For me it was like an out of body experience.
I came home and told Jason, sobbing in his arms. It wasn't an official diagnosis but the radiologist's words overwhelmed me. The big kids knew something was wrong. We debated telling them but decided they should know what was going on. It's incredibly hard to tell your kids but even more difficult to sound convincing that you'll be fine when deep inside you're not sure.
The waiting is horrible
Unfortunately my biopsy was on a Thursday so I couldn't get the results until Monday. Four days felt like forty because it was constantly on my mind. I bounced between preparing myself for the worst and holding out hope that it was just a false alarm.
The biopsy was easy until I discovered there's wasn't quite enough anesthesia for the first one- ouch! The needles sounded like an industrial staple gun as they removed worm-like samples from the tumors. Afterwards the radiologist inserted metal markers into my breast to 'mark' the biopsy sites and assured me they would not set off metal detectors. I said it was a government conspiracy to track tax-paying citizens. I'm a big fan of humor as a stress relief.
I learned I had breast cancer in a giant graham cracker box
I work in a beautiful open office and for private phone calls we have a room that is designed to look like a giant graham cracker box. No idea why graham crackers.
I went to work on Monday, July 13 because I was secretly hoping that the results would be benign and I could continue my day like nothing happened. I got the call before my first meeting that morning and stepped into the box to hear the radiologist say, "I'm sorry to tell you that you have invasive ductal carcinoma."
I was numb. I called Jason. I called my mom and dad. I told a few co-workers and friends. And I tried my best to get through the day. I could have gone home but I didn't want to think about it anymore.
The first week post-diagnosis was the longest week of my life
A lot of crying, anger and sadness. We felt like we were turning a corner after getting our littlest's autism diagnosis last fall. I was looking forward to a fun summer and the start of the big kids' last years in high school and middle school. And to see Jason, my best friend and love of my life so worried and upset was hard.
With each day we are doing a little bit better in dealing with this new reality. The kids are doing fine. They don't know yet what's going to happen but really we don't know all of it either. Jason has been amazing as always. Family, friends and co-workers have been incredible. As an introvert I like to keep to myself but I know I need everyone's support and love to get through this.
I have stage 2a invasive breast cancer. It's 2a because the tumor measures about 3 cm and it does not look like it has spread to my lymph nodes. I'll do an MRI this week so the docs can take a closer look.
I have "my team" of doctors that includes a breast surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist and plastic surgeon. They say my best odds for beating this is chemo and surgery. We'll start treatment before the end of August.
Like Wonder Woman I'm going to give it my all. Unlike Wonder Woman I know it won't be easy. At times I'll be scared. And I'm pretty sure I won't be looking so hot without my hair. But at the end of it all I know I'll kick some cancer ass.