Breast cancer. We hear about it, see campaigns for awareness and prevention and know someone who knows someone who had it. We never think it can be our reality.
As some of you read in a previous blog of mine back in May, I had done a biopsy which came back negative for cancer.
However there was always, as I was told, a “very slim chance” that they did not take the correct tissue due to a large hematoma. This meant another mammogram and subsequently another and much more invasive biopsy.
Let me backtrack a little to allow everyone to understand what it was like for me at that moment in time. On Wednesday May 25th I returned for said mammogram and had a horrible gut-feeling that it would show that the clips they placed with the first biopsy was in fact not in the right place and another biopsy would be required. I saw the look on the technicians face and knew that I was in fact correct and what I was about to face. She looked at me, as I was welling up with tears and said, “Please come with me and I’ll go get Carole who will need to speak with you”. Carole is the head nurse of the breast centre and she coordinates all biopsies. She is the kindest woman and after 45 minutes of waiting for her, she took me into her Pink room and said that I would have the biopsy within 48 hours. Friday May 27th at 8am. I left her room, kept it all together as I walked back to my car. I was alone at this appointment. My husband thought all would be ok. He hoped. It was not.
Biopsy is completed and then the waiting, again, the waiting. I had to get the results from my surgeon who would call me Monday, June 6th at 8:08am to tell me, “Sherri, the results have come back and there is cancer. It must come out. I will see you in my office tomorrow morning to review everything. Bring your bodyguard (he joked that my Hubby was my bodyguard). I brought Husband with me. We sat in the office and heard the surgeon explain that he would remove not only the tumour but a large part of my breast tissue to ensure that all was taken. I stayed composed. We walked out of the building and I cried. A lot. I cried all day in fact. It was not so much that I cried for myself but rather for my husband as he had just buried his father. I cried for my parents who had to deal with the fear of their youngest daughter dealing with CANCER. Mostly, I cried for my children. They are little. I made a promise to them that I was going to raise them. ME! It was me that was their mother. Truthfully, I could not handle the thought of not being the one to raise them. OK, get a grip. One step at a time. These were words I repeated to myself, often.
Surgery date came. July 15th my surgeon did has he said, he removed the tumour and a large portion of my left breast. I had a partial mastectomy and one lymph node removed. Again, the waiting. In an effort to be proactive and prepare myself mentally with what could be, I chopped 6 inches off my hair so I would not go from long hair to bald (in the event of chemo). My closest friends and I attempted to determine what kind of schedule I could create once my daughter was in Kindergarten. My daughter, this sweet 51/2 year old angel was about to embark on the next huge milestone of her life. Could her Mamma be present and healthy for it? I had to be. It was imperative that I not disrupt her rhythm. My son was going back to the same daycare which meant more stability, love and consistency for him, thank God!
I am in the office for an assessment of my scar and the Doc tells me the results are in. If I had not been sitting, I likely would have fallen over. The results were not supposed to be in yet. News was supposed to wait until I could hear them with Husband, my rock. The tissue removed had cancer, all of it. He would need to see treatment options with a tumour board. These strangers were going to decide my fate. AGAIN, waiting.
August 18th I saw the Radiation Oncologist and to sum it up, he told me that radiation would not change my chance of recurrence. It would however impede reconstruction, should that be required in the future, so it would be best not to do it. He told my husband and I, you are now CANCER FREE! Wrap your head around what you have gone through and go live! Be diligent as I have high chances of getting breast cancer again but don’t let it consume me.
This is the thing, when we are being followed and surrounded by experts and a lot of love we don’t have time to think. Everyone has asked me how I can be strong? That I am this uncommon superwoman that beat cancer without it ever showing or affecting anything in my life. What many don’t see or what I do not let show is that once the dust settles no one has a handbook of how to feel or think once the circus leaves town! I am a mixed bag of emotions, almost daily.
My title now is Breast Cancer Survivor, but what did I survive? I did not battle. I was not in chemo. I did not have radiation. I had surgery that has left me disfigured but no one sees that. It is a strange thing for me.
The scar is mine and I wear it proudly, as it could have been so much worse. But I have to share, the disfigurement of my breast is a constant reminder of what I had to overcome the last 6 months. It reminds me that someone said to me, “you have cancer Sherri”. It reminds me that while my husband was mourning the loss of his father he was dealing with his wife being diagnosed with breast cancer. It reminds me that my children could be left without their mother; my parents without their daughter; my dreams not fulfilled; my business not being taken to the next level of success; my friendships snuffed out just as I was enjoying them; entering the peak of my life. However, the scar reminds me that I survived the surgery; the cancer; my biggest fear; that I can now soak up every opportunity with my children.
There is still one reality, in that I must WAIT for my mother’s BRCA 1 & 2 (gene mutation to indication chances of getting both breast and ovarian cancer) results to know if I must get tested; if she is positive I must get tested. We were told if she is negative, no testing required for me. So we pray, I pray often that a negative diagnosis is given so I can finally fully & completely close this chapter of my colourful book.
The struggle is real though, and sometimes it consumes me.
The silver lining is that since I went public with this, I have had many women tell me that they have gone for mammograms that they would not have done otherwise. It has also shown me who my real friends are and surprised me in the most delightful way! My vulnerability does not make me weak. In fact, I know that it has made me stronger than ever before.
So as we enter October, BREAST CANCER AWARENESS month and the Jewish New Year I am blessed to celebrate with other survivors and I keep sharing my story. I also relish in the fact that I am healthy enough to enjoy another new year with my loved ones. Life will be great again.