“I thought I’d never smile again.”
I remember waking up that morning, not sure of what to expect from the breast exam. I hadn’t slept much the night before; I was overwhelmed from spending much of the night tossing and turning until I fell asleep from exhaustion.
I arrived at the women’s center and sat waiting in the mammogram room; it was brightly lit, stark white, with blank walls. The mammogram machine took up most of the room. I was kind of curious to experience the mammogram for the first time. I had heard stories about how your breasts were flattened out between the plates during the exam. How painful I thought as the built up anxiety put knots in my stomach. I was relieved when the nurse walked in and announced that due to my age, I was not a good candidate for the mammogram. They wanted to perform an ultrasound instead and for some reason I felt more relaxed, it just seemed less invasive….if only I could have warned myself of what was to come.
During the exam, I was instructed to lie on my side as the nurse performed the ultrasound. The lump was already painful but it intensified as she rolled and pressed inward with the transducer each time. I strained my neck a few times hoping to see the image on the grainy grey monitor. I’m not sure what I was expecting to see but I was on edge just waiting to hear her assure me it was exactly what they thought it was…a ‘cyst’ but she had a puzzled look on her face. She said nothing, except that she was going to get the doctor. She was concerned….I could tell, and at that very moment, I knew I was in for a wakeup call.
Once the doctor came in and introduced himself, he told me that he wanted to take a look at both breast. Up until that point the nurse had only focused on the one with the existing lump. I took a deep breath and rolled from one side to the next as he navigated around each breast with the transducer, applied more gel, and studied the monitor. The room was ice cold, the only thing warm were the steady streams of tears rolling down my cheeks. I wanted to ask him what he saw but I couldn’t talk, there was a lump in my throat. It’s as if I already knew that whatever it was, it was really bad…really really bad.
Remember that mammogram that I didn’t really qualify for in the beginning? Well know he wanted to perform one. This day was going down the tubes very fast. I walked across the hall and sat waiting for what seemed like forever until the nurse returned and performed the mammogram…it was uncomfortable and just as awful as the stories I had heard about the discomfort. My 9 AM, in and out appointment had now gone on for two hours, finally after a needle biopsy, the doctor said in his professional opinion, he was 99% sure it was C-A-N-C-E-R.
C-A-N-C-E-R?? …My legs began to shake uncontrollably as I sat on the exam table. He replied back “yes, it’s a cancerous tumor that’s approximately 3cm in size based on the markers.” I was weak, I felt like a truck just slammed into me at full speed, and the world began to close in on me.
I was devastated, to say the least but he pulled out the images from the mammogram and walked me through his findings…. I had planned on going to work after my appointment, obviously I couldn’t and after sitting in my car for what seemed like forever, I finally called my mother to share the news.
It’s one of those phone calls that you never want to make. I imagined that the news would be equally as terrifying for her as it was for me. She had lost her own mother to breast cancer several years ago, it was a battle that our family lost and one that I didn’t want her to have to face again. Our telephone conversation was awkward because I mainly let her talk, she was in a good mood that day. I felt guilty about telling her about my appointment. When I finally did, she remained completely silent. I waited for her to reply and when she finally did, she said “Don’t worry, stay strong, we’re going to beat this together.” My mother is a ‘rock’ and the strongest woman I know. She’s always offering advice and spends considerable time helping those less fortunate than herself. She was miles away but I could hear the fear and concern in her voice even though she remained upbeat and reassuring.
I didn’t sleep that first night and because the appointment was at the end of the week, I had to wait until the following Monday to get the results of the pathology report. Worrying about the future is only natural. When cancer stops you in your tracks, you begin to understand that worrying doesn’t make things better especially when you can’t control things. I had to think about what really mattered to me and remain faithful in God because he has the final word.
The scariest part was waiting and being alone with my thoughts. My initial fear was wondering how much time I had left with my son. As a mother you always want to be there for your kids. You give birth and watch them grow up right before your eyes. That first night I was filled with thoughts of not being there to be a part of those special moments in his life. Your dreams begin to shatter, you feel weak, and everything becomes dark, no appetite, no smile, only deep hurt and pain.
Monday came and went, I went to work mainly because it kept me busy enough to not go off the deep end. I have the best coworkers, they have all been so supportive throughout this journey. They kept things as ‘normal’ as possible for me because they knew my appointment had not gone well. It was an uneasy day my nerves were through the roof. I jumped every time my phone rang, in anticipation of that dreadful phone call from the doctor’s office, with the official pathology report to confirm his finding. It never came that day and as anxious as I was to find out, I never called because of fear.
The following day arrived and I went off to work as usual. My eyes were swollen because it had been a tearful night; the insomnia was insane from interrupted sleep but I made it through the day managing to squeeze out a smile here & there to help lighten the mood in the office…the day was mainly a blur. At exactly 4:34pm Tuesday June 3rd I found out that I not only had Invasive cancer but I also had a rapidly growing and aggressive cancer….bullets…that’s how I felt…like bullets had pierced every part of my body. Thank God two my coworkers were concerned enough to come outside, which is where I ran to so that I could take the call in private. They got concerned because I didn’t come back inside. They helped me stand up, because my legs felt like they had caved in as I received the news. They even cried with me but most of all they helped me breathe when I couldn’t catch my breath. That day will continue to remind me to be thankful for everyday of life because it isn’t promised to anyone.