Sorry for any typos there might be. My right arm still isn’t at its best.
So, it’s been a month since I had the mammogram that showed two lumps in my right breast. They were small, so small that three manual exams by my gyn and one previous mammogram had been unable to detect them. They caused me many symptoms all the same, and had been doing so for far longer than I like to think. I knew there was something wrong, but I had no idea it was something so serious. This was my fourth visit to the doctor for this problem.
On the day of the mammogram, the radiologist tried not to broadcast to me that she believed it was cancer. However, I’m a pretty intuitive person and I picked up on it. She told me I needed a biopsy, but that if the diagnosis was positive she assured me that the cancer appeared to be low grade, slow-growing.
The day of the mammogram was probably my most emotional day of this entire journey. I was shocked that they’d found something. I thought this visit to the doctor would be like all the rest. “The mammogram/my examination shows nothing. Your symptoms are probably due to poly cystic changes.” Instead I saw the tumors for myself and got words like “biopsy” and “low grade.” I was terrified.
I’ve had cancer scares previous to this one, so I dealt with it the same way I had before, with meditation and mindfulness. I created a sort of in-the-moment zen bubble. It’s my best coping strategy and I remain in it to this day…and will for many more. I was a mess that first day, but then managed to get my mind and emotions under control.
I’m not really all that afraid of death. (If there’s one thing an experience like this will do is put you nose-to-nose with the reality that one day you’re going to die.) Obviously, I don’t want to die, but what I really fear is leaving my daughter motherless. She’s adopted and has already lost one mother. The thought of her losing another is absolutely heartbreaking and horrifying for me. This is the fear I need to reconcile.
When the biopsy results came back positive, I wasn’t surprised. I had been hoping to dodge this, but no luck this time. I had the name of a highly recommended surgeon and I made arrangements to meet with him. I already knew that, in my case, a mastectomy of my right breast was the best choice. My radiologist had termed it, “the more definitive option,” instead of using the word “mastectomy,” but I prefer to call a spade, a spade.
Before my diagnosis, the thought of a mastectomy was appalling. After my diagnosis, it was the only thing I wanted done. It’s funny how things change when you know you have cancer inside of you. You’ll do anything to get it OUT. NOW.
My husband kept (and keeps) reassuring me that I would still be attractive after the operation, not to worry about that part of it, but my head wasn’t there. How I would look in a bikini was the last thing on my mind. MY BOOB IS TRYING TO KILL ME. GET IT OFF. That’s how I felt. If I could have had a mastectomy on the day of my diagnosis, I would have.
I couldn’t have a mastectomy right away, though. I had to wait two weeks. Which, considering, wasn’t that long.
It felt like forever.
I am 39 and don’t have a family history of any kind of cancer. Over the last few years I have greatly improved my diet and health and I’ve always been conscious of chemicals in food. I don’t know how I contracted this disease. I am told that for 75% of people who get cancer, it’s this way.
That said, in those two weeks, I not only cultivated a sitting meditation practice and became adept at maintaining the purest form of mindfulness I have ever been able to achieve, I also took a look at the toxic substances in my life and began researching ways to replace them with natural compounds. I started juicing fruits and vegetables as well.
Food is source of great concern for me now. Before I ate for enjoyment in large part, now I treat food as medicine. Nothing goes into my body that doesn’t nourish me in some fundamental way. I eat no fruit or vegetable that isn’t organic. I will probably never eat anything processed ever again, nothing with chemicals or unpronounceable compounds of any kind. I will probably never drink alcohol again. Maybe, eventually, red wine.
Basically my new rules for eating go this way: 1.) consume nothing for which there is a commercial. 2.) consume nothing that isn’t organic. 3.) consume nothing that doesn’t serve my health in a needful way.
I had already replaced some household cleansers with natural ones, but now I threw everything I wasn’t sure of. I dumped all my makeup, my face and body creams, deodorant, hair care products, everything….and replaced all of them with safer options.
I don’t know what caused this cancer, so I need to change as much about my environment as I can…so I NEVER have to go through this again.
The day of my surgery came and I was calm, floating in my little bubble of zen cool. The anesthesia made me dream, so strange. I woke in recovery thinking I was waking up in my own bed (if only)!
I’m pretty sure there’s a book in here somewhere and, one day, I’ll probably write it. This was my second attempt to start a journal of my experiences, however. The first time damaged my calm state of mindfulness big time. So, I think the book (whatever form that will take…probably fiction) will be for down the road a bit.
So, yes, it’s been about a week since my surgery and I’m doing really, really well. I’m in pain, of course, but I’m healing. We got the cancer before it made it to my lymph nodes. Obviously, that’s super awesome. I do still have a phantom boob once in a while, but that phantom boob has pain, so I’m thankful when it goes away. I do still look down occasionally and wonder where the hell my breast went. I find this kind of humorous rather than sad.
I am so, so thankful we caught this early. To think I almost didn’t ask my doctor about my symptoms that day, since I’d asked so many times before and they’d found nothing. To think I almost didn’t do that and she would never have ordered a second mammogram…..no, I’m very grateful.
And I have a recommendation for an apparently great reconstructive surgeon, so in six months I’ll have a new boob…and whole brand new rack, probably, and all this will be in my rearview mirror.