There I was, sitting at the dining room table in September 2018 and I felt something weird at the top right side of my chest. I usually get several mammograms a year because I am high risk for breast cancer, but they have always come back negative. However, this time was different; it felt different. I told my husband, “I think I need to get a mammogram sooner rather than later.” See, my annual was scheduled for the beginning of October. However, I did not think I should wait because I had missed my last mammogram. Because of that, I was able to move my appointment up.
September 17, 2018, I went in for my annual mammogram and everything went as it normally does. Got the girls squashed, was given a pink rose, and sent on my way! The next morning, I was eating my eggs and the phone rang. A doctor from Methodist Hospital stated they had found something and I needed to return to the imaging center immediately. Mind you, my husband was at work and I had four kids at home. I told her that I would see what I could do. I called Santos and relayed what I had been told. He told me he was leaving and he would pick us up. We would then head straight to the imaging center. So off we went.
The Start of a Long Day
We arrived at the imaging center within an hour. I went back to get another 3D mammogram (as I had previously had the day before). Santos and the kids were in the waiting room. The nurse came to my room and said they wanted to do a double ultrasound. This was normal for me, so I was not worried. I have dense tissue and I always get ultrasounds after mammograms.
When the ultrasound was done, the nurse told me if everything was fine, she would let me know I could go. I sat there waiting, texting Santos until the nurse came out and said, “I am very sorry, but the radiologist needs to speak with you.” My heart sank and I started to panic inside while holding my composure on the outside. She took me into the radiology consulting room where I waited alone.
The radiologist finally came in and sat down. She said, “I am sorry to tell you this, but you have cancer.” She let me know that she had to get biopsies to pathology for an official diagnosis, but that I had cancer at 12 o’clock, a suspicious mass at the 7 to 8 o’clock area, and some thickened lymph nodes. She told me it would be a tough couple of years to come, but that I was strong and would make it through. Now I started crying. I asked if my kids could stay in the waiting room, so my husband could come back to sit with me. I needed to fill him in on what was happening. They accommodated my request.
So my husband came back and asked what was wrong. Now I had to break the news, I had cancer. I shared with him what the radiologist had said to me. I told him how sorry I was that I had put this burden on our family. Not that he felt that way, and he told me he did not, but I felt the burden immediately. I worried about our foster daughters and what would happen with them. Would they have to be removed? Would I be able to care for them? How would I tell my boys, foster daughters, and my daughter? The thoughts were endless.
The radiologist came back in and offered to do my biopsies as soon as she finished with her last patient of the day, so we decided to wait. We took the kids to lunch and waited on a call that the radiologist was ready. When we heard back from the imaging center, we headed back and told the kids I had one more test to do. I had three biopsies done around 3:30/4:00 p.m. My husband, our kids, and I were at that imagining center for seven hours that day. They told me it would be about a week before I would get my results.
Sharing the News
That night was a struggle for everyone. I had just heard some crushing news and was preparing myself for the fight of a lifetime. My husband had to process the emotions of yet another person he loves having to fight cancer. Finally, the kids… as I said earlier, we were together at the imaging center for seven hours that day. Kids being intuitive, they knew something was wrong but did not know what.
My boys and foster daughters couldn’t sleep, all the kids kept asking, “What is wrong? Why were we there all day? What were you doing?” As parents, we wanted to shield them from the news and the pain it would cause. We could see that they were going through turmoil, but they could not understand why.
The kids were lying in bed having a difficult time sleeping. My husband and I discussed whether we should get them up and explain what had happened. We decided it was in all our best interest to have a family discussion about the situation. So, Santos and I got the kids up, sat down in the living room, and told them what was going on. We wanted to reassure them that we were going to do our best to ensure that their schedules would stay the same. We all had a good little cry, and off to bed we went! Next up was the call to my daughter. Dun dun dun…
The next day I called my daughter to tell her what was going on. It was not an easy conversation. We have always been close, but sharing that news was tough; both for me to say and for her to hear. The conversation lasted a while and I kept reassuring her that I would be fine. We shared some tears and said I love you, then got off the phone. It was time to speak with my sister-in-law to talk about my official results.
I discussed all of this with my sister-in-law who works at the Mays Cancer Center where we live, and she tried to help me get my results which took two weeks. Finally, my PCP was able to get a verbal result from pathology. She scheduled a Teladoc appointment to discuss the results with me. She told me that I had DCIS Stage II and that it was the better of the breast cancer types to have. I was relieved to hear that! Later, I spoke with my sister-in-law because she had the results. I told her what my PCP had told me, and she said that pathology must not have given her the full report over the phone. She continued to inform me that yes, I had DCIS Stage II, but I also had advanced invasive metastatic breast cancer Stage III. Really, come on!
My sister-in-law was integral in getting me in to see my cancer team at Mays Cancer Center. Due to her help, I was seen within a week. I saw my oncologist, radiation therapist, and oncology surgeon all on the same day. It felt like a dream…and not the good kind! They were setting me up for all sorts of tests. This was the beginning…
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