Survivorship – Day 7

Last Monday I was diagnosed with breast cancer. By the time I was in the doctor’s office, six days after my biopsies, wearing that stupid cotton poncho with the snaps up the front I knew she was going to say those words. I don’t think I even flinched when I heard them, or when she said that the lymph nodes also contained cancer cells. The doctor left the room so I could get dressed and we could talk.

She came back in carrying a pink and black tote bag full of books and pamphlets and a binder. She even had a breast cancer flow chart. If x then y, if a then b, etc. It is color-coded. As if we dress all this up it will seem less scary. Frankly, her bag could have been made of porcupine skin, quills intact, and it wouldn’t have been any worse.

She used words like mastectomy, chemotherapy, “you aren’t a candidate for lumpectomy.” People keep asking me what I have, what happens next, how am I feeling, what stage is the cancer in. So here’s what I know.

I have invasive ductal carcinoma, which is the most common form of breast cancer. I have it in 2 quadrants of my left breast, which means I’m a) an overachiever, and b)not a candidate for lumpectomy. I had an MRI on March 1st, the results of which I’ll get tomorrow. I will have a PET Scan maybe this week. I don’t know if she is going to recommend surgery first or chemo first. I had genetic testing done last Tuesday for the breast cancer gene. If I test positive the dr. says she will recommend a double mastectomy and to take my ovaries because the risk of cancer in the other breast and ovaries is 60% if I have the gene. I will make no decisions until I have more information and a second opinion.

We told the kids last Wednesday. It went as well as something like that can go. It’s just a conversation I never thought I would be having with them. I eat kale, for God’s sake. In fact, I’ve made a list of all the reasons I didn’t think I could get cancer. Here it is:

1. I’m 37.
2. I do yoga and meditate.
3. I haven’t eaten meat in three years.
4. I barely eat any dairy products.
5. My lumps hurt. The rumor is that malignant tumors don’t hurt.
6. My lumps are movable.
7. I eat kale, collard greens, chard and seaweed.
8. I maintain a healthy weight and percentage of body fat.
9. I didn’t menstruate early and clearly am not in late menopause.
10. I breastfed for a total of five years and had three babies. Each year of nursing is supposed to decrease your risk by 15%, each pregnancy by 7%.

As you can see, it’s a long list. But the list doesn’t matter. And if those things prevented cancer or bad habits caused cancer I wouldn’t have cancer. So instead of fixating on how the fuck this happened (excuse the cussing, I’m sure there will be more) I am going to concentrate on healing.

Everyone says I’m strong and that I’ll kick cancer’s ass. They use words like fighting and beating. Those words don’t really work for me. I hate fighting. So I’ve been thinking of the words that are meaningful for me. I’ve been thinking about how those cancer cells aren’t foreign invaders. They’re part of me, cells that got confused.

One of my teachers used the parable of the missing sheep from the Bible. The shepherd left the flock unattended in search of one missing sheep, because every sheep was so loved and important he had to find that one and bring it back. That’s how I see these cells. They don’t need me to be pissed at them. What we resist persists. Instead they need me to nurture them and help them either become part of the whole flock again, or invite them to leave my body peacefully. Preferably in a hurry.

Thanks for your support and prayers. I am learning to rely on other people to help me A LOT. It has been a blessing. Please keep praying, and I’ll try not to write a novel the next time I post!

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