I am the one in 8 women

Updated: Feb 19, 2018

The last two months have been nuts to say the least. How did this journey begin? Well I felt something. I felt something was NOT right. I felt a ball in my right armpit that was not in my left. I had my husband Shane confirm what I was feeling. He too felt it. Your internal red flag goes up in situations like this. My immediate thought, “need to make an appointment.” That was Thursday, Feb 11th. Life gets in the way and I didn’t make the appointment till the following Thursday, the 18th. It’s important to share this truth. Because at the core this is what cancer brings with it, a big red flag to say, “STOP! Put yourself first.” This is what I would later learn has been a gift when being told you have breast cancer. I should have called the next day. But making it is the goal. A week later is better than never or putting it off longer. Note {1st of many that will be listed} Set an alarm and make the appointment before life gets in the way.

The APPOINTMENT was set for the following Tuesday, February 23rd. The crazy part was when I walked into Planned Parenthood, I was told by the receptionist I had the wrong day. Sorry about to step up on the soapbox. Politicians, especially male senators and congressmen should stay out of women’s health. Women’s bodies are complicated and preventative screening and detection healthcare is so very important. I am a supporter of Planned Parenthood and what they offer to the community. Ladies if you don’t want it taken away from us and the many people who use it, support them by letting your senator or congressman know with a letter or a vote for the other politician that will support the mission. Unless these men formed a vagina and breasts recently, they need to step off. Sorry I derailed. I’ll get off the soapbox now. I get very passionate about certain things. My appointment in their system was for the following Tuesday, March 1st. I pressed to have an appointment. My red flag was really waving. I was not going to take a no. I certainly wasn’t going to wait till next week. The receptionist the very first angel, saw my distress and was able to set an appointment at another location later in the day. I drove directly there.

My exam was going to be the full kit. Pap and BREAST EXAM. We got the pap out of the way and then she examined me. She started with the ball in my right armpit. Her words so clearly still in my head, burned into my brain, “You were right in coming in. You are right in your concern.” The tears began to slowly come. She then began to examine my right breast and pressed down on what felt like a lump. “Another lump,” I thought. “Oh holy crap.” There was the source. Now her red flag was set off. You could tell she didn’t want to alarm me. She asked, “How long has this been here?” I said, “You just found it for me.” The tears coming even more now. Planned Parenthood Nurse Practitioner, LizBeth is one of the many angels on my journey. She quickly made an appointment to get a MAMMOGRAM at a facility that could also do an ULTRASOUND and BIOPSY if needed. She followed up with me a week after I got my diagnosis. It was just two weeks after I saw her. There are good people in healthcare. Be good to the one’s who really care. You can’t miss them. They stand out.

The mammogram is the second screen after self exam. A Ultrasound is the third step when the mammogram is not conclusive. The Ultrasound is used to confirm and measure. But it’s the fourth step, the biopsy, that really will get to the root of what is wrong. A sample of the mass will be examined by a pathologist and their confirmation will determine whether the journey has ended or just beginning. Note- Don’t let anyone tell you it’s fine, come back in a few months. I will be an advocate for breast biopsies. Your instincts will never lie to you. Be silent and it will scream out at you and wave the red flag high in the air. So until you have a Pathologist determine it’s benign, don’t take the “it’s fine, let’s check back in a few months.”

I called Shane on the way home in tears. Nothing prepares you for the ride home. Another Note- If you feel something and make an appointment, take someone for support. Just in case. The drive home would have been better and safer if someone else was driving. I was in complete shock. One hand on the wheel and the other on my right breast.

Thursday, February 25th - The Mammogram and Ultrasound. It sucks. But it’s got to be done. Self check everyday. In the shower. Learn about your family history and your risk. Share your history with your doctor, your nurse practitioner, ask your doctor when you should have your first mammogram and determine how often. If your mom or an aunt from either side of your parents had breast cancer, your risk is higher. I didn’t know that I had family history. My father’s generation didn’t talk about women’s health. I put it out on my families social media and the answers came in. My Aunt died in her 70’s of untreated breast cancer. Knowledge is power and family history is important in screening and prevention. So use my story as your motivation. Since finding out, I’ve had two of my closet girlfriends get a mammogram that wasn’t already on their calendar or was past due. The care I received from Nancy, the mammogram technician who has been doing mammograms for 30+ years helped to keep my jitters in place. You realize there are angels all around us. I thank my angels for having her with me that day.

Mammograms or an ultrasound results can be same day if there is a radiologist on hand at the imaging center. When setting up an appointment and choosing a facility, keep in mind to 1) ask if the imagining center has a radiologist that can read your scan at the facility same day? If not, what is the turnaround time? And 2) make an AM appointment. Afternoon appointments you may have to wait because the radiologist has left for the day. If there is a possibility to get same day results, it diminishes the “mind” waiting room. I had to wait to the following Monday to get my results. I had the whole weekend to just spin in my mind. Key was for me was meditation, meditation and more meditation. Deepak and his affirmations was and is still getting me through this.

Tuesday, March 1st - RESULTS of mammogram and ultrasound confirmed to get a biopsy. No surprise. Well I knew this was going to be the next step. I had already scheduled a visit with Pink Lotus Breast Center in Beverly Hills to review my results. If a biopsy was needed. This was where I was going to start. A breast center a close friend suggested. But first a little but HUGE back story. My insurance was not going to kick in till April 1st. So all diagnostics prior to this was out of pocket. Between the mammogram and ultrasound I was down just under $500. But this consultation with the surgical doctor was going to be $300 plus the cost of the biopsy another $400. That doesn’t include the pathology which would be billed from the lab. I haven’t even received that bill but I was quoted $700 to a $1000. So for now I was going to only biopsy the mass in my breast. It was the root and start from a logical stand point. Note- Review your health insurance plan. As we get older, our plans will need to have a different set of guidelines.

Wednesday, March 2nd - The following day I got my RESULTS of the biopsy confirmed that I had INVASIVE DUCTAL CARCINOMA. Say that five times fast. I swear it took me a month to say those three words together. It’s the most diagnosed, treated and cured breast cancers of all the breast cancers. As my father in law who has beaten cancer himself said, “You will be the quarterback of your team. You’ll win some and lose some.” I took this news as a game win for my first freshman rookie season game. Once diagnosed your signed to at least a 5 year contract of making sure your body stays cancer free. I lost in pre-season and hope the rest of this journey, I will win more than lose. Two other major test results that would help to determine my treatment protocol would not be confirmed till Monday, March 7th. Back into the “mind” waiting room. If we stick with the sports metaphor, I was back into the locker room to prep for the next game.

The first part of this journey, the DIAGNOSIS was in... I am the ONE in 8 Women who will get BREAST CANCER in their Lifetime. The next part of my story is about family, friends and my community. How do I move forward? How do we as a family move forward?Cancer sucks. Although like I mentioned above it bears and has brought gifts with it too. It’s a matter of seeing them and having the clarity to see that there are also blessings in this messed up disease. I will give it the respect it deserves. In those early days, weeks I didn’t know what this meant for me. But I realized quickly when looking at my family, I was not going