That time I had breast cancer.

WP_20150912_003Excuse the appearance of this site. I want to start a new blog just about life stuff because I am tired of trying to figure out where to post stuff that isn’t parenting(which I rarely update anyhow) and isn’t beauty related (uh, which I rarely update anyhow). So I’m starting this one and I don’t have the gumption at the moment to prettify it but I will!

Another reason I am starting this is because I could just update via Facebook but not everyone is ON Facebook or checks Facebook and this way if you really want the updates as they happen and in detail, you can subscribe and I’ll give them to you.

So now here is a detailed history of what is going on and what I know, etc.

About a month ago, mid-August, I was taking a shower at my Mom’s house and found a lump in my breast. It was maybe a little larger than a shelled peanut at “at the 12 o’clock position” to use the ultrasound technician’s parlance. I immediately contacted my physician who said that if it was going to ruin my vacation (which we had JUST started and which would last three weeks), I could go get a mammogram on the East Coast. Otherwise, I could wait until I returned. I did occasionally think of the lump in vacation but chose to wait till I was back in Seattle to have the tests done.

I saw my doctor and got a breast exam and although she thought the lump felt like normal tissue, she said she thought it warranted follow up and referred me for a mammogram and ultrasound. I’d never had a mammogram before and heard some horror stories, but it turned out to be a piece of cake. During the ultrasound, the technician asked me to identify where the lump I felt was, because she saw some other odd spots at the 11 o’clock position that she thought looked suspicious. The radiologist reviewed the photos and agreed that the spots the tech saw, although very small, were suspicious and needed follow up. He said often the recommendation would be for follow up mammograms at six-month intervals, but since I have a family history (my great aunt died of breast cancer), he suggested a biopsy, which had the added benefit of immediate information. I agreed to that and it was scheduled for the following day.

I stupidly went in for it on my own. Because they called it a “needle biopsy,” I thought it would be NBD. Additionally, although I kind of wanted Julian to go with me, I did not want to ask him to take off work, and he did not think about doing so. So in I go, la di da, and hey, there’s a table full of medical equipment covered by a towel! That was my first clue that maybe it wouldn’t be as easy as I initially thought. When I laid down on the table I suddenly felt so sad, and so scared, looking at a ceiling I didn’t know, surrounded by people I didn’t know, that I started crying. The nurse/ultrasound technician was totally taken aback and mistook my sadness for fear, and told me she’d put a stat in on the results so I’d know right away. So score there!

The doctor was super nice. He gave me a bunch of anesthetic shots, each of which was slightly painful. Then he did the biopsy, but I guess the anesthesia didn’t work properly because I could feel it and it hurt like hell. Then my stupid vasovagal response kicked in and I thought I was going to vomit. Severe nausea, cold sweats, clammy hands, etc. It’s a good thing I was already lying down.

Afterward they gave me apple juice and I had another mammogram. Everyone was super duper nice and helpful. I got to see the samples and they were basically the width of spaghetti noodles, so you know how big that needle must have been!

Thursday night I dreamed of my Dad. He’d been on my mind a lot lately, though I’m not sure why. I had two different dreams – in one, my whole family needed to go to some event and my Dad was worried I didn’t have an outfit to wear so ironed one of my Mom’s and very seriously gave it to me. I never saw my Dad pick up an iron in the 32 years I knew him. In the other, I got into some sort of a tussle at a drug store in DC when someone tried to pickpocket me and I beat him up. His partner told me she was going to follow me home (I’d walked, I guess some distance) and kill me. The dream took a bunch of twists and turns but in the end, my Dad showed up – again, very serious – and drove me home in his car, assuring me that she wouldn’t know the car and would not see me or know where I lived.

When I woke up Friday morning – the day we were expecting/hoping for the biopsy results – I felt fairly sure I had cancer. The dreams, to me, were my father visiting me and although his seriousness indicated that I was ill, his compassion and caretaking indicated everything would be okay, that he had my back. I smiled and cried as I lay in bed, thanking my Dad for the heads up and support.

At 1:30, when the doctor called, I was not surprised to learn that I have breast cancer. Frankly, I think HE was a little surprised by my easygoing response! He said the spots were very small and he expected the treatment would be lumpectomy. I was to call and schedule an appointment to meet with the breast surgeon (which I did – I see him Tuesday, on what would have been my Dad’s 71st birthday). Later in the day I tried to call the doctor who had done the biopsy, and who I had spoken with, back, and no one at the Polyclinic could find his information…?!? The breast imaging department had also departed for the day, so they were not there to help me track him down. In the end, I spoke with my own primary care physician and got a little more info. The spots, while very small, are a “bad” type of cancer. They are ductal, but a type of cancer that is most prone to spreading, and spreading quickly to lymph nodes, etc. That said, the margins around the sample appear to be clear, so while they have the potential to spread, it does not appear they have so far done so.

For our anniversary this year, Julian surprised me by buying from my mother my father’s – previously my grandfather’s – 1963 Porsche 356, and having it shipped here to Washington. Many of my early memories of my father include riding with him in that car, or hanging out with him while he worked on it. When Julian drove me to the garage where it was being repaired and I laid eyes on it, I immediately began sobbing. It was like seeing my Dad again – and for those who don’t know, my Dad and I had a very complicated relationship. Seeing this car brought to mind all good, happy, loving memories of my Dad. I was absolutely delighted. Yesterday, the day that the biopsy results came back, Julian got a call from the garage – the car was ready to come home. He drove it home yesterday, and when he brought the 50 year-old manual inside and opened it, inside the first two pages was a perfectly preserved, dried four-leaf clover.

Am I scared? A little. Do I think this is going to beat me? Not a chance in hell. I have the best, most amazing friends and family, and clearly a “guardian angel” in the form of my Dad – though you better believe no one who knew him when he was alive would have ever used “George” and “angel” in the same sentence. You know what, though? I’d rather have a guardian angel who is a badass. Cancer, you better run, bitch, because the Stitelers are going to take your ass down.

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