Sunday, April 10, 2011

I Have The Breast Cancer

I did.  So should you.
That's right.  I have the Breast Cancer.

One in eight women get the breast cancer.  If there were eight of us in a group, don't worry - its me.

But first, just to bring everyone up to speed since my last post.  I had a mental break down with the stupid scale.  So I quit Weight Watchers, put my scale away and followed paleo pretty strictly.  This went well, felt lots better, clothes fit better.  Then, had a sweet tooth that wouldn't go away with paleo alternatives and well, lets just say that I have a sweet tooth now every freaking day.  Food has been my source of comfort lately and I am steadily gaining weight. Not according to my scale, because it is still put away, but according to the doctor's scale.  Which brings me to my big news.

About 2 months ago I noticed a lump in my left boob.  Didn't think much of it as I have pretty lumpy bumpy boobs.  However, I was having shooting pains, I was itching and there was a bit of an indentation next to the nipple.  I thought it would come and go with my period, but it didn't.  My gut was telling me it was cancer.  At the urging of my friends and family, I went to have it checked out.

My primary care doc, Dr. Rubin, ordered a diagnostic mammogram (a few extra angles than your standard screening mammo) and ultrasound (looks to see if the lump is fluid filled - cyst or solid - tumor).  I had these done on 21 Mar.

The radiologist who did my ultrasound thought that the lump looked like scar tissue from my previous surgery (I had a breast reduction in 1999) or dead fat cells (necrosis), but she couldn't rule out cancer so she suggested a biopsy.  She was able to do it that same day, for which I was grateful.

The biopsy was a ultrasound guided core biopsy.  The radiologist numbed the boob with novicane type stuff and then shot a needle at an angle to the lump and took four chunks (cores) of tissue.  She used what sounded like an ear piercing gun to get the chunks.  My boob was pretty sore for several days and super duper bruised, but other than that (and the severe emotional trauma), it was no big deal.

On Wednesday, 23 Mar, I woke up and couldn't feel the lump. I thought yay!  It was just a cyst and she poked it with her needle during the biopsy and it exploded and went away! I was starting to feel pretty good.  And then around noon I got the call.

It was Dr. Rubin.  She had been trying to reach me since Monday evening (I later learned thats when the results were released).  She asked if I was sitting down.  Still it didn't dawn on me what she was going to say.  I was sitting down - luckily I was working from home.

She said "it looks like it is cancer".

I laughed.  I did.  Inappropriately.

I really don't remember much more of that conversation other than Dr. Rubin was kind and reassuring.  She told me to call the breast clinic at Duke to get an appointment with an oncologist (gulp) and a surgeon (gulp, gulp).  She said not to expect to get in earlier than 2 weeks from now.

WTF????  2 weeks?  Do you know how long that is?

After crying profusely, I called my mom.  And cried more.  Then she cried.  Then I cried more.  And more and more and more.

I composed myself enough to call the breast clinic.  I actually knew one of the breast oncologists at Duke, Dr. Kimberly Blackwell, because I used to work with her when I worked for Duke.  I requested her as my oncologist.  The scheduler said she could see me 13 Apr. They lump all of your appointments together - the oncologist, surgeon and radiologist so it is difficult for a new patient to be seen quickly due to the logistics required.

WTF?????  That is 3 weeks away!!!!  WTF am I supposed to do for 3 weeks?

I then told some of my close friends later that evening - don't remember those conversations.

I took Thursday and Friday off of work (work has been so amazingly supportive).  And I cried and cried and cried.  And laid on my couch in a ball.  And really couldn't find energy to do anything.  I don't remember much about this time.

Eventually, I posted the news on Facebook because I had posted that I was going for a mammo, then I posted about the biopsy and well, people were concerned.

I have subsequently received so many phone calls, texts, emails and visits from friends near, far and long lost offering support of all kinds.  It has been very very overwhelming.  Usually, this is what brings the most tears.

One offer of support was from my work colleagues - our co-worker's husband is a breast oncologist at Duke and she offered to ask him to call in a favor to Dr. Blackwell to see is she could see me sooner.  AND IT WORKED!  Visit was moved to 6 Apr.  OMG OMG OMG.  This is the most awesome thing ever, because the waiting and unknown SUCK SO BAD SO BAD SO BAD!

Mom and Dad were already planning a visit (my family lives in Texas) the week after my biopsy way before we had this news.  So they kept their plans and came for support and to visit.  These visits are usually pretty stressful for me without new cancer news, so while it was great to have them here, I found it to be kind of difficult.  I wanted to entertain, but had zero desire or ability to do so.  However, Mom was able to extend her visit long enough to go to my doctor's appointments with me - super grateful.  Everyone needs their mom in times like these, even at age 37.

I am having lots of trouble with concentrating at work and I'm making mistakes.  I am considering taking some time off of work, but I don't know.

The unknown of whats to come is terrible.  I can't even explain how terrible it is.  My thoughts / feelings are unpredictable.

I'll think, "It's just breast cancer - your totally going to be fine".

Or, "Its just breast cancer - you are weak for being scared because it is totally treatable"

Or I'll think, "You can totally beat this!"

Or I'll think "I'm going to die".

And sometimes each hour or minute will vacillate between dying and fighting.  Today I wondered how long it might take for me to die if I refused treatment.  I have also thought whats the point in saving a fat body.  Its terrible and I wish I could stop.  I don't sleep well because these kinds of thoughts wake me up.  I have been assured that once I have a plan, things will get better.  I hope so, because this sucks big fat donkey you know what.

I've found that yard work or house work helps quiet my cancer thoughts.  And not talking to people.  But I know the latter will not be good for me long term.  Sigh.  I will have to learn how to be OK with asking for help.

Next post - visit with my treatment team...I'm overwhelmed from the information and possibilities from this visit.  I still have no plan - so more unknowns.  Yay.

P.S.  THANK YOU SO MUCH to my friends and family for all of the calls and messages.  I am sorry if I haven't / don't get back to you.  Its not because I don't care, but probably because I just don't have it in me to talk about it or to pretend I don't have the cancer and not talk about it.  Please don't stop calling or messaging - I NEED THIS and I re-look at and listen to them when its hard.


  1. Lots of love to you Mel. You're not alone in this, we are all here for when you need us. xoxo

  2. I'm glad to see you're blogging again. It was great seeing you last week and I hope to see you this week! Miss you.

  3. Sending enormous loads of love your way. I don't know what else to say but just know that I've joined the army of people rooting for you :)

  4. We're all with you EVERY step of the way. You ARE going to kick cancer's ass :-) MUCH LOVE.

  5. Thank you for sharing all of that, Melinda... I know how hard it must be to talk about it. Just know that I love you and am here for you whenever you want/need me. I KNOW you will fight this. You are so strong... The cancer has nothing on you! xoxox -Misch

  6. Melinda! My long lost friend!
    My heart goes out to you! I am so sorry you're having to deal with this! But you can beat it!!! I promise to keep you in my thoughts and prayers! And I will be with you every step of the way!

  7. Love you Melinda! So happy to see you writing this - keep thinking the kick ass thoughts - you know my Motto - KATN (Kick Ass, Take Names). PS I made a sweet potato pie yesterday with the texture of cheesecake...would LOVE to bring you a piece sometime :-D

  8. PS The last comment was from me - Sara C. - somehow it went through as Hope? No idea - but I think it means something. xoxox and Cheerio, Sara

  9. I love you so much, Mo, and am so glad you're blogging again. I wish for you more good days than bad while you're waiting on the plan and then being easily able to handle all that plan has in store. I want my beautiful, healthy and happy daughter around for a long, long time and will be with you (either in NC or TX) every step of the way.

  10. Melinda, you are in my heart and on my mind. You have always been an inspiration and one of the bravest people I have ever known. This post is honest and true and that takes bravery. Know that I'm thinking about you.

    Becky N.

  11. Melinda, I love you and I'm so sorry.

  12. Sending loads of love and strength. You are an amazing lady. This is just one more thing you are going to overcome.

  13. We have 25 years of shananigans and have so many many more years of debatchery (sp?) to go! We are going to be a bunch of old hags doing our "girly" trips to casinos and searching for the best early bird specials!! Love and strength to the strongest person I know. And yes, strong people cry too. Love you and looking forward to the tattoo cover up! Erin