I’ve opted for this method to tell my greater circle of friends and family the news that I have breast cancer. It has been so overwhelming coming to terms with this, and having to tell people over and over. Watching faces register shock, concern, worry… answering questions, getting stories and advice. News spreads fast however, and I want to keep everyone who knows and loves us, “abreast” of the situation at hand.
This is how the story goes…
In late January, as I reached for something, my arm brushed against my breast and I noticed a little tenderness. I found a small lump in my left breast. I wasn’t too concerned because surely this was nothing but a swollen lymph gland. I had been struggling with a lung infection all winter, plus I had a root canal on the left side of my mouth, and thought it was probably related. I called my gyno in February and the soonest they could get me in was May. I didn’t mention the lump when I called, because… it was nothing. It was going to go away on its own.
A day after my annual exam, I was ordered to get an ultrasound… then a mammogram. Then, a biopsy the following Tuesday. The biopsy was not at all pleasant, but by Friday of that same week, on May 16th, 2014, I learned that I did indeed have breast cancer.
There are different types of breast cancer. Some have hormone receptors and can be treated with hormone therapy. This nasty bugger did not. It is what they call, a “triple negative breast cancer”.
“I’m sorry Melissa, but the only way we can treat this is with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.” This type of cancer is known to be aggressive and has a high chance of reoccurrence within the next 3-5 years. The good news is that I found it early and it’s a Stage 1 cancer. I had a second opinion with a highly accomplished surgeon and oncologist at the Sloan Kettering Cancer center in NYC. Coming to terms, more conversations, more tears….
This is as bad as it will get right?
Then last Monday came the results from my genetic testing. There is a history of breast cancer in my family, so a test for BRCA1 and BRCA2 was ordered. I was sure that my test would be negative since a few of my relatives were tested and found negative. NOT in my case. I carry the BRCA1 gene mutation which means that the chances of another breast cancer or ovarian cancer are very high. Both doctors I’ve met with are strongly recommending a double mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy a month later.
Anyone who knows me will know that I am further to the left when it comes to health and healing. I believe in cultivating a healthy mind-body connection and that healing is about the whole picture… diet, emotions, reducing your toxic load, and finding balance with nature. I cleanse periodically, eat organic, and have been a pretty health conscious person my whole adult life. The idea of lopping off my breasts, especially my good, whole, non-offending right breast is ludicrous and heart breaking. My beautiful “nursies” as Julian calls them, which nourished him for the first 22 months of his life… am I really about to do this?!
But I look at Julian and Joey. I see how much they love me and need me. I think of my whole family and my amazing beautiful friends, and I just want to fucking LIVE! I have to live. I realize that it’s not a matter of ‘will I get cancer again’, but more like, ‘When will I get cancer again’. I need to be brave, be proactive. I need to face this head on and then move forward in my life. There is still so much to do, to say, so much to love and experience. We need more time together.
I am generally a private person, especially in areas where I’m struggling and hurting. I tend to want to crawl into a corner and privately lick my wounds. This won’t serve me now. If at any point in my life I needed to be open to asking for and receiving help, now is it. It could be in the form of a prayer, a stint babysitting Julian and making sure he has a happy care-free summer, a meal delivered after surgery or treatments, or a monetary donation to help us get by during this time of eventual healing and recovery.
Surgery has not yet been scheduled as I’m waiting and hoping that my insurance will approve this out of network surgery at Sloan Kettering. It is looking like end of June or beginning of July. I will be keeping everyone up to date via this blog.
Maybe I haven’t said this enough in my life, so I’ll say it now… I love you. Each one of you reading this. Thank you for keeping my family and my recovery in your prayers.