Cancer Chronicles Part 1
This week we had our appointment with the surgeon. It was an hour long consultation that while providing some answers, left my head swirling with more. There are big decisions to be made that will not only have the potential to alter the state of my body but my life as well. As someone who can spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to figure out where to eat dinner, deciding whether to keep or remove my breasts is no simple feat.
At present, my cancer is stage 1 with an excellent prognosis. The staging as well as the course of treatment can change after surgery of course, but all in all it was the news we wanted to hear at this moment in time.
Which leaves me wondering why then I left the appointment feeling so gutted. I am masterful at criticizing my own feelings- judging myself over how I should or shouldn’t be feeling at any given time. Yesterday was no exception. While I was hearing things like “highly treatable, best case scenario” and “feeling elated” my heart was sinking as the reality of what it will take to get to the other side of this. It wasn’t like I didn’t know, I did, but imagining the scenarios in your head is a lot more abstract than hearing the words from the doctor’s mouth. So instead of feeling some tremendous sense of relief that I wasn’t being told the worst possible news, I was feeling really, really pissed.
Finding out you have cancer is like discovering a grenade has landed on your front porch when you go out to get the mail. You just can’t quite fathom what it’s doing there. After a pretty stressful year of my life, I was looking forward to relishing in the normalcy of my life. I was focused on growing my tiny health coaching business, savoring time with my son in his senior year of high school and celebrating 20 years of marriage. That horrible moment at my ultrasound was a bomb exploding on my life.
Now, I feel a bit untethered from anything that feels normal. While I feel physically the same, my mind can’t find a spot to settle. I can’t quite figure out what to do with myself at any given time. It makes no sense. Yesterday, I could barely find the energy to do more than stick some potatoes in the oven for dinner, all my mental bandwidth going to processing the fact that the only way out of this scenario is to walk through some version of hell. I went from being someone who literally wrote out a schedule for each day to having days of time sort of slipping through my fingers with little to show for myself. These are lost days.
Maybe it’s because of the waiting. So. Much. Waiting. Hurry up and wait. Wait for the MRI. Wait for the plastic surgeon’s office to call to schedule an appointment. Wait to hear back from the genetic counselor. Wait to get results after surgery. Wait, wait. Wait. That’s a lot of time to get inside your own head.
It’s exhausting to say the least.
So I’ve decided that maybe my job at the moment is to just start tuning in and meeting myself right where I am at. If I feel like going for a run, I’ll go. If I feel like crawling into bed and watching reruns of Gilmore Girls, I will. I feel like answering the text, ok. If not, hopefully the sender will understand that I just can’t. If I feel a good cry coming on, I’ll grab the Kleenex. If everyone around me is feeling a little lighter after my appointment with the surgeon and I’m not, I’ll stop worrying that I am ungrateful. After all, I am the one walking this path and only I can know what that feels like.
I have had my MRI and gotten the results. Again, a day of mixed emotions. The MRI revealed that the original area of concern is larger than what was seen on the ultrasound. Initially they believed my spots to be .5 cm and .8 cm but now believe it is more like 4 cm in total. I was expecting this as I have read that this type of cancer can be hard to detect on regular imaging so wasn’t surprised to hear that there is more of it. The good news is that the right side is negative and thus far the lymph nodes look ok. The hard part of the day came when my surgeon recommended a mastectomy over lumpectomy given the increase in size.
While a mastectomy will mean I likely avoid radiation (won’t know about chemo until after surgery) it is a major surgery that will not only lead to more surgery but also alter my body as I know it. It’s just a lot. Many additional decisions to be made. I anticipate that I will go the route of a double mastectomy to help prevent reoccurrence, but will have a clearer idea once we meet with the plastic surgeon.
I hear others in an attempt to cheer me, remind me that I am getting a “free boob job.” My pre-cancer self would have seen it like this too, but now nothing about this feels free. It feels like I must pay a tremendous price to ensure that I reach that great survivability rate. I know I need to be patient with myself, allow myself the time to feel all the feelings and that in the end, while the landscape of my body will have changed, my spirit will be stronger.