Boobs of Steel

Kicking Breast Cancer's Butt

I got the results from my double-whammy biopsy last week.  The lump in my left breast is a benign fibroid.  The lymph node next to my tumor in the right breast is cancer.  I expected that, but I had hoped for a pleasant surprise.  Damn.

My medical team wants to schedule a PET scan and a bone scan, which is fine by me (though a little scary) as it just gives us more data.  More data is more ammo in my arsenal to win the war against this thing.  As frightening as it is to possibly find out the cancer has spread, it’s better to know now than find out later.

I was just speaking to The Husband.  He found a paper from 2005 that speaks about how about 1/3 of BC patients had NO lymph node involvement, and still had their cancer spread to other parts of their body.  Since my lymph node is cancerous, I will be getting the extra tests that I probably wouldn’t have gotten if it had come back clean.

Therefore – the cancer in my lymph node is a gift, because now we’re going to look deeper.  It’s going to be a pain in my ass – the surgery scheduler (I love her, by the way) told me that you have to eat certain things, and avoid certain things for 3 days prior to one of the tests, I forget which.  She said something about carbs, so that can’t be bad.  I love carbs.

The two tests can’t be done on the same day, so that’s a pain.  It’s going to take more time away from work, and I was really looking forward to boring-normal-work days for a week.  And I suspect it’s going to be scary going into those scanners.  I’m glad I refilled my anti-anxiety presecription.

My surgery date remains the same, but no pre-operative lympho the day before.  The type of surgery will be different.  The scheduler (did I mention I love her?) said it would be one of two things, the only one I remember is “modified radical mastectomy” whereas the one I WAS going to have was a “simple mastectomy.”  My scheduler commented at the time “doesn’t look simple to me” and now I’m thinking “aren’t all mastectomies radical?”  Because it’s not my physical well-being I’m worried about.  My biggest hurdle will be my emotional adjustment to my new physical appearance.

*Deep breath, and exhale*

Super powers, engage.

The ultrasound technician told me to avoid wearing deordorant for a few days after my lymph node biopsy.  Well it’s been a few days, and I’m tired of smelling like BO on my right side, so I applied, carefully, deodorant to both underarms.  BIG mistake. Now my right arm pit is all itchy-stingy-burny, ow, ow, OW!

I’ve known this for a long time, but it never fails to amaze me.  If you freely share yourself, your  life and experience with people, if you tell them what you’re dealing with, they ALWAYS come through for you in a BIG way.  100, nay, 1000 times more than you could ever imagine or expect.

I’ve had one negative response, and so many more uplifting, empowering, wonderful, loving responses, that the negative is overwhelmed and washed away.

There are so many of you out there fighting battles similar to mine, and you all tell me that you are not only surviving – you are thriving!  I have a hunch that in my previous life I was merely “surviving”, that I had not even begun to live, really live, before my battle was begun.  I choose to change my life, the way I live it, in order to keep moving forward.

I’ve had a fairly blessed and easy life.  We weren’t flush with money growing up, our parents weren’t perfect, we didn’t have some of the things other kids had growing up, but we had the best thing.  A dad who worked his ass off to keep a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, and food on the table.  He was a strict dad, but I knew he had my back when things were really tough.  I wrecked his jeep, being where I shouldn’t have been, and I knew he would be furious with me.  But as that jeep was rolling down our driveway and crashed into another vehicle (the jeep would be totaled and my dad loved that jeep), it was my daddy a screamed for, not my mom or anyone else.

When I wrecked my knee for the first time, it was my dad I wanted, because only daddy could fix this.  The moms were there, my mom and our friend’s mom, all the kids (we were visiting, they had four kids, we had four kids).  My dad and the other dad were out and about, doing guy stuff.  This was before cell phones, so the moms called the paramedics to come pick me up.  They took forever.  They finally showed up, no lights, no sirens, at the same time as my dad.  I was super pissed, and I couldn’t wait for my dad to cuss them out.  My dad was a world-class cusser.  He and the other dad drove me to the hospital, and my dad sat with me the whole time.  Looking back, I realize now he was more scared than I was – but I knew I was fine, because he was there, and would kick someone’s ass if I wasn’t taken care of.  And he was making me laugh with his corny jokes, such as “Just think how good it’s going to feel when it stops hurting.”  He was right, it did.  When my knee cap was put back into place, the rush of endorphins gave me a euphoric high, and it did immediately felt so much better.  I was so relieved and grateful, I don’t know if it was to the doctor I was grateful, or my dad for being there.  But he was always there, and I took it for granted.  I’d love to be able to call my dad right now.  I’d love to hear one of his corny jokes when I’m having another biopsy, or when I wake up after my surgery.  Makes me even more grateful for my husband, who’s right there with the booby jokes when I need him to be, talking about mastectomy bras as naturally as he can talk about Super Bowl commercials.  I love him for that (and for so many other things – he is truly a God-send).

I’ve been suspicious of the content of my own character for many years now – certain that if my character was really tried, I would fail.  I have noticed something recently.  This is perhaps the biggest trial I have ever undertaken, and I do not think my character will be found wanting.  I truly believe that I have the same guts my dad had, the same fighting spirit that my sister has.  I’m made of the same “right stuff” as both of them.  I don’t know how that is, but it is.

It is pure grace, and I accept it as grace, and do not ask why.

Today we told our daughter what we’ve been dealing with. She was naturally very upset, as we all were when we found out.  Once we explained things to her a bit, she was calmer, but I can still see the tears, the fear brimming on the surface. Kind of the way I feel some of the time. We’re lucky her dad is so calm.  I wimped out, and made him start the conversation with her.  I was there, of course.  I just couldn’t start talking about it. It is important that she not see me afraid or crying.  And I was sure that if I started, I’d break into tears,

Yesterday we had our first day of relative normalcy – back to a full day of work, and no doctor’s visit, yay!   Wednesday was a marathon as you know, and so was Thursday.  So a regular Friday was a welcome relief.  I had my normal coffee run with my good friend C., who is like family.  The admins who run our front desk were cheering for Boobs of Steel, and had already planned out who would cook what to bring to the house so The Husband and the Child would have hot meals while I’m in the hospital and recuperating.  I didn’t get much done, partly due to being distracted (and reading too much on the internet again), partly due to everyone stopping by to talk.  One of my colleagues was so NOT helpful in her comments. “My mother had breast cancer. I wish I had something positive to say” and looking at me as if I were on borrowed time.  My doctor’s office called right then, or I might have said to her, “Take your gloom and doom away from me.  I frankly don’t need it, and you are not being helpful with your “sympathy.”

I get it, cancer is a scary word.  It’s hard to know what to say, or to know how to act.  My advice? If you don’t have something genuinely positive to say, simply say I’m glad to see you and leave it at that.  Because I’m not your mother/friend/Great Aunt Hilda.  I’m me, and my tumor is like no one else’s, my cancer is like no one else’s.  Please don’t make deductions about my survivability based on anyone else’s experience.  And for goodness sake, do not pity me, or I will kick your ass.