Ladies, it is so very important that you go and get a mammogram. In December of last year I noticed that I had pain in my left breast. When I started feeling around I felt a lump. So, of course, I googled what that meant. Everything I read pretty much said that you wouldn’t have pain if you have breast cancer. WRONG.
I immediately called my GYN and scheduled an appointment to have this checked out. She had me go to the women’s center and have a bilateral mammogram and a 3-D mammogram. After the radiologist looked at my films, she requested that I do an ultrasound that very day. So, the technician did the ultrasound and left the room. Minutes later the radiologist herself walks in to do the ultrasound herself. That, on top of everyone being so extra nice to me was really making me nervous. Now y’all know, if you’re at the doctors office and they’re all of a sudden being extra sweet and kind to you, something is wrong. Very, very wrong.
On January 4 I met my breast specialist/surgeon who did an ultrasound and a week later she did a biopsy. On January 14 of this year I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Invasive Lobular Carcinoma. I was eventually diagnosed with Stage 2B. I also had a swollen lymph node and they did a biopsy of that as well. It came up positive for cancer as well. Ugh…. nooooooo. So the game plan was chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and then radiation. But on that day in December, I knew it was going to be breast cancer. I just knew it. I was terrified but I kept trying to tell myself that it could be nothing. Maybe it’s just a cyst….
I know many of you understand how devastated I was. The day I received my diagnosis, I dressed up because I was determined to have a positive attitude and I was hoping that I would be told it was nothing. I also made plans to go out and meet a friend for dinner. I was given the news and was checking out and they are handing me a booklet on breast cancer and other info and telling me who my oncologist would be and making an appointment for me to meet her. I’m trying to smile and be gracious and thank them. Here I am being told I have cancer and I’m all trying to be polite over here saying “Thank you. Thank you very much.” In shock much?? You betcha. It felt so unreal and it’s almost like I disassociated from my own body. I guess that was me trying to protect myself.
A lot of you have said that I have had such a positive outlook and have been so gracious and so brave. I suppose some of that is true. But I had many moments where I had complete meltdowns. When I got home that night after dinner, I think I cried for hours or at least it seemed like it. I was crying and having a hard time breathing and I have never felt so cold in my entire life. The day I found out I was going to have to have chemotherapy? I was a mess! All of these thoughts are going through my head. Oh my God, my hair is going to fall out! I’m going to be sick all the time! I’m gonna look horrible! I hate being sick to my stomach and I certainly don’t want to throw up! And my hair! I like my hair!!!!!
The next day I had a trip. Can you believe I actually attempted to do it? You know, everything is fine. I’m fine. Seriously. I can handle this. I’m strong. Hell, I’m a flight attendant. I can handle anything!! Wrong answer. Ummmm I got off of the trip. Really, what was I thinking….
On February 27 I started chemotherapy. I had eight rounds of chemotherapy. Every other Wednesday lucky me. Exactly 2 weeks after my first round, my hair started falling out. Great. But I was pretty lucky. The first four rounds were something called AC. This type of chemo is referred to as the red devil and it is the one that knocks it out of the ballpark. That’s the one that makes you lose your hair and get violently sick and all the other horrible things you imagine with chemotherapy. I was very fortunate because I did everything my doctor told me to do regarding my nausea medicine and even though I would get nauseous I never got sick. But dear Lord was I tired! Horrible bone pain because they would place a Neulasta OnPro on me after every treatment. This is what keeps your white blood cells up. Chemo destroys your white blood cells and you are very susceptible to infection.
The last four rounds were something called Taxol. I literally wanted to die. I still never got sick to my stomach, but the pain was tremendous. Along with this excruciating pain that shot throughout my entire body I also got neuropathy. My fingertips and my toes became completely numb. It was so weird. The last three toes on each foot are STILL numb. My last round of chemo was on June 5. For those of you that have had Taxol you know what that pain is like. Sometimes I couldn’t even walk across the room because the pain would shoot through my legs and I would fall. It would hurt so bad that I would just sit here and cry. It was really hitting me then that I was a cancer patient. It was awful! The pain was the absolute worst part of it but it also messes with your fingernails and toenails. They turn black or a sort of bruise color. And they hurt.
Oh, and let’s not forget about chemo brain. Trust me, chemo brain is real. See, you’re not only super tired, you can’t remember anything. Thank God for Alexa! It has been four months since my last chemo therapy treatment and I still have memory problems. I still have a bit of the neuropathy as well. Fortunately I’m getting physical therapy to help me regain my strength and help me with balance again. Neuropathy really messes with your balance. Nothing like sitting on the toilet and then trying to get up and you pitch forward, almost falling flat on your face.
My surgery went well and all margins were clear. Technically, I was cancer free but my treatments were not over yet. Also, they removed 29 lymph nodes. I don’t know if I’ll ever have feeling in my left under arm or not.
I did 28 radiation treatments and today on October 14, 2019 I did my very last one and I got to ring the bell! They say radiation is much easier, and I suppose it is. But you get to go EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Monday through Friday! It’s like having a full-time job! And it burns and hurts and itches and burns some more. Parts of my skin are actually black. Oh, and don’t forget about the fatigue…. from February 28 until now and until I don’t know when, I have experienced horrible fatigue.
OK, so I talked about all the bad stuff and how horrible and scary it was. I didn’t exaggerate. But I will tell you that even though my hair started falling out two weeks after my first chemo, that same day my surgeon did an ultrasound and THE TUMOR HAD ALREADY STARTED TO SHRINK!!!!! Ok. So I’m bald now. But the tumor is shrinking and I am going to beat this awful disease. Every time I got an ultrasound, the tumor was smaller. The last ultrasound before my surgery, it was significantly smaller and my surgeon couldn’t even find the swollen lymph node that had cancer.
During the surgery, they removed the tumor and they also removed 29 lymph nodes. Initially they only removed three, including the one that had cancer in it. That one lymph node had maybe just 2 mm of cancer left in it. It was then decided (and procedure) to remove 29 of them just keep things safe. Just a small bit of cancer was left in that tumor. When the pathology report came back it showed that all margins were clear and the cancer was gone!
After my initial pity party I was determined to be positive, gracious, loving and to be a warrior. Now, every once in a while it would really hit me and I would start crying. But I really wanted to present a brave face. It’s really hard to ask for help and it’s really hard to admit you’re scared to death. I knew that not only God had my back but so many other people did as well. Every single treatment I went to I had make up on, a wig or cute chemo cap and a smile on my face because I knew that I was winning this fight! I refused to back down. One of my closest friends was with me for my chemo treatments to keep me uplifted, entertained, cared for and she was a huge support. Actually, we had a pretty good time during those hours because we would just laugh a lot. My last chemo, my dear friend Ana joined us and watched me ring the bell and celebrate!! She was the first person I told that I had breast cancer and she was supportive and loving every single minute of every single day. Love got me through this. It really did.
Yesterday I saw a really cute T-shirt I think I’m going to have to get that says “ breast cancer was all like “you’re mine” and I was all like “bitch, please…”
It has been a very hard year, but I won a battle that too many women have to go through. I am a breast cancer survivor. If you haven’t gone for a mammogram in a while or never had one, please go. If you’re scared, I’ll go with you. I don’t care where you live. So many people reached out to me and all of you were there for me. Please know that I’m there for you. Again, if you’re scared to go have a mammogram, tell me.
All of my doctors and nurses are women. Strong, smart, committed and compassionate. They are my tribe. They saved my life and I will be eternally grateful.
I am a breast cancer survivor. I might have scars, but I’m alive. I overcame breast cancer. I’m not afraid of anything anymore.
With love, I am,