From Sam through Patti…
I have breast cancer.
There, I said it.
I never thought something like this would ever happen to me.
I eat mostly healthy, I exercise, I don’t smoke, and I have a social drink. I’ve never really had any health issues my whole life to this point other than a hysterectomy last year. I guarantee many of you can say the same thing.
Last year, when I went to see my gynecologist for an annual exam he suggested I go downstairs for a mammogram. I very bluntly told him I didn’t need a mammogram, I was healthy and there wasn’t a history of breast cancer in my family. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!
More on that in a bit.
That was how I found myself, in March of 2020, having my first mammogram. I was 42. There was a box to check on the registration form for “annual reminder.” I marked the box and moved on with my life.
Isn’t that what we all do? Live life, check a box, live life, check a box. Rinse, repeat.
The mammogram found a small spot in the right breast but nothing could be found on ultrasound so they scheduled a follow up in six months, I rolled my eyes and off I went.
This happens to women all the time; what a hassle.
September rolled around and I cancelled my mammogram appointment.
Covid protocols. So much BS. Who has time? It could wait.
Fast forward to March of 2021 and the annual reminder emailed me. I shrugged it off until the second and third emails came through.
I’m busy, right? Just like everyone else. Who has time to drop everything to go get your tatas squeezed and handled by someone with really cold hands? Don’t they make handwarmers that she could put in her pockets?
I was able to schedule my appointment via a link in the email, simple and easy.
I’m ok with that. I like simple, and I like easy. See above regarding hassle.
Dutifully, I go to the mamo appt and the nurse with the cold hands lifts and tugs at my not-so-perky-anymore jewels, hold, breathe, don’t breathe, hold, breathe.
You know the drill. It’s awkward, it’s humiliating, it’s uncomfortable. It’s over, check the box, and off I go for the day. To live life.
Two days later I get a call from the mammography center asking me to come back in for a ultrasound because “there are some concerning areas and you have dense breast tissue”.
Awesome. <insert eye roll> Wait? What!? What does “dense breast tissue” even mean?
I returned to the mammo office and wouldn’t ya know, I get the same nurse for the ultrasound but instead of cold hands, I get that cold jelly they use on ultrasounds. She measures this, measures that, clicks here, clicks there, then announces “All done.”
Check box. Live life.
The radiologist comes in, measures this, measures that, and says she will schedule me for a biopsy that week.
Are you kidding me? I can’t have breast cancer, I’m healthy right? I feel fine, I just had my annual blood work with my PCP and everything was great.
Biopsy was quite unpleasant, watching a needle enter the “area of suspect” three times, once in the arm pit in the lymph node.
Shit, this can’t be good. This is what I was thinking as I was chatting with the Radiologist about her kids taking riding lessons. She was kind and conversation came easily. I knew she was distracting me. I knew.
Check box. Live life.
Now I wait for the results. This is the longest 5 days of my entire life. I had traveled back to WV during those 5 days which helped the time pass.
Playing “ready, set, shoot ball” with my grandsons certainly kept my mind off of things.
Alone, I did lie in bed at night and research everything I could find on breast cancer. Check box. This is what smart and resourceful women do. We prepare.
I did not research the type of BC I was ultimately diagnosed with. Why not that kind? Because it is genetic and breast cancer doesn’t run in my family. Right? Wrong. I reached out to my paternal aunt after my diagnosis. We’ve maintained a relationship even though my bio father wasn’t and hasn’t been in my life. When I asked about BC in the family she told me that the last 4 generations had BC and that my paternal grandmother who’s 91 is currently being treated for BC. I knew in that moment I was fucked.
Fast forward to Wednesday, driving. My doctor’s assistant called and gave me the news. “Miss Samantha, I’m sorry to tell you that you have breast cancer and I need you to come to the office tomorrow.”
I can tell you that I cried, ugly cried, like Kim Kardashian ugly cry –google it if you don’t know– for the next 24 hours. Uncontrollably cried, running the sweeper sobbing, crying into the mane of my precious Nuggz, and if you know me, I’m not much of a crier. I don’t say so as a badge of honor, not crying is simply a coping mechanism. When David was killed 15 years ago, I learned to control my emotional responses because if I panicked, everyone panicked.
Check box. Cancer diagnosis.
Live life. With a lot more tears.
The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in this life so far was to sit my children down and tell them that the news was misreported and their dad was in fact not alive. Morgan asked to bury him in the back yard so she could go see him anytime she wanted. It broke my heart.
With a huge lump in my throat, I called my girls, giving each the update. They cried, I cried, we cried and then in true Lewis Lady fashion, we vowed to fight this with everything we have. I have to tell you, those girls are amazing and resilient. Strong, kind, thoughtful and they love their mama.
I won’t bore you with the details of the doctor’s appointment because honestly , I don’t remember much of it. Take-aways? I have an appointment with my surgical oncologist and that I have patient navigators to help me through the ins and outs of the healthcare system.
I do remember sitting in the office with my doctor, Ty, and the patient navigators, crying, trying to get the words out, chest feeling like a boat anchor was laying on it, unable to get air, trying to tell them I didn’t want to die. I love my family. It was a low point, the lowest point of my life.
Check box. Emotional low point in front of near strangers.
Live life. Forever changed. Who IS this woman?
I’ve had a lot of time to think about who I am, what season I am in during this life, and mostly how I’m going to kick the shit out of breast cancer.
It occurred to me to reach out to my friend Patti Carey to tell this story, for no other reason than to educate everyone to know your family medical history if you can gather that information. Write it down. Ask the questions. And to be an advocate for mammogram awareness. A routine mammogram is what will save my life.
I’m not a writer, or a blogger and most of the time not even really that funny unless you have a dark sense of humor.
I have thought of a blog name of @theangryboob but I googled and that handle is taken. Maybe @theangryleftboob? What I am is a mother, a partner, a daughter, a granddaughter, a friend, but most of all, I am a Child of God and my faith will conquer my fears and I will be a cancer survivor.
I have no idea what or how we’ll make it through this season we’re in, but we will because we have no other choice. I am an incredibly private person, my circle is small.
I’ve learned the hard way that 4 quarters is better than 20 nickels but if I can bring awareness on early detection, breast health, family history and genetic testing, I’m willing to put myself out there.
I’ve been known to be that “glass half full” person.
This past week I’ve had time to reflect and the glass isn’t half full, it isn’t half empty, I’m just happy to have a glass.
Stay tuned if ya want, or don’t, but go get a mammogram would ya please?