Ok, I am no Charles Dickens but I promise this post is more than just a snazzy title.
This titillating tale began back in September of 2011. When a doctor sat me down and told me,
"We're worried it might be cancer."
I didn't answer right away. What was there to say? This wasn't candid camera, some sick joke, or even a bad dream. This was my new reality. A life where I might have breast cancer. In an instant I was bombarded with horrific mental images of hospitals, chemotherapy treatments, and even tombstones. I was petrified.
My eyes misted over. I felt the weight of everyone's gaze upon me but I wasn't ready to address the elephant in the room. Instead, I found myself looking down, losing myself in the blue/grey abyss that I knew as my baby's eyes.
The squirming bundle in my arms was blissfully oblivious. My son was only a few weeks old at the time, practically brand new, and here I was contemplating a life for him,without a mommy. It didn't seem fair. As if the emotional roller coaster of new motherhood wasn't difficult enough, I now had to contend with this. I didn't feel strong enough.
After 24 years, I had finally found my calling in life. My joy. My passion. My son.
And it was all crumbling out from under me. I was drowning. Encumbered by the many questions in my head, I could barely catch my breath. Why me? Why our family?
Had I been too happy? Perhaps not grateful enough?
I prayed silently. Fervently. God, don't take me away from my little boy.
Whether unsympathetic or unaware, the doctor droned on about the medical protocol, while I bargained with my God. She told me that we would start with a core punch needle biopsy and "go from there."
While the gravity of the situation was apparent to me, I still found myself preoccupied with the baby's well being. I only caught snippets of what the doctor was saying, and they put me in a panic. "....and I'd suggest that you discontinue breastfeeding immediately."
Discontinue? But, how will I feed him? How can he nurse?
We had overcome so many obstacles in learning to breastfeed. Now it all seemed for naught.
The following day, we proceeded with the needle biopsy. The four day wait that preceded the results was agonizing. I was weepy and irritable. My nerves were frayed from living in a perpetual state of fear and I found myself lashing out at the ones I loved most
The results were cautiously optimistic. The Pathology report suggested a non-malignant, lactating fibroadenoma. A tumor, but one that didn't necessitate removal, or treatments, or time away from my son. We were thrilled. As a precautionary measure, the doctor insisted that I have the lump ultrasounded every 6 months.
I had long since cast away my fears related to the incident, but I followed through with doctor's orders anyway, and had additional imaging done half a year later. A few weeks passed and I eventually received a certified letter from the imaging center. They "strongly suggested that I follow-up with my physician as abnormalities had been noted in the films." As if no time had passed, I plummeted down the rabbit-hole again. The all too familiar sense of foreboding enveloped me and the haunting images came flooding back.
My once squirming bundle was now a mischievous and adventurous, 7.5 month old ball of wonderment and giggles. The thought of being separated from him, temporarily or indefinitely, hit even harder than it had the first time. I was tired of being terrorized by a clump of cells.
Instead of repeating the needle biopsy procedure, to check for malignancy, we opted for a complete excision of the lump. I found a new surgeon. This doctor was willing to perform the operation while I was still lactating. About three weeks ago, I finally had the tumor removed.
My son is now 14 months old, and I am happy to say, that this mommy is cancer-free. The lump ended up being benign, but that certainly doesn't take away from the roller coaster of emotions this family endured over the past year.
I now have a lifetime of "firsts" to look forward to. His first words, his first steps, his first day of school, and his first love. God willing, I'll be here; happy, and healthy, and HERE. For every single one.
**October is Breast Cancer Awareness month**
I cannot stress enough how important early detection is in ensuring optimal outcomes. Please, Please, Please perform self-breast exams every month, and do not put off seeing a doctor if you find anything concerning!