A Healing Journey…Chapter 3

Monday (three days later) I was home from work with a migraine, and the phone rang to schedule a biopsy, that day. Can you be here at 2pm the voice asked…it was 1245pm. Yes I responded…power shower then out the door. We can make it no problem. While I showered my husband called into work…I just couldn’t go alone to this appointment, and his presence would really help me remain calm under the circumstances. I cried for the first time as the events of this process became more real and slightly scary. I never cry…my poor husband knew he had to go with me regardless of him having to miss work.

We arrived and sat briefly with the newest doctor, Ms. Helmer. She looked just like you would expect a female doctor to. White coat, glasses, soft wavy hair, and a great little personality! I liked her immediately. After our brief conversation about what the biopsy process entailed and why the process was occurring, she excused my husband so that we could begin. When he left, Nurse Rachel came in with all the gear for the procedure. I’m not afraid of needles but the ones on that table gave me pause, briefly, until I realized I would be numb anyway. That’s right…she told me general anesthesia in the affected area. I was ok again.

When the doc returned, we began. The inital anesthesia was not bad and thus the procedure began. For each lump, a small incision was made prior to the tool entering my breast to take samples. Approximately 6 samples were removed from each lump, and since I kept my focus on the third tile of the second row of the ceiling, I didn’t see not did I want to see, the samples being removed. At the end of the procedure, sterile strips and butterly stitches closed the incisions on my breast. The incisions were bandaged up and I was sent into the waiting room to see my husband. It would be a week until we got results of the biopsy. Again, waiting to hear back was another small bit of torture but, what can we do? We left to return home, both of us quiet.

On Thursday of that week, just three days later, I received the call to come in Friday as my results were in. 1pm was the scheduled time to meet with my doctor, and my general doctor Ms Allie had already been notified that results would be in. I worked half a day Friday to keep my mind busy and to be with people, and being that I work with my sister, that made the day even easier to endure. At 12pm I left, not knowing how long it would take me to cruise along Route 1 on this glorious Friday afternoon. The sun was shining and despite where I was going, I was in a great mood. Doug was driving, I was relaxed and enjoying the view along our drive. As we turned right into the hospital parking lot, I was still ok…he however was a little pale. Being my true self I said “Please don’t worry. Whatever the outcome, we get through this together.” My doctor’s assistant took us right in, and Nurse Rachel greeted me with her warm smile as we entered Rm #2. She told me to change real quick and the doctor, Ms Helmer, would be right in. As usual, green robe, open in the front…a quick knock and my doctor was there.
“Well, we got the results…both lumps are cancerous.” Thank God I was sitting down…I felt a bit faint and short of breath.
‘Do you understand what that means Kathy?”
“ I think so yes” (I was an English major after all!) but I had not responded which is why she probably asked me that question. “ I guess my next question is what does that mean for me?”
“ Please change and then we will go to my office to discuss this.”
I did as instructed then met her outside the door. My husband and I trudged (imagine the hallway scene from Joe Vs. The Volcano) towards the doctor’s office. When we got in there, we both sat down and for a minute said nothing. There were books in front of where we were sitting…one for me, one for him, and a cute little journal.

“At this point, because of the size of the lumps, we feel that a lumpectomy is not a valid option. Your best bet is a left side mastectomy.” (Hold the phones…a mastectomy, as in cutting off one of the girls…this can not be happening. I’m 42…this is not onward and upward…this is bad news and totally defeats my plan for myself. Yes, getting healthier was part of the plan but NOT having surgery/removal of my breast.) I could barely breathe and looked at my husband.

“Here is a PowerPoint showing information on your type of breast cancer as well as pros and cons of the surgery. Some of these women had just a single breast removed while others opted to have both breasts removed. These pictures show post surgery scars prior to the implants being filled.” OMG… I had just found out that I have breast cancer and Now a mastectomy was my best option for survival but that I should be considering both breasts to truly prevent the cancer from returning…and now I’m seeing women with scarred chests prior to the implants being filled up. I could feel myself slumping into my chair, getting as far away from the screen images as humanly possible. I’m 42 and acting 10…I was afraid, nervous, overwhelmed (apparently overwhelmed is the most common word for women in my position.) Ms. Helmer continued “Once the implants are in place, they are filled a little at a time, to monitor the healing process and avoid infection. These pictures are of the women’s breasts after the implants have been filled partially or fully. Reconstructive surgery is a wonderful option and we have an excellent plastic surgeon on staff for this very reason. You will be meeting with her next week to discuss your reconstruction options. Kathy…Kathy…you seem overloaded. Do you have any questions? Can I help in any way?” Clearly my eyes had glazed over and my brain had shut down. I couldn’t be hearing all of this information in one sitting. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Again I responded “No, no questions right this minute.” So she continued…” When you meet next week with the plastic surgeon, you will also talk to the Breast Care Center about genetic testing to determine if this cancer is hereditary or if it’s just your body. Oh, and because you still have your ovaries, we will be recommending you see an OB/GYN and probably have those removed.” Before I could censor myself I responded…”So while I’m asleep, why not just give me a penis? Seriously…I might as well be a guy with all my feminine parts being cut off or out.” I didn’t mean to say this outloud and laughed, embarassed and immediately apologized. It was not her fault that I had this cancer, and she was providing me with numerous opportunities to speak with everyone involved and knowledgeable in this field. I agreed that the testing is a good idea being that my grandmother had a breast removed and, as I learned later, that my grandmother’s father (my great grandfather) died of male breast cancer. My mother and sister needed to be aware of the hereditary repercussions, and because my sister has daughters, we really need to know. I have boys…but if they have girls, it would be crucial we know. Yes, I’m definitely ok with the genetic testing.

When I left this appointment, I texted my sister to let her know the results were in. She was waiting and knew I would text as soon as I knew…we had agreed that I would let her know, that we would get through whatever together. Jen, my sister, is my best friend in the whole world. Her love, support, and friendship have gotten me through so many rough patches, gotten US through so many rough patches. We could get through this too.

“So…I got the results of the biopsies. I have breast cancer.”
“OMG Kath…are you ok?”
“I’m as good as I can be considering the news. Just so you know, they are recommending a mastectomy of my left breast with reconstructive surgery being optional.”
“Wow… cant you just have the lumps removed?”
“No…too big an area. Mastectomy better option.”
“Wow…”
“Yeah.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too. Call me later when you’re out of work.”
“I will…talk to you soon. <3″

We normally go out on Friday nights and I knew tonight, I wanted to stay home. My friend Jeanne texted to get the results. When I told her she took a minute to respond. She is the tenderhearted of the two of us…she was crying, told me she was sorry and that she loved me. I definitely wasn’t going out tonight. Later that afternoon, she texted me again…”Are you coming over tonight?”
“Yes, I will, I could use a drink. LOL. But don’t freak out on me…”
“LOL…I won’t I promise. We don’t even have to discuss it if you don’t want to.”
“No we will chat for sure but I can’t do the teary eyed thing. I have to be logical about this, taking each step in stride so as not to get as upset and overwhelmed. Know what I mean?”
“I do…see you in a bit.”
My husband and I did go see Jeanne and Jeff, got a little tipsy I admit. It was a good decision…I really needed it!! It was the perfect end to my day!

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