All the appointments.

Like I said previously, there are so many appointments that are made and so much information to take in from each one of them. A lot of times the doctors speak in medical terms and then you have to go home and do your own research on what those terms mean in average day talking terms so you will understand what the heck is about to happen to you.

Over the next week and a half I had three different scans/tests ran to make sure the cancer hadn’t spread into any other areas of my body. Thankfully it hadn’t. It was all contained to one breast and armpit.

The first scan was the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). It uses radio waves and magnets to take detailed pictures of inside the breasts. It’s used to measure the size of the cancer and to see if there is any other tumors inside the breast. I had to lay face down on a table like structure with one of those lovely long gowns on with my breasts open to the world and then the machine slid me into this large circular tube. I had to lay there for about 20 minutes with a continuous fan sound that actually keeps the room and MRI machine cool due to the magnets inside that would be taking photos of my breast. Good thing, I sleep with a fan on during the night. That made it rather relaxing. However, the beeping sounds of the machine taking photos was a bit annoying. I must admit that I drifted off into a light sleep and I attribute that to warm blankets the sweet lady placed on me. Key to all of these visits… WARM BLANKETS! And awesome nurses that keep those warm blankets in mind!! Be sure to ask for warm blankets!! You deserve them.

Next was a CT (computed tomography) Scan. It’s used to check the chest wall and  bone structure to be sure the cancer hasn’t spread into those places. No warm blankets this night. Yes, I said night. I had to get this test done at 7:00pm. When I arrived I had to drink this lemonade/Mt. Dew tasting mixture and then wait 45 minutes so it had time to run through my body. When I entered the CT room it was cool and somewhat dark. The table I had to lay on was pretty low to the ground. Good news… I was able to stay in MY clothes and MY breasts were not broadcasted to an audience. The bad news… no warm blanket. It didn’t take very long though. About 5-10 minutes. Once that was over I headed on home.

Lastly, I had to have an Echocardiogram to test my heart to be sure it could undergo the chemotherapy. The test measures the blood flow to and from your heart and the four chambers your heart has. They had to insert yet another IV in my arm to run dye through my body. That’s the picture you see below. For this scan I had to lay on my left side so they could take the Ultrasound wand and run it over my heart taking measurements and videos of it working. It was actually really cool seeing all the red (blood flowing in) and blue (blood flowing out) colors on the screen. Seeing my heart pump blood to the rest of my body was pretty cool. It was another dark, cool room. I had to remain topless for the world to see my breasts once again. So so lovely… NOT!

And last before all the chemo could begin, I had my chemo port insert procedure to receive the chemotherapy. A chemo port is a small, implantable reservoir with a thin silicone tube that attaches to a vein. They insert a port so that each time you receive chemo they plug into that verses finding a vein and giving you an IV each time. It minimizes the pricking and pocking to many areas to just one area. Standard procedure is to place it on the right side of your chest away from your heart. They also recommend placing lidocaine cream on the area about a hour before each infusion to numb it so you don’t feel the needle stick. They can prescribe it or you can just find it at the store. I did the latter. It helps but if you don’t do it, you’ll be just fine after about 15 seconds. Ha.

On the day of the port surgery they gave me these bright yellow socks. Why yellow? I have no idea. Maybe they needed to identify me as a patient or maybe it was to bring some brightness to life considering the circumstances. The gowns they give you are a bit nicer than the ones you have at your annual GYNO appointment. They are actually long cloth ones. They keep a bit more of the heat in. I have sometimes wondered who the designer is of these oh so lovely hospital gowns. Like who strives to be a hospital gown designer. And what designs do you put on the gowns? Shapes and wiggly lines? Maybe something more appropriate like ‘this shit sucks’ or ‘kick this sicknesses ass’ or maybe something like ‘make a run for it’. I will say the best part is still the warm blankets they give you! Now those are nice… about the only nice thing about it.

When it was about time to go into the OR they gave me anesthesia through the IV they had placed in my arm. I remember rolling out of the room in my bed, down the hall and into the OR. They helped me onto another bed where the port insert procedure would take place and I was done. Out cold. I didn’t dream. I didn’t see anything but darkness and there was no noise. When I woke up I was a bit groggy but was able to walk myself to the truck and my husband and I headed home and I rested the rest of the day. A couple of days passed and I took the bandages off. That’s what you see below. It gets sensitive on occasion if my sports bra rubs it to long or my children want to use me as a jungle gym. 🙂

Now I had six days to rest until chemo treatment #1 began.

Letting it sink in.

The moment the Radiologist told me I had cancer I noticed things I normally wouldn’t have. Simply because of the busy schedule we live. The race against the clock. The time you spend just trying to get to the next thing or next place. Chasing kids. Doing laundry. But after that call things were more crisp. The grass seemed brighter. The sunshine was warmer and the breeze could be felt on the hair of my arms. I called my husband and he immediately went into ‘kick ass’ mode. He asked what we were going to do and when did we start. It has been so uplifting through this journey because it’s has always been ‘we’. It’s never been ‘I’ or ‘me’. I’m grateful for that and grateful for him. I called my mom a couple hours later and gave her the news. I could hear her voice crack and the fright in her voice. I just reassured her that we would make it through this and it was going to be ok.

The next day my husband and I met with a General Surgeon whom I would grow to admire. One thing about getting a cancer diagnosis is you’re going to be seeing lots of doctors. You’ll have lots of needle pricks, lots of tests, and well just ALOT of appointments. With all those appointments comes alot of time away from work. I’ve been blessed to have an employer that has been extremely flexible with me through all of this. God sure does have his ways of working things out.

Between the day I went to see my GYNO, was biopsied, diagnosed and then met with the GS only four days had passed and on day five I had to make a surprise 60th birthday party happen for my mom! Yes, my mom was turning 60 and I had been planning a surprise birthday for her for a few weeks now. So the day came and all was ready for her to arrive!! At this point only a handful of people knew about my diagnosis including my mom. She obviously didn’t know about the party so I was going to make sure this party took her mind off of it and she enjoyed herself. I put a smile on my face, put my big girl panties on and did what had to be done. The party was a huge success, she was so surprised and had no idea! So many thanks goes to all of those that helped put it together and kept it a secret.

I don’t remember the actual moment I began telling more people. I don’t remember too many reactions but I do remember the support. I remember all of the hugs and all the amazing people we had standing right beside us and still do. The cards and care packages began to pour in. The calls and texts from friends and family asking what they could do. It truly was and still is amazing.

On October 10, our cousin hosted a Susan G. Koman 5K in our neighborhood in my honor. The turnout and support was spectacular. Walking down to their house that day I had no idea that when I rounded their street corner I’d see all of the pink and all of the people! It was breathtaking. Guys were in tutu’s, some had temporary tattoos, there were homemade shirts, mimosa’s, donuts, cookies, faces I knew and faces I didn’t. It was the beginning of a journey that I knew I was not alone in. A journey that would bring on a new identity of myself as a wife, mother, daughter, cousin, sister, aunt, friend, and breast cancer survivor. That’s right… a survivor!

My diagnosis.

The weekend before my GYNO appointment to check out the two swollen masses in my armpit I was hosting my best friends baby shower. My thoughts were pretty straight-forward; Let’s get this baby shower rolling, let’s make sure everyone is enjoying themselves and of course, make sure the new mom and dad to be get all the goodies they need. And they did! It was a success! So sweet seeing all the baby things and of course seeing the new mom to be. Now it was time to rest.

On Monday, September 21st, I woke up, got myself ready, gathered my girls and their things, kissed my husband bye for the day as we always do, took our girls to school and off to my appointment I went.

I don’t remember driving to my appointment, I don’t even remember sitting in the waiting room like many do during this type of situation. When they called me back and got me in a room the nurse asked for me to remove my top and put on the infamous paper gown we ladies are all to familiar with. Those dang things tear before the doctor ever gets in the room and by no means were meant to keep you warm. And they make so much noise.

A few short minutes later, my doctor came in the room and I then realized I hadn’t seen her since she had released me after having our second daughter. Who would have thought that two swollen masses is why I’d be seeing her nearly ten months later. She examined me with her soft but yet cold hands as I looked at the ceiling awaiting the next words she’d say. Words that I didn’t want to hear because somewhere inside of my soul I knew some thing was abnormal. Her diagnosis, swollen lymph nodes. She told me that she wanted me to head on down to have a mammogram and then an ultrasound. As she left the room she assured me we’d find out what the swollen masses were and that we’d get it taken care of. Her saying that was somehow helpful in my mind knowing that she was a two time breast cancer survivor herself. I dressed quickly when she left the room and made my way to the check-out area where they told me to go on down to mammogram. Off I went.

On my way down to the ground floor I called my husband with tears in my eyes and cracking in my voice. I was scared. I was unsure of what was about to happen. A mammogram isn’t something I had had before and truthfully didn’t know how I was going to have one. My boobs are too small to get squished. And how bad was this going to hurt. And what did all of this mean. I was confused.

When they called me back, the nurse spoke gently as she handed me a cloth shirt that tied in the front sorta like a maternity shirt but instead of showing off your belly I was about to have it opened up so some stranger could see my breast. Something told me to take the photo you see at the top of this page. What you can’t see is the anxiety. The tears. And my mind racing in a somewhat dark room in a quiet hallway that led to equipment that would take pictures of what was happening inside my body. A long few minutes passed and they came to get me. The technician explained the process and then helped me position myself at the mammogram machine as she took photos of both breasts, many times. She stated there were calcifications and that more photos would probably need to be taken. A short bit later she had me stand at the machine again as she gather more photos. Then I was off to have an ultrasound. This technician and I chatted pretty much the entire time I was lying there as she took the wand and ran it over the breast that was suspected to be ‘sick’. I could see the screen on the ultrasound machine as she continued scanning over a few of the same areas. It certainly was interesting but not near as interesting as seeing your baby moving around inside you, or seeing your baby’s heartbeat, or it’s mouth or little nose and checks. Instead these images were of dark spots that appeared hallow, sad, and dense. The Radiologist came in a little while later and looked at the same images and did her own scanning which led to her saying a biopsy needed to be done. They stepped out of the room while I called my husband and explained what they had said and were about to do. He was optimistic and supportive, but I could feel some fear in his voice too. I remained calm and collected. I knew I had to. I was almost finished and could leave as soon as this was over.

The Radiologist came in along with the technician and set up the tools and necessary items to perform the biopsy. They had me position my arm over my head and then they numbed the areas they were going to biopsy. Who knew that lidocaine stung like that. Yikes! They did what is called a core needle biopsy and thankfully I didn’t ask what was happening during the procedure and instead waited until after. More less, they placed a needle into my boob and cut off a piece of tissue but in a quick trigger like motion. I don’t want to do that again. Ha. Three biopsy’s were taken and I’d have the results in just a few days..

Over the next couple of days my husband and I told our parents what had been going on. My husband and I hadn’t told anyone other than my employer for doctor appointment purposes. We felt that if it were nothing then we’d have nothing to tell. If it were something we’d cross that bridge then.

On September 24th, at approximately 9:00am I received the call from the Radiologist that had performed my biopsy. I had Stage 3 Breast Cancer. My world stopped.

Becoming a mother.

When we found out I was pregnant with our first child there was no question in my mind that I was not going to use pain medication. I felt as if women had given birth for hundreds of years with no pain assistance so why couldn’t I. Yeah, it hurt. It hurt like hell (whatever that feels like). Actually it hurt worse than that but once it was over, I was holding my baby. I was holding the human that had lived inside me for nearly ten months. I had given this child life. I had given this child the opportunity to make this world different. Some would say that giving birth was the easy part.

Pregnancy had always been fascinating to me. I loved everything natural about it. I had hoped I would be able to breastfeed any and all the children I would have and fortunately, I was able to.

After breastfeeding our first daughter for two years, when it was time to breastfeed our second I figured I’d do it just as long. But there was another plan that I yet didn’t know about. A plan that would require me to stop nursing early.

I was showering one day and noticed two small swollen masses in my armpit. Considering I was breastfeeding, why be concerned. If you’ve breastfed you know that swollen milk ducts are common and who knew you had so many milk ducts anyways. I gave it a few days and noticed they hadn’t shrunk but still yet I didn’t think anything about it. Let’s be honest why should I. The idea of cancer wasn’t in my mind. Why should it be. Breast cancer doesn’t run in my family. I didn’t feel sick, I didn’t look sick. I was young. I was a young wife. I was a young mom. So I waited. I waited a week or two and there the two masses were again one evening in the shower. So I said something to my husband and he said just out of precaution, call the doctor. So I did. My appointment was made for Monday, September 21st, 2020.

In my 35 years.

I was born and raised in the small town of Leitchfield, Kentucky. Population these days is about 6,800. I was born to single mom and met my dad a few years later.

My childhood included a family farm with cows, horses, chickens, and pigs. I enjoyed playing softball and still do. I ran cross-country and track & field, both of which I loved dearly.

I went to college at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky. I studied Business Management & Human Resources and graduated in 2007. Those four years were some of the best.

I moved to Louisville, Kentucky in 2007 and started my management career but didn’t care for it a lot so switched to recruiting… then the 2008 recession hit and there went that career choice.

In 2009 on a cool fall day, I met my husband at Keeneland, a horsetrack in Lexington, Kentucky. I remember the first moment I saw him. He was wearing a pair of khaki’s, a brown sweater, a button-up underneath and a tie. He had a cup of bourbon in his hand and was bettin’ on the ponies.

A couple of months later I took a position in Administration and later moved to Human Resources and then Marketing.

In 2015, my now ‘husband’ asked me to be his wife and of course, I said yes. In 2016, we were married, welcomed our first daughter in 2017 and our second, in 2019.

In March 2020, the entire world shut down due to a coronavirus disease that was first identified in Wuhan, China. If you are reading this, you’ve been affected one way or another by this world-wide pandemic. Maybe you contracted it or have it now, maybe you are a front line worker that deals with it daily, or maybe you lost a loved one that contracted the disease. No matter the affect, you’ll remember 2020 for the pandemic. I will remember 2020 as the year I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Invasive Ductile Breast Carcinoma.

My journey as a breast cancer patient has included emotions I didn’t realize I had. I have looked at myself in the mirror and have seen a stranger. I have hugged myself and said it will be ok. And I decided to make this blog so that you can walk with me through this journey and perhaps share it with someone who needs to hear these words.