The Friday that I learned I had breast cancer seemed like the day that wouldn’t end. I found out early in the morning through a phone call, which led to a day of confusion and shock. When my husband returned from nursing school, we sat together in disbelief. As we faced this unknown journey, my mom called the oncologist to try to learn more information. She has a firm understanding of cancer as a clinical researcher, and is better at understanding all the technicalities than me.
My mom explained that I had the best type of breast cancer. That sounds ridiculous because all cancer is bad, so how could there be a best cancer? The cancer I had is called DCIS. It stands for ductal carcinoma in situ. DCIS is the earliest form of breast cancer, located in the milk duct, and it hasn’t spread. The problem with DCIS is that if you don’t take care of it, the cancer becomes invasive.
I felt better knowing it wasn’t the worst-case scenario, but there were still a million questions, worries, and fears. Luckily, my appointment would be Monday morning, but, unfortunately, I had to wait. I also knew at this point, I had no choice but to tell my 9-year-old daughter. I dreaded this the most, and tears filled my eyes. She knew enough about cancer to know not every ending is happy. I hated to put this stress on her. My son is too young to really understand cancer.
My daughter, Laura, spent the night at my dad’s house on Friday. I wanted a night to settle the news in my own mind and my emotions beforehand. On Saturday, my husband kindly took me to places that I never had been before. He did this to keep my mind distracted and to have a little fun. I enjoyed our day, despite the breast cancer news looming over our heads.
Shortly after we came home, Laura arrived. I’m open and honest with my daughter, and I never had any problems telling her anything. But telling her that I had cancer seemed unbelievable and overwhelming. I had to tell her despite my feelings. I prayed that I would use the right words so she would understand but not be fearful. To my surprise, I told her and she took the news much better than I could have imagined. I knew that she was in shock like we all were, but still, it could’ve gone much worse!
Journey into the unknown
For the remainder of the weekend, we followed our normal routine as much as possible. I’m a third-grade religious teacher on Sunday mornings, so I taught like I normally do. My feelings were very conflicted. On one hand, I felt extremely relieved that the cancer I had was treatable and easy. On the other hand, anything could happen and what treatments, exactly, awaited me? It was an unknown journey, but I assured Laura that I would tell her everything and we would be in this together. I also told her that she shouldn’t hold her feelings in about anything. She gave me the biggest hug and kiss ever before going to bed that night.
My husband couldn’t go with me to my appointment because of school. We decided that there will be more serious appointments and hospital stays when I will need him, so we should use his vacation days wisely. My mom and sister came with me as we faced the demon called cancer together.
The oncologist apologized about the diagnosis, but I thanked him for pushing the tests. Other doctors might not have been as persistent, since the images were blurry and the areas were small. I thanked him for basically saving my life. If we waited another year, the cancer would be much worse and who knows what the outcome could’ve been!
My oncologist described everything as best he could. I understood exactly what I had, and what needed to be done. The next step was to get a lumpectomy to take out the DCIS, and we talked about a medicine called tamoxifen, to prevent breast cancer from returning. I would most likely start that after the lumpectomy.
We now had a plan in place and were ready to get rid of the cancer!
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