I think I knew as soon as I opened the letter from the radiologist. Of course lots of women are called back to have additional images after a mammogram. But, once you have been through breast cancer once, additional images automatically makes you conclude that something is wrong. I opened the letter on February 12, 2012. And so, my journey begins there.
On February 22, 2012, I find myself back in medical imaging for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. Both showed “something” but they could not conclusively say it was cancer. I wanted to diagnose it myself and tell them that I already know it’s cancer……but I refrain and agree to come back next week for a biopsy.
So that brings us to February 28th. The biopsy was fairly easy and painless. The real pain, I seem to already know, is to come with the results the next day.
The phone call comes during my 7th hour class. The kids are blissfully ignorant and working on an assignment, so I step into the hall to answer the phone. The nurse, who’s name I can’t recall, says that “unfortunately the biopsy shows carcinoma.” I have not heard the word “carcinoma” for many years, but it’s meaning awakens from the depths of my memory. Even if it had escaped my memory, the word “unfortunately” tells me all I need to know. I have cancer. Again.
The nurse explains that I will be receiving a phone call from the general surgeon’s office later today or tomorrow. They will make an appointment for me. And so, I walk back into my classroom and continue to teach for the next hour.
I can only describe what I feel as numbness at that point. An hour later, my colleagues arrive to hear the news. It is now, at this point, that I break down. For whatever reason, telling others is infinitely harder than hearing the news myself. Perhaps because I’ve already known since I got the letter.
It gets no easier the more people that I tell. My husband, my son, friends, my mother, co-workers. In fact, it gets harder.
I feel defective. Twice now my body has betrayed me and allowed this disease to grow inside of me, threaten my existence. Why? Anger begins to grow. Anger toward my genes. Anger toward the doctors who, ten years ago, told me I was crazy to remove both of my breasts. I’m angry at the thousands of healthy people around me. I’m angry at myself, believing that I must have done something wrong. I must have done something to deserve this. I’m angry at God. How could he put me through this again? How much does a person have to endure? And I’m angry at the contestants on the tv show SURVIVOR, that are currently competing in some stupid challenge on my tv. They don’t know what it means to survive anything. Stupid, stupid people.
So I spend the evening crying, feeling sorry for myself, and being angry. Surely I deserve at least a few hours of self pity? And then, as I get ready for bed, new thoughts begin to enter my mind. Suck it up. You’ve had ten cancer free years, and they’ve been the best of your life. You could have died 10 years ago. You know nothing about suffering. You are so lucky! I’m not sure who is talking to me, or where the thoughts are coming from, but I instantly feel guilty. I feel guilty, because I am lucky. Part of me says that I deserve at least a few days of self pity, and the other part says it will do me no good…….so get over it.
I wake up the next day, resolved to get over it and move forward. There are more people to inform, there is research to be done, there are plans to make. I’m still afraid of what lies ahead, but I know I can’t stay in this dark place of anger, pity, and grief. There is nothing here for me.
So, here I go again!
I will continue to document my journey on this blog. Mostly for myself, but also for those interested.