Celebrating the Tough Shit Like Cancer


I often talk about how important it is to celebrate every moment of life. Life is so precious, and it can easily change with the flap of a butterfly’s wings. Instantly everything that we thought we knew about life and about ourselves is flipped over on its head. I talk about confetti and glitter, balloons and cupcakes – basically all the happy ways to celebrate the big events in our lives like weddings, birthdays, baby showers, and holiday parties – but I don’t often talk about the how we should celebrate the little things. I don’t talk about the day-to-day celebrations nearly as much as I should. Today I want to do that.

In past years my life has been touched indirectly by Breast Cancer. As I have mentioned before, my mother, an aunt, and grandmother are breast cancer survivors. Currently my aunt is fighting breast cancer as well, but she is almost done with chemo and doing very well. I’m proud of her for fighting as hard as she has. Truthfully, many of us know someone who has had to stand up and fight, and that is scary, sad, and emotionally trying, but what’s even scarier is when that fight hits even closer to home. What’s really scary is when we face breast cancer ourselves.

According to BreastCancer.org, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime and a woman’s risk of breast cancer approximately doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Luckily for me, my doctor is on top of things. A recently underwent my first MRI and ultrasound – at age 29 no less. I thought nothing of it all simply because it was all precautionary and routine considering my family history. However, the next day – a Thursday – I got a call to set up more tests and a biopsy. I got the call from the imaging center before I even heard from my doctor. Later I found out that a doctor legally has 72 business hours to inform you of test results that could have a negative impact on you. Well, add the fact that there was a weekend involved and I didn’t hear from my doctor until Monday afternoon. For four days I stressed about the reasons behind more tests. I cried to my husband because the word biopsy is scary. I slept poorly and I struggled to concentrate on anything.

I wish I could say that when I finally got the phone call from my doctor to tell me what was going on, that things got better, but they didn’t. She told me they had found some suspicious areas in my left breast and that they needed to do more tests and a biopsy to either confirm or deny breast cancer. I thought the previous four days were brutal, but the next 12 days were hell. The whole world around me stopped. All I could think about were her words:

> “WE NEED TO DO MORE TESTS AND A BIOPSY TO EITHER CONFIRM OR DENY BREAST CANCER.”

For the next 12 days I found it hard to breath. I walked through the world in a fog while I attempted to portray a sense of normalcy to my friends, my family, and even my business associates. I plunged into my work and my schooling with a new sense of urgency as if doing so was the only thing that could keep me alive. I felt like if I could prove that what I was doing in my life was important, that somehow I would be spared.

the day came and I had to drive to the imaging center on my own. I left early in case doing so would get my results sooner. On the way there, the song “Sail” came on the satellite radio and for whatever reason, that brought on the tears. I drove on through the blurred vision and arrived early only to find out that I needed to fill out another stack of paperwork. I felt so alone in that waiting room while a few children ran around giggling and tear drops fell onto the papers in my lap. My husband was meeting me as soon as he could, but he wasn’t there yet. Even once he did arrive, he would have to sit in the waiting room until I was done with the mammogram.

The mammogram went fine as far as mammograms go. They don’t tell you how awkward, uncomfortable, and occasionally painful they can be. They tell you to hold your breath, but forget to tell you that holding your breath during a mammogram is probably equivalent to a circus clown trying to hold his breath moments before he is to be shot out of a canon for the very first time – impossible when your heart is racing so fast!

After the mammogram, my husband was able to join me for the second ultrasound where they confirmed the results of the MRI and the mammogram. I had two spots that needed to be biopsied. I’ll spare you the details of that terrible experience, but due to the locations of the spots near a blood vessel and the type of biopsy, they managed to break open said blood vessel causing a sticky situation which I haven’t yet recovered completely from even nearly 4 weeks later.

Another week of fear and nervousness, poor sleep and tears passed before the results came back, and when they did, I was surprised to find that I still had tears left to cry. Maybe sad tears and happy tears come from different places. That’s the only explanation I have for the fact that even after I thought I was all cried out, I was still able to cry tears of job when I got a phone call from my doctor to tell me I don’t have breast cancer!

What I had were small benign tumors. According to my doctor, the fact that I have these already under the age of 35 increases the probability that in my lifetime I will have breast cancer. To combat that, I will undergo testing every year for the rest of my life in hopes to detect it early, but we can cross that bridge down the road. Right now, I’m focused on the positive words that my doctor shared with me:

> “YOU DON’T HAVE BREAST CANCER.”

That night we celebrated again, and each day sense has been a mini celebration for me. No, I do not have cancer, and I don’t know what it is like to find out that I do. There is also still a chance that I may never find out, and for that I am joyful. Each day I have to breath and to love and to move, I am grateful for. Each day that I wake up from my bed and am able to smile, I am thankful for. Before this, I tried so much to never take a single day for granted, but now more than ever I can grasp a true appreciation for this life, and I know that EVERY SINGLE DAY IS WORTH CELEBRATING!

 

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