The Diagnosis

I never imagined that the small lump in my right breast would actually turn out to be cancer. With no family history, no risk factors, and a very healthy lifestyle, I guess I figured I was in the clear. Looking back I see how arrogant I was... 

I discovered the lump while lying in bed watching a movie with my husband. I felt a little BB-sized lump close to the surface near the nipple of my right breast. I asked James to pause the movie and feel the lump. We both figured it was harmless and would work itself out.

I mentioned the lump to my doctor a few months later at my annual appointment. She could hardly feel it but decided it would be best to send me for a mammogram and ultrasound, just to make sure. I ended up having both the mammogram and ultrasound, but since the lump was so small they couldn't tell me much about it. We decided to wait a few months and recheck it.

December was the month I was supposed to go back. As a teacher and mother, December is one of the busiest times of the year. I got caught up in the hype of the season-- decorating, baking, shopping, and of course, administering final exams to my high school students. I completely forgot about my lump.

It wasn't until the beginning of March that I ended up going in again for an ultrasound. By this time the lump had grown from the size of a BB to the size of a small pea. Two different doctors checked out my lump via ultrasound and recommended we do a core biopsy to rule out cancer. I almost didn't do it-- I was sure I didn't have cancer. I really considered waiting another 3-6 months to get checked again. I'm so glad I changed my mind and went ahead with the biopsy. The doctor ended up taking three core samples and put a little metal marker in my breast next to the lump so it could be identified in future screenings. I had one last mammogram as well to map the lump.

Luckily, these tests happened during my Spring Break, so I was busy with household projects and family time. I didn't have time to dwell on the biopsy; I was having too much fun!  Thursday, March 27th rolled around and I was sleeping in when I got the call at about 8am. The nurse on the other line was so kind as she told me I have cancer. What?!? I was completely speechless. She asked me to find some paper and a pen so I could write down her instructions and at that moment all I could think of was, "What is a pen?" It's fascinating how the mind works (or doesn't work) in moments of crisis. She told me I have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and that I would need surgery and possible chemotherapy and Tamoxifen. So much information to take in...

Thus began the process of notifying family and close friends. Everyone I shared the news with was just as misinformed about breast cancer as I was-- we all believed it couldn't happen to someone like me who is fit, active, never sick, non-smoker, non-drinker, clean eater, etc. The first week was just a blur... yet life goes on despite the diagnosis. Work, family, laundry, bills-- all needed my attention, yet my mind was elsewhere as the whole idea that I have cancer was such a surprise.