Last year at this time, I thought I would be dead by now. It was in October when I felt a little hard pebble in my left breast next to my chest bone. At first, I thought it was probably just a cyst that sometimes comes up from drinking too much caffeine. I casually mentioned it to my husband and had him feel of it. We agreed that I’d have the Doctor feel it at my next appointment, which was only a couple weeks away.
As the weeks ticked by I would feel to see if it was still there and sure enough it never moved. I only felt concerned because it didn’t go away and it was hard. I’d never felt anything like it.
On the day of my appointment my husband came along which isn’t abnormal he usually accompanies me to all of my doctors. And so, I had my regular yearly exam and then mentioned the lump. The doctor decided to have me get a mammogram. Unfortunately, this wasn’t my first time into this world due to a benign cyst that had to be removed at 14. I still didn’t think I had much to worry about and so my daughter went along for the test.
She waited in the small waiting area while the actual test was done. In the exam room, the technician did her job of scanning, running the image to the radiologist and relaying messages back to me. When she got to the suspicious area she and the radiologist decided to send me for a sonogram just to rule anything suspicious out. I was moved into another room and some flippant young girl ran her little wand over my left breast and chest what felt like a million times.
I tried to ask her questions about what she was seeing but she refused to answer. It’s an awkward situation anyway but her attitude and silence seemed to make things worse.
An hour later, I was sent home none the wiser but glad it was over, or so I thought.
About a week later, I received a call from my doctor’s nurse with the news that changed my life. She explained to me that the mass was solid and that I had a Brad score of 3 to 4. Which meant that the mass was suspicious and likely malignant.
I’ve never been more scared in my entire life. I remember having to tell my husband. Pulling him into the hallway and quietly explaining while trying to remain calm and out of earshot from the boys.
He pulled me into arms and let me sob until I was finished crying. He was and is still my rock. I know now, he was as scared as I was but at the time; he was all business.
We live in a tiny midwestern town and the doctors here aren’t known for their medical know-how. In fact, they are known to let you die first and ask questions later. Their first solution is always to cut you open. Maybe they get a kickback from the surgeon, I’m not sure but they wanted me to consent to surgery right away.
Fortunately for me, my husband wasn’t having it. He, himself, is permanently disabled due to the hack job of a local back surgeon. In his unfortunate wisdom, he started calling around to get me a second opinion. Two places were on our list of options. Cancer treatment centers of America and MdAnderson. Both world renowned cancer centers.
I chose Md and we headed there for a second opinion. Through many tests and scans I was finally told the Little Rock spot was a rare cancer known as a sarcoma. It’s a soft-tissue cancer that rarely shows up in the breast. Less that 1-2million cases. That makes me the 1 percent. But, who is counting?
All of the sudden, we are talking numbers. Percents, dates, death rates, survival rates, likelihoods, return rates, treatment dates, hours, and dollar signs.
It’s all so overwhelming. And yes, surgery. But not a lumpectomy like I had thought. No, a double partial mastectomy. This kind of tumor has little arms they call spindles and you must get them all or else they return, like Arnold Schwartennager. If we would have stayed in our little town and let those doctors operate I wouldn’t be typing this today. At least not in this capacity.
An 8 hour surgery, reconstruction, and 11 months later and I’m still alive. I’ve learned you don’t have time. Time is a figment of our imagination. If you want something out of life, don’t lie to yourself about having time. You better do it, do it all.
Do what makes you happy. Be who you want to be unashamedly. Smile more, be honest, talk to people, cry with them, let them be themselves too. No matter who they are because there isn’t enough time.