My Breast Cancer Journey
Shared By: Jennifer L
Cancer has been a thorn in my family’s side since my mother was diagnosed with Sarcoma in 1993. I was 20 years old. She was a tough little lady and survived 12 years, her body could not handle anymore and in 2005 she passed away at home in her bed. She called me at 5:00 am the morning she died, her speech was slurred, and she told me it was going to snow that day. It was February, I must admit I was annoyed, she woke me up, I had an 11-month-old and a 5-year-old was barley sleeping, the alarm was going off any minute and I had to go to work. Hours later, sitting at my desk I started having strange feelings deep in my soul, I called Mom, no answer. I called my Grandmother and remember telling my Grandmother that I think it may be time Mom needs extra care, she lived alone. My brother worked in the same office as me, he called Mom, no answer. The feeling in my gut was undeniable, I knew she was gone. I told my brother go, we worked in DC and she lived in Gaithersburg, MD.
As tears are welling in my eyes writing this I fast forward to the spring of 2015, I was 41 years old with 4 children; 15, 12, 7 and 3. As all woman with children and age my body went through many changes, some good, some not so good. I started to notice a brown/red color discharge from my right nipple. In my typical style as I am not a fan of the doctor’s office, I brushed it off and thought, it must be rotten breast milk or something. Weeks passed, a month, more time and I finally talked to my sister-in-law about it, she works at Georgetown Hospital. I stayed off Google and internet searches on nipple discharge in retrospect, subconsciously, I didn’t really want to know what was happening. My sister-in-law is aware of my “love” of doctors, so she asked around for me, inquiring to several doctors and they all informed her to inform me to get checked immediately. So, I went into Georgetown, a wonderful facility. The Lombardi cancer center is where I got my first mammogram. I honestly never thought about getting a mammogram, I am not defending this decision, as I mentioned earlier, I am not a big traditional medical person. The mammogram experience overall was ok, they seat you in a serene environment with flat screens playing waterfalls and soothing soundscapes. The radiology technician was kind, but she kept looking at the screen, adjusting me, clamping the metal down, taking snaps, looking at the screen, adjusting me, clamping the metal down again, taking snaps over and over. By this time my nipple discharge was flowing heavily. I knew she saw something in the images. She finally sent me out but not to get dressed but to wait for a sonogram. A different technician did the sonogram she went out in the hall, said they needed to consult with the doctor, came back and the doctor informed me I would need to return the next day for a biopsy. As I left, I was numb, I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, but my mind was racing.
By nature, I can stay strong on the outside, I did not cry I just felt different inside like nothing from that moment on in my life would be the same. Next steps, hours, days, months and even years all seem like I was on the outside looking in, watching my life but strangely I had no feeling, no emotion. My sister-in-law later described it that I went through the process so clinically, expressed little emotion during all the tests, doctor visits, etc., she was with me every step of the way. I went home told my husband who took the news oddly, I say oddly because this news was not our only issue in our marriage and was not what I was expecting. He has always thought of me as an indestructible woman, super woman so he was cold and said it will probably be nothing. The next day we got in the car together to go get my biopsy, we got in the car together, but I pulled off alone. The biopsy was a bit uncomfortable and my nerves were on edge. They lay you down on your stomach on a table that has an opening for your breasts, kind of like a massage table that has an opening for your face. They raise the table and then make a deep incision in your breast, insert the large needle deep and pull “stuff” out. The kids and I were going camping a few days later, I was worried about being able to go in the ocean which I couldn’t.
During the camping trip I got the results call, it was raining, we were in the car at the campground, the doctor called and said yes you have breast cancer and the rest of her words are not in my memory, my sister-in-law was there with me, knew the doctor personally so I just handed the phone to her and sat there. My daughters were in the car, so I was trying to control my feelings. I called my husband and did not get the reaction or sympathy that I guess I wanted. We were following my brothers to eat lunch, in the parking lot we shared the news and their reaction was quiet, we all went in and ate as if we did not just hear that I had Breast Cancer. In retrospect I believe the reaction from my husband and brothers set the stage for my lack of emotions throughout my journey. My main concern was the fact t