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Why can’t I still believe this?

The better part of this day has been spent wondering if this is real and wishing the oncologist will tell me on Tuesday that the breast imaging department made an egregious mistake and I really don’t have cancer.

All the while I have been going about my Saturday as normal, making my kids breakfast, lunch and dinner. Conversing as we always do. We just had dinner and they have retired to their rooms leaving me alone with my unhealthy thoughts.

They were supposed to spend time with their paternal grandma this morning but my eldest decided he didn’t want to go. This prompted the younger kids to do the same. I am sure this hurt their grandma’s feelings. She is sensitive. But I just didn’t have the mental strength to try talking them out of that decision.

My kids are, unfortunately, are not close to people on their dad’s side of the family, especially since we separated the first time. We are on our second separation after we briefly tried reconciling.

The kids say their dad, their grandma, great aunts and even cousins, act “stuffy” and are always spouting off rules. For example, dishes must be washed as soon as dinner is over, beds have to be made — military style. Affection is limited and they’re always being watched for mistakes they might make.

I’ve always said they are like the royal family, the queen and her son (only child). While I have always been more like the late Princess Diana, somewhat of a “scoffrule”, spur of the moment kind of person. I am very affectionate with my children and while they may turn their noses at it now that they are teens and pre-teens, I know they sometimes appreciate it.

I’ve spent a good amount of the time I’ve been separated from my husband trying to convince the kids to just give him, his mother and other family members, a chance. I am exhausted from that relationship, hence the reason why I didn’t try to convince my kids to just go spend some time with grandma. I don’t even what to tell any of them about my diagnosis until absolutely necessary.

I figure since my kids spent several hours during the last 2 days with my mother, they have been “grandmad” out and deserve a Saturday minding their own business, doing what they like to do. That’s what’s up in our rented apartment tonight, where they have left me with my thoughts and suspended belief.

First thoughts

Cancer has become the first thing that pops in my head when I wake up since my diagnosis. These past two mornings have been rough, especially since good sleep has been hard to come by. I’ve found myself being awoken at odd hours of the night/morning — 2 a.m., 4 a.m., etc.

I’ve also been thinking about how to tell my children about this diagnosis. Yesterday, I thought it would be okay to tell them after Tuesday’s initial meeting with the oncologist. But now, I just don’t think that’s a good idea.

I don’t think they need to know until such a time as this diagnosis begins to affect our life together. When I can’t drive them to school because chemotherapy treatments have made me too weak. When my hair begins to fall off. When I can’t make them dinner…

There is no need to worry them when they are really still recovering from my separation from their dad. That’s been a really rough road and they seem to be okay now. I would hate to spoil their peace.

My oldest chose not to go to his school homecoming event tomorrow and that’s a relief. I am just not in the mood for any kind of celebrations.

I’ve been lucky the last two days that my mother and one of my sister have been with me. Whenever we are together we have a good time, just talking, laughing and forgetting about our problems. That has kept me sane these last two days.

It’s Friday evening and I anticipate a somewhat tough weekend since I won’t have my work to keep me busy or my mother to keep me company. She works weekends. My sister has also missed work the last two days, so she’s making those days up over the weekend.

My children are with me, but they tend to keep to their rooms, playing their video games and chatting with their friends. I probably get 10 minutes at a time with each.

While I anticipate an emotionally tough weekend, I am glad the area I was pricked during my biopsy is no longer itchy (see picture). I look forward to Monday when I have my gyno appointment. I’ve decided to have my IUD removed.

If it’s what caused this cancer, then I’d rather have it removed ASAP. It will be a heavy thought to bear if it’s low dose progesterone had a part to play– I would have much rather have had another child.

November for surgery?

A patient advocate from the doctor’s office just called me.

We talked about many things regarding the way forward after this dastardly diagnosis. She said that looking at the oncologist’s schedule, it may not be until November that the likely surgery is done.

I can’t wait that long. I feel like this thing will grow and become worse.

I cannot wait for Tuesday to get here so I can advocate for myself and see if this can be done sooner.

The whys and the why nots

It’s day 1 PC (post cancer) diagnosis.

I went to bed at around midnight, feeling sorry for myself. My brain was too active to fall asleep and I kept wondering why the dreaded C got me, why it didn’t wait until I was 72, why, why, why ….

I answered my why questions with ‘why not’ answers. Why not me?

I’ve been very healthy all my life. Apart from getting the common cold once a year, a few strep throat infections in my adulthood, and a chronic condition called hidradenitis suppurativa, I haven’t really had much to complain about.

Since I was 19, my hidradenitis suppurativa has been mainly located in my left armpit. A year ago, my right armpit also started showing signs. It’s under my armpit skin, nothing on the surface, and has always presented as swollen, sometimes painful fluid-filled lymph nodes, which get worse every so-often.

I’ve decided to start taking boob pictures as often as I can to one day remember them by, if my treatment plan calls for having a mastectomy.

In fact, when the doctor’s called me in for a second mammogram and said the area of concern was on the left breast very near to my armpit, I thought the hidradenitis suppurativa had finally turned malignant. That remains to be seen, and hopefully I can begin getting answers on Tuesday, in four days, when I see the ‘team of oncologists’ that Dr. Priti yesterday promised.

Another ‘why’ worry I am having today is whether I did more harm than good in dealing with my hidradenitis suppurativa. I bought CBD oil in September and have been using it to massage my armpits every other day as a way to reduce pain and see if the swelling would go away. I wonder now if that may have knocked loose malignant cells that traveled to other parts of my body.

Of all the times to start this massage…

I am out y’all. I can’t take this right now.

The doctor says I have cancer

It’s breast cancer. Left boob. Near my armpit.

The news came today, a wet, dreary and otherwise uneventful Wednesday, just days before my 43rd birthday. It was around 3:30 p.m. as I sat in a wooden upholstered chair, in a cold, almost bare, consult room looking at a pretty attending doctor, named Priti.

It was my first time meeting her. She wasn’t the doctor I had established a good rapport with two days prior as she performed my biopsy along with two breast imaging technicians. Nevertheless, Dr. Priti had kind, brown eyes and I felt I could trust her.

She said a few reassuring words, I don’t recall them all, just fragments, like “this is very early”, “it hasn’t even formed a lump yet” and “you’ll be okay”.

I felt faint and found myself sliding in the flowery chair upon which I sat but I quickly managed to correct my posture. My right hand, seemingly on its volition, then went to my head, wanting to pull my hair, but then I remembered that my hair today was a wig so I just ended up patting it, the way I always pat my head after consuming wasabi or something spicy.

The wig survived.

Not knowing what to do with myself, I ended up standing up and wringing my hands, scratching one of my fingers on the arm band they put on my wrist, the pain reminding me that this was real. I am pretty sure I said something but I don’t remember what.

My Oct. 16 arm band.

I have no idea how my eyes looked like during those life-changing moments but Dr. Priti must have thought I was about to cry because she quickly grabbed some tissues to hand me as I sat back down.

I knew the reality of what a cancer diagnosis meant… harsh treatments, an altered body and mortality. I’ve often wondered about how I would die and I felt like I now knew, which is silly, because I could get get into a car accident tomorrow and meet my demise.

I thought of my children, only now entering their teens, one with a recently diagnosed mental disorder and panicked. The privilege of raising them to independent adulthood has always been my prayer.

I thought of my mother, who has a chronic condition that is progressively getting worse, and how she depends on me and one of my sisters to help her often.

I thought of my other siblings and how they would react to this news, especially since we had just gotten back to some normalcy after a heart- wrenching nine months of worrying about our infant nephew who underwent a 7-hour open heart surgery in July. Thankfully, he received a clean bill of health yesterday, hopefully putting an end to any additional heart issues. I wondered if my siblings would be too weary to rally around me like we did my nephew.

I have no family history of breast cancer. The only familial cancer diagnosis we know of was my maternal grandfather who seemingly died in his 80s from complications of prostate cancer that was diagnosed too late.

Over the last few years, I have had a nagging feeling that my lifestyle choices would do me in.

You see, I have been overweight and now obese since about a year after the birth of my last child 12 years ago. I distinctly remember reacting to my weight when I went in for an IUD when my child was 13 months old. At the time, I weighed 219 pounds, up 40 pounds from my regular weight.

Over the years, I have added more weight. Four years ago, I filed for divorce from my husband. It was such a tumultuous period in my life that resulted in me neglecting my health. I ate out a lot because I wasn’t up to cooking and overindulged in sweets, chocolate cake, to be exact. The result was a 17 pound weight gain, leading to me topping the scales at around 242.

While my soon to be ex-husband (I know, long time for the divorce to finalize) worked on being cordial for the sake of our children, I became addicted to work. I had a fear of not being able to provide for my children but I suppose, work also filled a void in my life, especially when my children were with their dad.

In the last year or so, I have worked over 80 hours a week, while at the same time dealing with one of my children’s mental health. I would sleep for no more than four hours each night, eat at random hours of the day and night and just lead an overall stressful life.

I felt like I was gaining weight but I put off weighing myself, or even working out.

I knew though that I had to lose weight and ironically, at the end of last month, September, I made the decision to start working out and change my diet. I vowed that by this time next year, my body would look like tennis pro Serena Williams’. But first, I decided to go for my annual medical check ups.

I set up my appointments and went in for my mammogram on Oct. 1. The doctor’s office called me on Oct. 7 asking that I go in for additional images because of “an area of concern” on my left breast. I did that and on Oct. 10.

This is a picture I took on Oct. 1 showing my obese midsection.

On Oct. 11, I got another call from the doctor’s office telling me that they saw what they thought were deposits of calcium on my left breast, so they asked me to come in for a biopsy. Through all these visits, I tried to remain positive.

I went in for my biopsy on Oct. 14. The doctor I saw was extremely nice, quite encouraging; similarly the technicians. The biopsy results were supposed to be ready on Oct. 15, so they made me an appointment to go in. However the doctor’s office called me saying the results wouldn’t be ready until Oct. 16. I knew then that I should prepare for unwanted news.

When I went into the doctor’s office on Oct. 16, they took longer than I’ve ever seen them take to take me to the “back”. Forgive me I don’t know the “back’s” proper name. I waited 30 minutes when normally, I am called to the “back” within 10 minutes of registration.

Once the nurse invited me to sit and wait for the doctor in that cold room with the flowery upholstered wooden chair, I felt like my life would never be the same. When I ended up waiting 20 minutes to see the doctor (they are usually in within 5 minutes), I knew for certain, my life would never be the same.

My friend picked me up from the doctor’s office. I called my mom from her car, and only then, did I break down. My mom, a devout Christian, prayed with me and told me to be strong. She was with one of my sisters who promptly came by to sit with me for a while. Talking to her gave me encouragement.

As it stands, I have an appointment with a team of doctors at the cancer center on Tuesday, five days away. I am hesitant to even touch the area they told me they saw cancer, as if that will prevent it from spreading.

I am hopeful that I will survive this and live to see my children all grown and independent.