I’ll never forget, sitting in the oncologist’s office, after my double mastectomy, and hearing the words, “Cancer is just a bump in the road of life.” At the time I wanted to kick her in the teeth, but now looking back I realize she was right in some ways. Okay, so maybe it was more like a massive chuck hole that swallowed me whole temporarily…but the important thing is I got out!
It all began one night right after I had gotten into bed. I rolled over trying to find that perfect, magical sleeping position and somehow my hand got caught and wound up rubbing against the side of my right breast. It felt different somehow. It seemed thicker under the skin than I remembered. So, after feeling my breast over and over and then moving to the other side just to compare, I woke my husband up to feel it. I think he thought I was nuts, but I found myself in a complete panic! (So much for the comfortable sleeping position.) Almost instantly, a sick feeling in my stomach appeared and it just wouldn’t go away. I tried everything in my power to mentally block the feeling, but my gut was in overdrive! (Now I realize it was my intuition.)
The next morning, bright and early, I dialed up my GP and made an appointment to put myself at ease. Luckily, they had an opening the next day. So there I was sitting in the doctor’s office explaining to him that something didn’t feel right in my right breast. After his examination, he said, “ I don’t feel anything abnormal, but the important thing is you do.” So, he sent me off to get a diagnostic mammogram and wrote an order for an ultrasound just in case it was needed. Lord knows I thank God for his trust in me everyday!
So, a couple of days later I got my diagnostic mammogram. It was quite similar to the mammograms I had gotten every year for the previous five years. Oh sure, I had to all but stand on my head with my right breast smashed in the machine, but after all the gymnastics nothing turned up. The radiologist even came into the room and told me he didn’t see anything on the films that looked abnormal. I should have been completely overjoyed and jumping up and down, but the feeling in my gut remained. Apparently, I still must have had a worried or panicked look on my face because he immediately said, “ Let’s go ahead and do an ultrasound since you already have an order for one. I think it will make you feel better, and put your worries to rest.” So, 15 minutes after my acrobatic session, I was in the ultrasound room with clear goo smeared across my right breast waiting for the little paddle to make contact with the slime. Just as soon as it did, the monitor lit up and there was a whole bunch of dense tissue and a small round mass. I knew if I could see it, so could the technician. So before I knew what had happened she started measuring things and the constant clicking of her mouse was making me insane. Now the feeling in my gut was raging and I just wanted to cry. In came the radiologist again and he said, “There seems to be a small mass, but I’m sure it’s just a calcification. However, I’m going to send you for a biopsy just in case.” I knew at that point, that that little round mystery object was going to change my life forever.
Well, after two biopsies, a double mastectomy and lat reconstruction I am a very different person than I was before. As odd as it sounds, dealing with cancer was difficult, but it has taught me so many incredible things.
What Cancer Has Taught Me:
1. I’m a lot stronger than I thought!
2. To let go of things that just don’t matter.
3. To love unconditionally and tell those I love.
4. To allow others to help me, for my sake and theirs.
5. That attitude matters. A positive one gets you a long
6. Laughter is the best way to make it through the worst.
7. To give back. Helping others along the cancer journey in
incredibly important and extremely therapeutic.
8. To try and come up with something that will help make
breast cancer patients more comfortable.
9. And finally, to always listen to my gut! (The last time I
did, it convinced me to have a hysterectomy ... As a
result, endometrial cancer was found!)
Now that it has been almost four years since my breast cancer was detected, looking back it almost seems surreal. To think, because “I Promised to Feel ‘Em” I was able to discover my own breast cancer when mammograms were unable to. Who knew my hands and a little woman’s intuition could be so powerful!
As for helping others, I have been fortunate enough to support many gals through the crazy breast cancer journey and have found it incredibly rewarding and healing. I have also taken tops that I created, to help me become more independent during my recovery, and have passed them on to many other women. I guess you could consider it a traveling breast cancer care package. These tops allow the women to dress themselves, give them access to their chemo ports easily, avoid rubbing the holes where their drain tubes came out and make undressing for all their doctor appointments a breeze. My tops are now called Tender Tanks, and my invention is in the midst of being manufactured. My hope is that Tender Tanks will empower, comfort and help breast cancer patients around the world. (www.TenderTanks.com) I guess it’s my way of trying to positively impact others through my cancer journey.