November 2017: My mom shares her diagnosis of Stage 1A Breast Cancer. She is the first one in the family to have breast cancer that I’ve ever heard about. Emotional car crying ensues. She has a lumpectomy followed by radiation. She recovers like the champ that she is.
December 2017: I feel a lump on the top of my left breast. It feels like the size of a peanut. I can’t help thinking I’m being a hypochondriac. I try to make an appointment with my doctor but since I no longer work in Poway, I can’t make her office hours. I make an appointment with a new doctor just to see. I tell my mom nothing.
January 17th, 2018: I see my new doctor who confirms the lump, does not appear overly concerned, and offers an ultrasound because of my new family history. I tell my mom nothing.
January 25th, 2018: The ultrasound tech seems like she is taking awhile. She pauses mid way through to bring in the Radiologist. They both look at the screen and the Radiologist asks if I’m ok with them looking at it from a different angle. I am. They move me on my side and look at it again. I can see the screen and notice how dark it looks. The Radiologist asks if they can do a mammogram. I have to wipe off my armpits with a toilette because I wore deodorant that day and it can show up questionable on the mammogram. They put colorful stickers on my breasts to mark freckles and moles and the lump. My breasts get squeezed and smushed and pulled. The image results are not conclusive because my tissue is too dense. The Radiologist orders a biopsy. I tell myself its fine. I tell my mom nothing.
February 8th, 2018: I go in for my biopsy after work. They use the ultrasound again and this time I can really see how big it looks. And round. The tech and I chat. The Radiologist comes in and we talk about photo albums because how weird is it that all our pictures are on our phones. The tech recommends we print them out. We all agree. The Radiologist gives me lidocaine. I can watch the needle and the liquid enter my body on the screen. She puts a giant needle gun up to my breast and takes five samples. She warns me each time she does because the noise of the machine sounds like a loud whip crack. When she finishes, the tech has to put hard pressure on my breast for a few minutes to stop the bleeding. I’m laying there topless, a strangers full upper body strength pushing down on my breast, and we’re chatting about tattoos. Then she wraps me in a giant ace bandage as tight as it can go with ice packs to help with the bruising and swelling. I feel fine. I buy myself Doritos as a treat. My mom tells us she is finished with radiation. I tell her nothing. I am so happy for her but also feel so guilty not telling her what procedure I just had done. I wake up in the middle of the night sobbing. The pain feels like I got shot in the chest.
February 14th, 2018: I’m at work. I miss the doctor’s phone call 3 times. Each time I call back, the office says she will have to call me back. One time I call and the operator tells me I have an appointment that day. I tell her I don’t know what she is talking about. She pauses and says “oh, are you waiting on biopsy results?” I say yes. She says “Oh” again, and asks if the doctor can call me back and leave a message if I don’t answer. I agree. I miss another call. No message. It was in that moment I think I knew. At the end of the day I finally get through to her. She asks me if I can come in to her office and if anyone can come with me. I tell her I know its bad news and ask that she tells me over the phone. She is hesitant but agrees. And then this poor doctor who I have met one time for less than 20 minutes tells me I have breast cancer. I don’t cry. This worries her. I tell her I feel like I kind of knew. She gives me a lot of information. I pretend I’m listening. We hang up. I cry on the rug in my speech room next to my No Prob-llama pillow. I call my sister. She calls my dad. They tell my mom. She calls me and more car crying ensues. I tell my mom everything. That night, three of my close friends come over and we drink wine and eat pizza and crack terrible cancer jokes. Its exactly what I need.
February 15th-27th: My phone doesn’t stop ringing. Doctors, counselors, navigators, and my family. I go to a close friend’s bachelorette weekend. I have a panic attack in the middle of the first night. I don’t know if its because I have cancer or because we are going to Mexico the next day and its my first time. Probably both. I have a great time in Mexico. My doctor prescribes me Xanax.
February 28th, 2018: My mom arrives for my first 4 doctors appointments. Surgeon, Geneticist, Radiation Oncologist, and Medical Oncologist. I expect them to tell me what I’m going to do. They tell me the choice is mine: Lumpectomy with radiation, a mastectomy, or a mastectomy with a prophylactic right breast mastectomy, reconstruction, no reconstruction, nipple sparing, or nipple building. I don’t really understand that it is going to be my choice. I spit in a tube for genetics. I’m warned that the genetics results will take almost two weeks and that I shouldn’t wait for them to decide. If I have the gene, what would I do? If I don’t have the gene, then why did I get breast cancer? My mom takes notes. I get a cute little organizer for all the paperwork and business cards. I hear “you’re so young” almost every time I meet someone knew. I feel anything but young. I decide to post on Instagram because I want to tell everyone and no one all at the same time. I opt for telling everyone so they can check themselves too.
March 1st, 2018: I have an MRI. I get my first IV. The nurse accidentally hits the back of my vein and has to try on the other arm. I lay on a massage-like table with my breasts in two open holes and this loud machine moves around me for about 25 minutes. I go home afterwards, crawl in bed, and cry.
March 2nd-6th, 2018: I think about every option. This week feels impossibly long but it turns out it was only 4 days. I make my decision. It is immensely personal but completely mine.
March 7th, 2018: My left side mastectomy right side prophylactic mastectomy with reconstruction is scheduled for March 20th at 5:45am. I keep working. I start looking at my work schedule and panic. I make a million lists. Lists on lists.
March 9th, 2018: I start googling all the things I’m going to need. Special bras, shirts that button down the front, an apron for my drains. Its incredible how expensive shirts are for mastectomy patients. And they are ugly. It seems wrong to me so I go with the apron option. After all this, I think I need to market shirts for the “You’re so young” cancer patients.