August 2, 2018:
Well fuck me, I've got cancer! Non-aggressive, stage 2 cancer. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, to be exact – otherwise known as breast cancer.
It’s been three days since I found out on July 30th. Three days since my entire life changed. And if I’m being honest, I’m not freaking out near as much as I feel I should be. In fact I feel pretty calm and matter of fact about it. Perhaps I’m still in shock, or I haven’t fully processed – but I don’t think I am (still in shock) and I feel like I have (processed).
I’ll tell you what though, hearing the words “we found cancer” was more surreal than any moment I’ve ever experienced. I mean that’s something that happens to someone else – not to me!!
That being said, it was almost like it didn’t register as a bad or scary statement (at first). I mean, I heard her (the nurse practitioner) say it. She was clear as fucking day. But she might as well have said that I had a mole that needed to be removed. My face, on the other hand, fully registered what she had said. It started twitching, A LOT.
What little part of my brain was functioning properly in that moment couldn’t figure out why my face was doing that. Was I having a stroke??!? Never mind the fact that I could totally feel a shirt buttoned-up around my neck, even though I was wearing a hospital gown.
It was all just very bizarre, and like I said, surreal.
She gave me a moment, and then started in with the explanation, only I couldn’t hear her. My ears were ringing so loudly that I literally couldn’t hear a word she said. She gave me another minute to get my shit together so that I could focus on what she had to tell me. And once she felt that I was ready, she pulled out a blank piece of paper and drew a big boob on it. She placed a dot in the middle for the nipple and a bigger dot to the side for the tumour (now THAT’S a scary word!!!) and drew a bunch of rock looking formations in the armpit (my lymph nodes), and off we went!
She explained that I had the best of the worst, which is definitely better than the worst of the worst, but let’s face it, it’s still cancer FFS.
We went over my options for treatment and discussed the fact that, because my breasts are so dense, I would need to have an MRI so they could get a better look in there and be sure that the mammogram and ultrasounds hadn’t missed anything. And all things going well (or as well as it can go with the big B.C.), I would be scheduled for a lumpectomy and a sentinel lymph node biopsy within the next 4 weeks.
From there, they would send my squatter (aka the tumour) and a select few lymph nodes away for testing, and as long as nothing had spread to the nodes (and beyond) I would chill and recover for a month or so and then start 5 to 7 weeks of radiation.
The silver lining in this “best case scenario” – no chemo! So for those of you who like me better with my short hair, too bad, the long hair stays!!
After we had gone over all of that, Dr M (a surgical oncologist) came in to have a look at the girls. He winced when he saw the bruising I had from the biopsy they’d done just 3 days before, but that didn’t stop him from poking and prodding at them like it was his job or something.
From there, the surgical coordinator came in to meet me, although I’ll be darned if I can remember what she and I discussed. And then a grad student popped by to tell me that I qualified to be a part of a research study for breast cancer pre-habilitation.
At that point my old friend Vrutika (the nurse practitioner) came back in to let me know that I’d met everyone I needed to, and gone over everything that needed going over, and that I could split.
I don’t actually remember leaving the hospital, but I do remember walking down University Avenue in the blistering heat, checking out every boob that walked towards me (don’t worry I had sunglasses on so no one knew I was being a creeper). And I didn’t discriminate. Big, small, perky, dirt draggers – I looked at ‘em all! And I wondered if any of these girls were on their way to get the same news that I had just gotten.
My plan from there was to walk the few blocks to Queen Street and jump on an eastbound streetcar and head home, but instead I detoured west on Queen to the Wine Rack. I bought a bottle of red and emptied it into my water bottle right there in the store (no fucks were given), and proceeded to walk the 2.5 hour trek home, drinking every last drop of that bottle, while letting the news sink in.