Wednesday, October 8, 2014

So...Cancer Sucks

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in case you haven't turned on a TV, shopped in a store, or looked on any form of social media. October always drove me crazy. I used to work for a non-profit as well: The American Heart Association. Although February was heart month, our Heart Walk was always in October, so I always felt we were "competing" for awareness. (sad but true, you fight for media spots and donation dollars). The pink EVERYTHING would just irritate me. (More women die of heart disease EVERY year than breast cancer, what good does buying a stick of pink gum make??) Then this happened a few weeks ago:

Mom: "Well, my biopsy came back and they found something."
Me: "What did they find?"
Mom: "Well, they said I have breast cancer"

And then your world stops, and then starts going again 1,000,000 miles a minute pretty much immediately. This was on a Thursday. On that Monday, we had her first doctor consultation to find out exactly how bad it was and immediately we were thrown jargon, terms we didn't understand, lab work we couldn't read, and we had to start making plans - Mastectomy or Lumpectomy? We knew it could be bad, but we didn't know how bad. We had to wait and see what they found when they got in there. So, the doctor left the room and we had about three minutes to decide. Based on what we knew - smallish ductal tumor, super aggressive, but it's 50/50 on which surgery we chose - we chose lumpectomy with radiation after. Decision made, surgery on Wednesday. I had the kids in Knoxville with me, so I drove back and immediately came back on Tuesday night. It also gave me time to google the crap out of her lab reports. It looked bad. Her tumor was 80% aggressive, anything over 20% was deemed "bad". Her estrogen receptors,  and progesterone receptors were both negative. Basically cancer is treated to those hormones. And hers both being negative was not a good sign. 

Surgery came. Dr came out. They took out the tumor and three lymph nodes, which were negative in its frozen state (meaning in the surgery room) PRAISE GOD!!!!! There is nothing else I can say. It's shouldn't have been negative. No way. Her labs looked too bad, and we were expecting the worst. It is indeed a miracle of God. 

Her post -op appt came. Good news and bad. The cancer had NOT spread, praise the Lord. Bad news - she is officially diagnosed at a triple negative breast cancer patient. A very rare form, it only occurs in 10% of breast cancer patients. It has to be treated differently than other types of cancer, there is no hormone therapy, and cancer is highly likely to return. So, she has to do chemotherapy to rule out any cancer cells in her body elsewhere. 

So, her first chemo treatment was this week and she rocked it. So what if she'll lose her hair? Psssh - hair grows back. My mother is one of the bravest, positive, precious people you will ever meet. She will be FINE. She has to be. She is a fighter, and there are too many people in this world that need her for her to believe otherwise. She would never let you know shes hurting, or shes sad, or if she needs help. That's her style. But we've been those annoying children at every doctors appointment asking 100 questions. 

She had the gene test done on Monday. You know the one. The one Ms. Angelina Jolie famously tested positive for and made headlines by choosing to undergo a double mastectomy to lower her risk. The BRCA test. So, we are hoping that comes back negative. If it comes back positive, not only does it put me and my sisters at risk, but due to that triple negative diagnosis, mom will immediately have to undergo a double mastectomy and hysterectomy. So, thats our next hurdle. God doesn't give you anything you can't handle right??? When you walk out of that that doctors office with two pages of a foreign language - it's a very helpless feeling. You are putting your complete faith, trust, and LIFE in a doctor/team that you have to believe will help you, without even understanding what is going on. (of course we do now - it's amazing how much you learn and know when a month ago you knew 0%)

What really been shocking and surprising is that how many people you find out have had it/have it once you're diagnosed. I mean, you kind of "KNOW" that, but do you really?? I didn't! It's been mind-blowing! It's AWFUL...but AWESOME! You have this personal army of survivors and support that is there for you - to help you, to pray with you, and to cheer you on. It's like God says "They've been there. They're there to help you. Let them love you. They want to."

It's going to be a long hard journey, but I am beyond grateful and thankful that the world is pink in October. I am completely eating my words. There is a reason that breast cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer - thanks to awareness and research!!!!  Go schedule your mammogram if you haven't already. I just turned 36 and have already talked to my doctors. They still recommended my waiting until I was 40, but that I'm welcome to go anytime for peace of mind. Please go. Get it scheduled and do your monthly self checks. My mom got hers regularly. Early detection saved her. It would have been SO much worse if caught later. 

Get your mammogram done! It would not have been anything she could have felt because her tumor was so far back. She wasn't feeling any symptoms either - not tired or sick. Thank God for regular mammograms and early detection. Especially with her type of cancer, it's especially aggressive. She's a fighter, and we love her to pieces, but yeah - cancer totally sucks. 

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  1. Your mom IS brave... and wonderful, and grounded, and is my great friend! She is SO lucky to have three, beautiful, intelligent, aggressive daughters, to love, support her emotionally and question all the doctor jargon. I want to help in anyway I can. Don't forget that!
    Nancy Sheets

  2. Have faith that everything will be just fine:-) God is good! I am in my late 30's and been through everything that your mom is going through including the BRAC testing. That's one test that I wish every woman should take. I will include your mom and your family in our prayers. Again, have faith in HIM. -Michelle L.

  3. Your mom is so beautiful and brave! These pictures show how much personality she has. I'm sorry she's had to go through this, and will have to go through things ahead. It's great she has wonderful family like yourself to go through it with. My best best best best friend's mom (who is honestly one of my best friends too) was just told she had breast cancer this past weekend and needs a lumpectomy in a couple weeks and this news has just really shaken up our world. I'm very fearful for the gene test because of my best friend's chances to get it too. I never really paid TOO much attention to October being breast cancer awareness month but now it seems like the most important thing in the world. Good luck with everything your family goes through!