It’s been almost a year since I have felt a need to write here in this blog. I have been jotting my thoughts down in Facebook posts so here’s a recap…
Since last August I’ve had follow-ups with my team of doctors; my first mammogram and PET scan three months apart starting in September of 2022; finished my Herceptin/Perjecta infusions; got my port taken out on October 6th and was happy to finally be free of treatments and doctor’s visits! I saved my port. It sits in the plastic jar they handed to me after the procedure was complete above my desk. I even had a portrait taken with it by a photographer friend. My port scar healed very nicely and is barely noticeable.
My appointments these days alternate between mammograms and bilateral breast MRIs with PET scans in between to ensure my liver is clean. This is a precaution as I had a spot on my liver that was never definitively identified as benign. So basically, every three months, I’m back to make sure my body is clean. I’m almost through the first year. The goal for me is to get to year three when the risks of recurrence for me go down. I try as best as I can to live for today and do the things I want to do without the worry of said risk until I must return for follow-ups. For the most part, as I’ve just recently completed all treatments, I’ve not really had anxiety about anything …until now.
I had a follow-up for labs the last week of March to make sure blood tests were normal. All good. I was happy to see my medical oncologist. At the end of the week, I had a bilateral breast MRI, part of the norm for keeping close tabs on us survivors. The results were sent to my surgical oncologist for our follow-up appointment a few days later. My appointment was with the P.A. and she pointed out that everything looked good except for one area showing “enhancements” indicating a possible concern. I needed an ultrasound for further analysis. At this point, I did freak out a little, but I saw Dr. Hansen on the way out the door and she hugged me super tight seeing the worry in my eyes and told me it was probably nothing. She said if she had been concerned she would have called me. So I left with some peace of mind and went for the ultrasound two days later.
I woke up in great spirits thinking the ultrasound would show nothing of interest and I’d be on my way for another six months but that’s not how it went. The doctor came in to take a look while the nurse ran the wand over my breast to show the fibroid and shadowing beneath it. His concern was that both the fibroid and the tissue under it lit up with the contrast they inject into the bloodstream during the MRI, so he just wanted to be certain it was benign. I needed to have a biopsy. OF COURSE without evidence, they cannot tell you either way if they feel it is good or bad even when you try hard to get SOMETHING out of them. The nurse saw my face and told me not to “put the horse before the cart that we are just being extra careful.” I cried in the car when I got out of that appointment and then again parked in the garage when I got home. That was last Thursday. Friday at noon, I was back in for a biopsy where the doctor took five samples of breast tissue. I didn’t sleep the night before. I woke at 2 am and cried myself back to sleep but I got myself up ready to go do what I must. After going shopping with my sister-in-law who was sweet enough to insist on going with me to both appointments, we ate lunch and then after she left I passed out until 9 pm. I got up for some water and went back to bed. What was supposed to be a regular checkup turned into a week of terror for me and on top of that, I was told I wouldn’t get results for a week.
The waiting is the worst part. It’s awful. I have been in counseling for about a month trying to unpack the last year and a half of my life and everything I went through to take care of my mental health. A year and a half of being in CONSTANT fight or flight every single day is exhausting. You are being physically and mentally tested over and over and over again and it’s tough as hell to pick yourself up after the various treatments from chemicals to surgery to radiation and TRY to remain even a fraction of your old self. The HEALTHY you. The HAPPY you. I have been taking things easy this year, relishing not HAVING to BE ANYWHERE. Trying to figure out WHY I’m not feeling like ME anymore. Dealing with the trauma of EVERYTHING those chemicals did to my body. I am loving going to therapy. It validates me. It gives me permission to take my time healing emotionally. It provides me clarity and I had been making progress until this past week when I felt jolted back to the unknown. “Stay positive. It’s nothing. It’ll be okay…” Yes, you can try, but when you have been through hell and back for a year and a half this shit triggered my fight or flight again and it’s scary AF. ALL kinds of things went through my mind: I’m going to lose my breasts. I’m not even a year and a half out from surgery! I’m going to have to take chemo again. I’m going to lose my hair. What if it doesn’t work? At least I got to see my kids to adulthood…I mean my mind was all over the place. My body has been so tense, so full of anxiety, and in my thoughts about mortality, AGAIN. It’s been a tough week. Over the weekend I just decided whatever will be will be, because seriously, what the fuck can I do?? It’s out of my control. And there is no fucking way I am going out of this world without a fight. So whatever I have to do I will do because I’M NOT FUCKING DONE LIVING YET! I HAVE GOALS AND STILL HAVE DREAMS and hopes! I REFUSE to be done here! I’m just not done here yet.
Yesterday, I got a phone call from the nurse at the diagnostic center. I was not expecting to hear from her so soon, and she called with good news. My fibroid tissue came back benign and they would see me in 6 months. I can’t tell you the relief I had that washed over me. Thank you, Jesus! And thank you to all my family and friends for the support. I REALLY needed to drink a bottle of wine. But I didn’t because I love my liver. Thankfully, today, I had a therapy session and could unpack all of the week’s events feeling somewhat calmer after talking about it. I made it through another hurdle.
The past year and a half taught me that I need to love on ME more. That I need to give to myself more of everything including grace and compassion. I am not last. I deserve to have as much as I give whether it’s time, talent, or treasure. I shouldn’t wait to enjoy anything. I’m doing things that bring me joy. I’m loving myself more because I matter just as I have always encouraged others that they matter. I’m focusing on truly being present and since my diagnosis almost two years ago, I’m living for NOW because there is just no time to waste.