Ever have an out-of-body experience? I have...my personal out-of-body journey began the second I was diagnosed with breast cancer on a random Friday in November 2000; November 11, 2000 to be exact. I call this my "out-of-body journey" because I felt like I was outside looking in while witnessing something or someone much bigger than myself take over every thought and decision I made to intelligently get me through this...
A large lump popped out from behind a muscle in my right arm pit. Alarmed by this, I called my doctor and he examined me the very next day. After the examination, he said it was a swollen lymph-node and scheduled a mammogram and ultra-sound for me the following week. Over the last 6 years, upon my doctor's recommendation, I've been having mammograms every couple of years due to fibroids in my breasts. So the mammogram wasn't such a big deal to me but the ultra-sound and the enlarged lymph-node did concern me. I know he sensed my anxiety and said to please not worry about anything until we get the results, after all, the node could be swollen for several reasons like doing their job... fighting infection. The results of my mammogram and ultra-sound came out clean! I was so excited! My doctor did suggest however that the lymph-node was so enlarged, I should have it surgically removed. We scheduled an appointment with a surgeon to have it removed the following week.
November 10, 2000 (11/10/00)
I was scheduled for a 20-30 minute surgery for the removal of an enlarged lymph-node in my right arm pit. "It was no big deal" I told my husband and that he should go to work because my mom could take me, after all my tests results were clean and it's just a swollen node. After the surgery, I opened my eyes and could see my mom and the surgeon looking down at me. I knew something was wrong – scary, wrong. That's when the surgeon's exact words were "We've looked at the node under the scope and know 100% for sure you have cancer. At this time I can't say what kind of cancer because your mammogram and ultra-sound results were clean, so it could be lymphoma. But because of the location of the infected node, more than likely it is breast cancer. We won't know anything for sure until we get the results of more testing back from pathology".
I was so glad mom was with me as my head was spinning. I'm not so sure who was more numb, me or my mom, we both cried and she said she wished it was her not me. That was hard to hear even though as a mom myself I'd feel the same way. We left the hospital and went to my parent's house. My 2 daughters ages, 9 and 11, were still in school and I did not want to go home until I told my husband the "unexpected-change-our-lives-forever-news". I pulled myself together, called him and told him that I rested there for the day and could he come pick me up and take me home. When my husband arrived he said he had sensed something was wrong but was not sure what it could be. That was the first time that I actually had to say the words "I have cancer" to someone I loved. It seemed harder for me to tell the people in my life that I love, "I have cancer" than actually having cancer. Weird but true. Also hard to realize was the fact that I was inflicting immediate sadness, disbelief and helplessness to the recipients of this horrible news about me.
The diagnosis of breast cancer and what was I going to do about it consumed my life for 5 plus months. I have a husband and 2 daughters and in my mind refused to let this disease force me to leave this earth.
There was no history of breast cancer in my very large family and I was considered young for this disease as I had just turned 42 the month before, I don't smoke, and I'm super active and exercise.
was surrounded by a huge support group that included family, friends, and people I didn't even know; it was truly a humbling experience. It would almost be impossible to maintain a positive attitude through this ordeal without the support I received.
This positive attitude kept me in check while I made appointments for numerous 2nd opinions, talked to many doctors, other women that had gone through this experience, and searching the web for as much info that I could get my hands on. I had several surgeries, a lot of scans, endured sickness and hair loss from my chemo treatments and then a mastectomy on March 31, 2001. That is when I received the great news from my oncologist that I was finally cancer free.
Currently I have regular check-ups with my oncologist that includes lab work, mammogram, and an occasional breast MRI. Soon I will celebrate 15 years of being cancer free.
All is well with me today. I live my life like I never had cancer... that was the past and I live for today!
**Chemotherapy has many side effects, dry, itchy skin being one of them. Zum Bar Soap and Lavender Zum Rub (a shea butter salve) was a rescuer for my dry skin, especially my scalp. After my hair loss the Zum Rub was healing and super moisturizing. Another side effect is nausea and I was sensitive to smells, but could use the Zum Bar and Zum Rub without problem. Zum products are chemical free and considering the chemo put plenty of chemicals in my body, I really didn't see the need to put any chemicals on the outside of my body.