A Hard Pill to Swallow
I knew before I talked to my GP. I knew before the ultrasound, the mammogram, the second ultrasound, the biopsy and the words from my surgeon as I sat in his office at the hospital.
Granted, I didn't know the type of breast cancer I had, or the stage or the size of the tumour but I had known for weeks that something was wrong and that it was likely cancer. I pay attention. I also like to google symptoms. People say not to do it but everybody does it. I'm the kind of person who has had a few mammograms in my lifetime. Everything always turned out to be benign. Let's put it this way. I know a cyst when I feel it. This was different. There were real changes to the "look" of my right breast. Not just how it felt. Sure, there was a lump but there always seemed to be one or another. This one felt different though. Harder, not movable. I started to see a small rash develop and there was shooting pain occasionally.The big red flag though (going to get graphic here) was that my nipple was retracting into my breast. Ladies, if this happens to you...get to a doctor ASAP. That's what I did. Believe me, I knew there was something wrong and I started to act fast. That's the key right? Pay attention. Catch it early. I was in my own doctor's office in late October and was lucky enough to get an ultrasound that day. Not good enough. My specialist/surgeon wanted a mammogram before he saw me. This to me, is akin to a torture chamber. I'm not kidding. It comes second only to giving birth as far as things I find intolerable. As soon as I finished the mammogram I was asked to do another ultrasound. Cake walk in my opinion. Right after the ultrasound the radiologist says she'd like to do a biopsy. "When?" I asked. "Right now." she says. Now, I'm no expert but I'm pretty sure that an on-the-spot biopsy means things are looking suspicious. If you've never had one, it's not too big of a deal. You get frozen, they stick a sharp object into you and retract a few cells. They do this about four or five times in different locations...including my arm pit. I found none of this particularly alarming or shocking. It was only solidifying my own diagnosis. My feelings were less "How can this be happening?" and more "Damn this sucks."
Two weeks later (December 1) my husband and I made our way to St. Joseph's hospital in Hamilton where my surgeon has an office. I remember getting dressed that day and saying to Chris "What does one wear to their doom?" He didn't want to wear a favourite shirt just in case it reminded him of this day in the future. That's how sure we were that this was not going to be a pleasant visit. My surgeon, Dr. Lovrics, is a class act. As I sat there I thought to myself "This poor man has to deliver bad news as part of his job. I wonder how hard that is for him?' He actually apologized to me. He couldn't believe this happened. I had been in his office only 10 months earlier. He had told me my cysts were benign, drained them for me and sent me on my way. This visit however, he told me I have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. It's the most common of all breast cancers.
I took the next couple of nights off work at The Weather Network where I have been a weather presenter for almost 19 years.. Even though I was not technically surprised by my diagnosis, it was still emotionally difficult for me to acknowledge and accept what it all meant. People survive breast cancer all the time, but some don't. It's hard not to think of your own mortality under these circumstances. I was also told, that I would need chemotherapy followed by a mastectomy, followed by radiation. That's a hard pill to swallow. I knew that life. as I knew it. would be forever changed.
On Monday December 5th I returned to work for the last time. I told my evening team at The Weather Network about my diagnosis and that I would be taking time off. That was weird. Saying the words out loud makes it more real and yet, every time I said it, I didn't quite believe it myself. My co-workers whom I'm very close with lined up for hugs and I did my show as usual. I had intentions of coming back to do a few more shifts but things started to kick into high gear. Bone scans, ultra-sounds, and x-rays to determine if my cancer had spread. I got in to see an oncologist within a week of my diagnosis (which I'm told is a week earlier than most). Dr. Arnold and his nurse Kathie Ward sat with my husband and me for a very long time explaining what was happening and what I could expect in the months ahead. My cancer is locally advanced, my tumour is large, and my cancer is aggressive. I'm stage 2 B. Not the best, nor the worst. The bright side? According to all of the scans and tests I've had so far, the cancer has not spread. This is a massive relief. Dr. Arnold told me, in no uncertain terms, if it has spread to the bones or the lungs, it is not curable. You can live for many years, but it's not curable. The breast cancer IS curable but it's going to basically knock me down for close to a year.
8 days later (December 16) I sat in a chemotherapy chair for the first time. 53 days after my first visit to my GP, I began my treatment This is why, if you think there's a problem, you shouldn't wait because the process takes time. I have been assured that I am getting the best, fastest treatment but I still waited 7 weeks and 4 days for it to begin. Don't wait.