Saturday, August 25, 2012

Two crazy weeks

August third I was told over the phone that the samples they took are in fact cancer.  I remember sitting on the edge of my bed, my husband's anxious face as I sat speechless and then I can remember crying.  The kind of crying that is uncontrollable.  How can this be?  This can't be.  This isn't true... but it was.  I have cancer.
I wish I could say that I noticed a lump and hurriedly went to the doctors to get it checked out- and luckily, my quick thinking helped me to catch it early.  But in fact, I didn't notice anything.  I have been dreadful at taking care of myself.  Ironic, considering I work as a therapist and it is my occupation to be a caregiver.  So, it had been a couple of years since my last annual.  At 44, I should have had a mammogram when I turned forty- but I didn't.  I have been either pregnant or nursing for the last four years, and the thought of a mammogram seemed uncomfortable so I decided against it.  When a woman that I know was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I decided I needed to go to the doctor.  Of course I would be fine, but I should go.
The doctor found the lump.  I told her I have always been lumpy- and if I came in with a lump every time I felt one, I would be here every other week.  She was still concerned and asked that I go in for a mammogram as soon as possible.
I am a busy woman.   I work forty hours a week, teach at two universities, supervise amazing interns, try to make art whenever possible, and have two children five and under.  I told her I would go as soon as I could.  My son was having surgery the following week, so I decided to go once his surgery was behind me.  I can really only worry about one thing at a time after all.
My little one was quite the trooper- and his tonsillectomy was a success.  So now, mammogram.  I was scheduled for the next day, August 1st.   One mammogram- back to the waiting room, "please don't get dressed yet."  Another mammogram - back to the waiting room, "please don't get dressed, next will be an ultrasound".  Ultrasound with a request to biopsy immediately.  I said yes... and suddenly realized that things were looking serious.
Since the phone call on August third, the days have been a blur of tests, meetings with oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, second opinions, and daily disclosures to those I love.  I feel like a lunatic.  Laughing, crying, angry, despondent.  Incredulous.
At this time, what I know is I have breast cancer.  They have found several tumors through out the left breast and one tumor in the lymph node.  MRI scan shows no cancer in the right breast.  My cancer appears to be Estrogen positive, Progesterone negative.  Her2 status in unknown at this time.
This week is the PET scan and we will find out if it has progressed anywhere else.  I am terrified, but trying hard to stay positive and hopeful.  I have to fight this.  I don't have any other choice.
When I was 37, I struggled with infertility and worked on an artist journal throughout my ordeal to help me cope.  I knew I needed to do the same for this.  I also know that I want to do something with this that is meaningful to me.  So, here I am.  I am a licensed marriage family therapist and board certified art therapist about to take you on my journey of healing this thing that has invaded my body. 
The picture below is from my artist journal around infertility.  It was one of those days when I needed to give myself a pep talk.  I am having another one of those days.

"I have been holding on to this story of being unlucky and damaged for too long.  when  I look at all my small frame has endured in 38 years - how can I not be in awe of my courage, my strength, my tenacity and will.  I am a survivor and  I can do anything I set my mind to.  I am blessed with love, beauty, truth, and creativity.  I am powerful."

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