Friday, July 31, 2009

Before and After Cancer Came to Town

Thought I'd take a trip down memory lane, back to the defining "Before" and "After" moments of when cancer came to town. I feel a need to tell the story in its entirety. I have often referenced things simply as facts but never really offered them as full experiences. Please bear with me as I write......just trying to get it all out......

Breast cancer has been rather rampant in my family history. I've learned that this was my first "cancer identity", beginning with concern and screening. Those that went before me, and vigilant screening, perhaps saved my life. It was this perspective that allowed for my early detection. It also caused me to really think about what I would do if I were to be diagnosed with breast cancer.

I remember the day when the phone rang and the caller id indicated it was my surgeon. Just two days before I had undergone removal of a suspicious lump. When your surgeon calls on a Saturday, picking up the phone is the beginning of your "new" life. Craig and the boys were visiting our friends Keri, Gordy, and their daughter Jessi for the afternoon, so I was home alone on the mend. I sat on my bed to answer the phone. That was definitely a before and after moment. I spent the new few hours dealing, accepting, and checking my preparedness for what would come.

When my boys got home, I told Craig we needed to talk, so we went to our room, shut the door, and I prayed for a few minutes before milk was needed or somebody hit someone or looked at their brother funny. How quickly can you tell your husband that you have breast cancer? Pretty damn quick. How long can this new diagnosis make time stand still? About as long before a little guy knocks on the door. Suddenly life goes on.

I saw the surgeon Monday morning, but my treatment decisions were already made. I had already had a number of lumps removed, all on the right side, where the cancer had been found. My poor little breast was getting smaller by the year. It simply was time, for me, to say enough is enough, and move on. Take 'em! Why screw around with this? I had been blessed with a wonderful husband, had born and breastfed two beautiful children, my family was complete. Never having had an identity defined by my breasts, and actually perhaps the opposite, I was okay with my originals going. Why not trade up?

When I was off blood-thinners for the required number of days, I underwent a double mastectomy. I remember looking at my breasts while I was in pre-op and saying goodbye. I remember showing them to Craig and my best friend Jenny, both there to support me, as ALWAYS, and telling them to say goodbye. They didn't appreciate the moment as I did.....

I woke up without breasts. It was now "After" for sure.

Someday I will write about the recovery from the surgery and my boobless life. But enough for now.

In closing, I have been fortunate to have some of my friends and family ask frank and sometimes difficult questions, as sometimes, some people, would like to learn more and have felt comfortable enough to ask. I am 100% open to answering ANY question, regardless of how personal it may seem. I genuinely think this is part of my purpose: to talk and communicate the very real journey I've had. People will either want to know or not. But I am committed to getting the personal side of cancer out there. I certainly am not a clinical expert and frankly, it seems that most information out there is dry and technical. PLEASE tell me what you are curious about. Or skip the blog entries. Whatever makes you comfortable.

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