I’ve been thinking a lot the last few weeks about what to post for Breast Cancer Awareness Month on Vanilla Lemonade. There are so many cute, adorable baked treats that I could have made, but I decided that I’d pass on the gift my mom, Queenie, gave me about 18 years ago.
Queenie is pretty tough; I’ll just say she is “tough as nails”. She is Lily Pulitzer on the outside, and steel on the inside. I guess she had to be, growing up in a big family herself and then to deal with my brother and I growing up. She somehow made it all happen, with my father traveling thru the week, she still was able to juggle our schedules and put a hot meal on the table. While raising two busy, pain in the butt teenagers, she also faced a couple of her own fights. One night she cut off the tip of her finger in the garden, my dad shouted up to the window, “I’m taking your mother to the hospital…”! She also had the fortune to get a couple of extra hips, most people have only two hips, but Queenie was blessed to have 4.
Queenie also had a battle with breast cancer, and I’ll tell you, she won. I had just left for college when my mom was diagnosed, so I missed most of it, only receiving updates on the telephone. Now I am confident there were some pretty bad days, but I never heard about those as my mom and dad decided the bad days weren’t worth talking about. As I look back now, as an adult, having your kids worry about you just make bad days worse.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized the gift my mom gave me when she was fighting her battle. It wasn’t until I started my own battle that I knew how blessed I was.
I was at my yearly OB/GYN when my doctor found a lump, a decent size one in my breast. He asked me if I had felt it, I thought to myself, “um yeah I felt it…but I’m only 32 years old…hello…”, but instead I told him “no, I hadn’t felt it”, feeling embarrassed. Which was worst, that I felt it and wasn’t concerned or that I didn’t notice a golf ball in my boob…
As prescribed, I went to have an ultrasound, which led to a biopsy. Next thing I knew I was consulting with a surgeon. He told me the biopsy was unclear, and a larger sample was needed, and while they were getting a sample they, they might as well remove the complete mass. What?? I have never understood doctor talk but what made it bad was that I didn’t care to understand. I didn’t want to know.
This lack of questioning was a huge learning for my marriage, Sir Wes was beside himself. Not only, could he not help me fix the problem, but he was confused and scared. He needed answers; answers would help him gain control of an uncontrollable situation. But he had to deal with no answers as I was refusing to ask.
Thru my life, I have dealt with stress in similar ways, I just don’t think about it. I don’t talk about it and I don’t read about it. I don’t dwell and I don’t what if…these roads are dangerous to go down. I just did not want to go down them.
When the results from my lumpectomy came in, it took 3 days for me to make the call and get the results. The mass was malignant. Now I worried.
Wes, my family, my friends worried for the next 7 days until my follow up appointment. I would say this was one of my most trying times. Although I tried to keep a positive outlook, I allowed myself a few day trips down those dark roads, filled with stops at Web MD, Wig Browsing, and Chemo diets. After a few days of this, I told Sir Wes, “this is nonsense; I don’t even know why we are worrying. What’s the worst case? Chemo? Radiation? I can probably do that on Fridays, and then have the weekends, maybe Monday to recover. No biggie and you know they caught it early so it should be fine, just a pain in the ass”. And that was what our mantra became for rest of the next week.
Finally at the follow up appointment, we met with my surgeon, and with my new doctor, my Oncologist. We listened hard at what they told us, but all I heard was that I had Breast Cancer. When they told me what the treatment would be, I listened even harder. I would not need radiation or chemotherapy. The type of tumor was a Phyllodes Tumor, a rare form of breast cancer. This cancer does not spread, but it reoccurs. With the decision the surgeon had made to remove the entire lump, there would not need to be another surgery, all of it had been removed. So I had breast cancer, then it was gone and now I would wait for it to return.
The Oncologist watches me closely, keeps an eye, any small change and I am getting an ultrasound or a biopsy. I have had surgery since then; thankfully they never lead to anything to worry about.
This was a hard time for my family and friends, at home, out of state and at work, I think they all shouldered their share of the hardship. I know, that without the support, and allowing me to deal with it the way I wanted to, I would not have made it thru as easily. Some days I was a mess, Wes would find me crying when I was in the middle of cooking dinner, my friends from out of town would go thru an emotion tornado in the 15 minute phone call, and my bosses at work could not deliver “feedback” to me for months unless they wanted to deal with tears. Fortunately, as time went on and I got over the shock, these emotional days became fewer and fewer. I worried a bit before my routine oncologist visits, but eventually I remembered our mantra, “whatever, at worst case, I need couple days off for surgery….It’s just a pain in the ass”.
To my friends, family and to my doctors I began to refer to my cancer as Sissy Cancer, “if you could bottle that attitude”, the doctors and nurses tell me at my appointments. Finally I realized, like my mom, I was tough, tough as nails.
Thank you all for supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I was lucky to get stuck with Sissy Cancer; other women are not as fortunate and have a much longer road than I. More importantly, I wanted to share this story to tell any young women out there that think they don’t need pay attention to their ta’ta’s yet-…. you do and you should.