Here it is, May 4. Exactly one month from my breast cancer diagnosis. It almost seems as if time stood still starting that day, and yet so much has happened since then.
It all began with a routine mammogram on March 24, followed by a call a few days later from the clinic letting me know that more images were needed.
“It’s routine,” she said.
I had been called back before after previous mammograms, but this time felt different. I had an uneasy feeling. For one thing, the follow-up mammogram was scheduled to take place at the Regions Breast Health Center, and the scheduler told me that I would meet with the radiologist right after the mammogram. (Crap.) For another, when I had to cancel because of a serious conflict at work, they called me within an hour to reschedule.
Those are two big, waving red flags, so immediately after I hung up after making an April 3 appointment, I looked on my HealthPartners app and opened the initial lab results. “Two partially obscured masses …”
That reaction was nothing compared to what I was thinking, and saying, on Thursday, April 3, starting at around 8:30 and throughout the rest of the day. That’s when I really started getting in touch with my inner Detective Debra “Fucking” Morgan.
That morning, I dropped Gus at school for his early morning workout and headed downtown for my 7:40 appointment. As I turned onto Warner Road and started down the hill through the road construction, I thought, “This is the last of ‘normal’. In an hour or so, I’ll be on the other side of that.”
A couple of full-field digital mammograms and a long ultrasound later, I was told that there were two lumps in my right breast—both appearing to be less than 2 cm in size. And it’s very likely that they’re cancer.
I had officially exited normal.
The next 15 minutes were a whirlwind of emotions. I’m not going to go into those details here, though, because (a) I don’t normally even acknowledge my emotions, and (2) I’m not about to actually share them. At least not yet.
But I do want to say that the staff was amazing and incredibly kind, and I made a point to remember their names—the mammogram and ultrasound nurses and the diagnostic radiologist—mentally making a list of them as team members. I’ll need a team for this, right?
The biopsies were performed immediately. At the end, the radiologist injected a marker into each lump so the surgeon would be able to locate them easily.
“Those are really tracking devices, aren’t they?”
“Everybody asks that. And yes, they are.”
Well, this guy is definitely on the team.
From there, I met with a nurse practitioner, who told me she’d call after 3:00 the next day with the official biopsy results.
By 9:30, I was walking back out into the world and straight into a disorienting fog.
As I left the parking ramp, I turned right even though I knew I should have turned left. It seemed like I didn’t really know where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. My mind was jumping way ahead into the future. I immediately knew that wasn’t going to work. I needed to focus on the now and stay there as much as possible. I took a few breaths, pulled myself back into the present, made a u-turn, and got myself on the correct route home.
The call came at 4:20 on April 4. Definitely cancer. Infiltrating ductal carcinoma. Each lump appearing to be smaller than 2 cm and both low grade.
It was time to forge a new normal.