In March, I went for the sonogram and mammogram. The sonogram found two fibroids, one the size of a grapefruit, the other the size of a golf ball. Is it possible that I developed such a big fibroid in just a few months? The fibroids, it turns out were the cause of my heavy periods but I still felt that birth control pills weren’t a good option for me.
The mammogram found a mass so my doctor recommended I see a breast surgeon who then sent me for a biopsy. A couple of days before my appointment I was putting on deodorant when I felt it glide over something. It was a large lump under my right arm. I mentioned this to the technician doing the biopsy who said that based on the results my doctor would let me know if additional tests were necessary. I would get the results in a few days. Those were some of the longest days of my life.
I had a trip to Florida scheduled the day after my test so I asked the surgeon to call me as soon as the results were in regardless of the outcome. I was going to be with family and wanted to share the news with them.
My sister and I spent the next few days at our cousin Liz's house in Florida. On our first morning there at around 7am, I got a call from my general doctor who was on the list to receive the results.
"How are you doing?" he asked, "They got the results yesterday, did they give them to you?"
To this I replied, "Not yet, why? What is it?"
"Positive." he said.
Did I hear correctly? I have cancer? I have breast cancer?
I guess I didn't know what to expect. After the news sunk in I did the only thing I could do, I cried. My sister who was sleeping next to me woke up and started crying as she tried to comfort me. After about an hour, we finally got up. I was done crying. There was nothing I could do right now that I wasn't already doing except move forward with our plans: a day at the beach.
We spent the day at the beach with my cousin Yannis, who lost his mom to ovarian cancer in 2006. I took advantage of the fact that it was just the three of us to share the news with him. He took it well with lots of optimism, just as I had expected. I am blessed with a strong family which helps with the battles cancer patients have to deal with.
That night back at Liz's house I would share the news with her. We decided we were not going to tell anyone until I told my parents first in a couple of days. I thought it was important for them to hear the news from me and certainly not over the phone.
The next morning we had plans to go to the beach again but Liz and my sister didn't feel like doing anything except staying in bed. It wasn't part of my agenda. I was there to have a good time and that's exactly what we were going to do. Cancer was not going to start taking control of my life.
It was a great beach day, a bit of a reunion with several family members joining us. It was one of those days that couldn't have been more perfect if it weren't for the secret we were keeping. This secret was even harder to keep as the conversation turned to cancer. My cousin Jackie would call a few days later as she found out about my news to say how strong I was and how well I was dealing with everything. She couldn't believe my spirits and positive attitude.
On Monday, March 30th, as soon as my sister and I arrived back in New York we went straight to the surgeon's office to get the "official results." Yes, it was positive, it was cancer and I was sent to get a biopsy of the lump under my arm along with a PET CT scan.
The second biopsy/scan came back positive which meant that it had gone to my lymph nodes. It was stage 2 and surgery was recommended as soon as possible. The lump on my breast was said to be about 4cm. Chemotherapy wasn't optional because of the size and the fact that it had gone to my lymph nodes.
I had two options:
- Remove the whole breast (mastectomy) and undergo radiation and chemotherapy. The mastectomy was highly recommended.
- Do chemo first to shrink the tumor then have surgery, followed by radiation.
That night I broke the news to my family. It was by far the toughest thing I've ever had to do. But everyone was great and the out-pouring of support was amazing. My mom immediately volunteered to shave her head.
I continued to weigh my options, not comfortable with either scenario presented. I was convinced there was another way. So I got a second opinion.
I went to Sloan Kettering, one of the leading cancer hospitals on the planet.. The surgeon there recommended a lumpectomy followed by radiation and chemo. That certainly sounded better then a mastectomy! Chemo on the other hand...I still had to get used to the sound of that.
The surgeon recommended I schedule my surgery as soon as possible. He wanted me to do it the following week.
Things were moving too quickly. I had some big decisions to make, ones that would affect the rest of my life. I wanted time to think. I knew I would go with the lumpectomy at Sloan Kettering but I wanted to buy myself some time and pushed for 3 weeks later. The surgeon agreed but no later than that. My surgery was scheduled for April 25th.
I had an ulterior motive for pushing the surgery. I was waiting on some Escozul (treatment used in Cuba). I began taking it about 2 weeks before the surgery.