I have never shared my whole story with anyone before. Perhaps I find it hard to talk about or perhaps I am just scared to death. Not to share of course, but because of the unknown future it holds. But if one person reads it, benefits from it and takes the next step of getting the dreaded mammogram then it will all be worth it. If it saves one life that would be priceless.
I will never forget the day February 23, 2011. The phone rang and I knew it was my mom, anxiously awaiting the results of a P.E.T. scan to find out the progression of the Endometrial Cancer that was plaguing her. What I didn't anticipate was the news I actually got!
In her usual fashion I heard the happy voice of my mom on the other end of the line telling me the doctor had called and that it didn't seem so bad and that the radiation treatments would be as planned until she was permitted to have surgery. What a relief I thought...and I soon found out my thinking was very wrong. The next thing I heard was.....Paula promise not to cry. Immediately my eyes welled with tears as I made a false promise, which I apparently concealed very well (someone call Hollywood, I didn't get my Oscar yet!). All of this followed by "They found a large mass in my left breast, and are pretty sure it's cancer". WOW, you could have scraped me off the ceiling. How could this be? Don't only people with a family history of breast cancer get it? They have to be mistaken, the test needs to be repeated immediately! What? Are you crazy, you can't take my mom from me. These were just a few thoughts running through my head. As I thought, she proceeded to tell me what they would do next, of course I heard none of that as my world was flipping upside down.
The next week or so I lived in a state of denial. I knew they were wrong and it couldn't possibly be what they said. It had to be something else. Again, I was wrong. All the tests came back positive for breast cancer.
Again I started thinking, well it can't be that bad she was only 6 months late for her mammogram (I should really stop thinking!). We immediately met with another Oncologist to set our course of action, keeping in mind the soonest she could have surgery was July 15th. We learned that there were many types of breast cancer and all are not created equally. As it turned out the type my mom had is a very aggressive type, which just happened to be invasive too. Meaning that not only was it fast growing, it could pop up again anywhere it wanted to. The doctor gave us the options and let my mom decide. It was then that my mom looked to me for help in making the decision. I knew she would have to have Chemo, that is standard, though generally after surgery. I remember asking the doctor if she would lose her hair with the Chemo since not all types have this affect. When he said yes with no hesitation, I lost it. This was the first time my mom had ever seen me cry during all of this. Nonetheless, Chemo it was. A decision we made jointly, and a battle we would wage together. Nothing was, is or ever will keep us from winning this battle. I will fight with her every step of the way. Always laughing, and being at peace. As much as I would take this from my mom and carry this myself, I would not change the time it has given us together. I love you mom, and I will always be by your side, holding your hand.
Surgery has now been done, pathology reports have all been read. Just when I thought it was almost over here we are again about to start more radiation. You see that little "can't be that bad, only six months late, stage 2 breast cancer" suddenly became stage 3C, the last stage before incurable. But alas, not incurable.
I have learned a lot from this journey, invaluable lessons that I will never forget, and will share with many. Get your mammograms, if you can't afford them The American Cancer Society has a program that can help you. Cancer does not pick and choose. It doesn't care about race, religion, gender, family history or anything else for that matter. The cold hard fact is that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Leaving us all to know someone who has to fight the battle. The single most important thing you can do for yourself or someone else is to always remain positive, no matter what curve balls are thrown there is always hope. Everyday find something to laugh about, always find the courage to smile and never be afraid to ask God (or whomever your higher power) for strength.
I wish all of you many many years of happiness, good health, and strength to fight the good fight. But most of all I wish you love, peace, and hope.