Tuesday, January 31, 2012

UPDATE: Change in Plans

(written by Jen Kwiatek)

Herceptin Fab (antibody)
Chemotherapy is being delayed a couple of days. The radiologist believes he can get to the nodule in the left lung in order to do a biopsy. The biopsy will tell us two things:

1.) Is this breast cancer in the lungs or an infection? It is most likely breast cancer, but there is a chance it could be an infection.

2.) If this is in fact breast cancer, are the receptors HER2 positive? There is a 10% chance they are and that means they would not respond to the current chemotherapy cocktail chosen by Jenn’s medical team. By doing this biopsy, they can ensure that they are hitting the cancer with the right drugs. If there are HER2 receptors found, there is a drug made specifically to eradicate this protein called Herceptin. (I was on this drug for a year. It’s amazing.)

With that said, there is a risk of collapsing the lung by doing the needle biopsy of the lung nodule, but this is a risk Dr. Heyer and Jenn’s medical team is willing to take in order to give Jenn the very best odds possible.

Dr. Heyer has reassured Jenn that holding off on chemotherapy for a few days won’t hurt her or make the cancer any worse. They want to be very smart in how they plan their attack.


  • UPDATED: Thursday, Feb. 2 at 10:30am EST: Needle biopsy of the lung nodule
  • Wednesday Feb. 8 at 9:10am EST: First chemo treatment

I will continue to post blogs as we gather more information. Keep the positive thoughts, warm wishes, prayers, love and light coming. Jenn can feel it all.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Michael Jackson's Milk

(written by Jen Kwiatek)

Wow ... first let me just say that Jenn's mediport surgery went beautifully ... and that she is hilarious on drugs.

Prior to surgery, Jenn, Amy and I met with Jenn's nurse, anaesthesiologist and surgeon. All the women who helped Jenn were incredibly empathetic and, actually, pretty hysterical. I think Jenn really needed the positive energy that surrounded her.

When Jenn's surgeon came in to talk to her, Jenn explained that she received her PETscan report and that the cancer was showing up in four nodules (two in both lungs). Her surgeon looked at her and said, "OK, well all the more reason to get started with chemo on Wednesday." Her proactive and aggressive attitude was exactly what Jenn needed. Her surgeon indicated that nothing was going to change as far as the plan they had discussed (chemo, surgery then radiation) and that all we could do now is wait and see how her body will respond to the chemotherapy. She tapped Jenn gingerly on the nose. Jenn instantly looked less tense.

The nurse gave her a "happy pill" (Xanax) before surgery to help calm her nerves. Jenn kept saying that the "happy pill" wasn't working, but around the 30 minute mark she was out cold. Amy and I looked at one another with tears in our eyes. Thank goodness she was able to have some peace and rest prior to surgery. And she fell asleep laughing to the retelling of memories of when she and Amy grew up together.

When the nurse woke her up to put the heart monitors on, Jenn leaned forward and fell asleep sitting up. Amy grabbed onto her to make sure she didn't fall off the side of the bed. They administered two medicines into the IV. I don't remember what the first one was, but Jenn's response was "Ah, that's the good stuff." The second drug was white to which Jenn said, "it's Michael Jackson's milk." It took everything Amy and I had to hold it together and not bust out laughing. We kissed her on her cheek and forehead telling her how much we loved her. She can recall none of it.

She awoke from surgery asking the question, "When are we going to get this thing started?" (So typical Jenn) To which her surgeon replied, "baby girl, we're done." Jenn was a bit alarmed as to why her skin was orange like an oompa loompa, but Amy and I reassured her that it was just to clean her skin. She had no pain, no nausea, she was just anxious to get her medicine from the pharmacy and get home to her sweet Camilla.

Jenn will be resting over the next couple of days and trying to get herself in a restorative and positive mindset for chemotherapy on Wednesday. It is imperative that we all do the same in order to be strong for her. All we can do now is ask God to give her strength to sustain her during treatment in order to stay on schedule and for the medicine to fight the cancer aggressively.

Please feel free to reach out to me for updates.

PETscan Results

Here's what we know... (written by Jen Kwiatek)

The PETscan results came back indicating that there are four lower lung nodules that have cancer in them. It has spread and is now classified at Stage 4.

The largest nodule is 1cm and the next largest is 8mm. The other two are even smaller. There are two in one lung and two in the other. They could biopsy them to make sure they aren't a secondary (another type) cancer, but they run the risk of puncturing the lung. So, they are assuming this is part of the primary breast cancer that has now spread into the lung.

They are going to continue with the mediport surgery today at 1:30pm. Jenn will continue with the previously outlined chemotherapy on Wednesday. No plans have changed at this point.

This is not the best news, but it's also not the worst. There is no reason to assume the chemotherapy won't kill the cancer.

Jenn will be in surgery and then on painkillers, so she will not be in the right mindset to speak via phone. If you want to talk with me or need additional information, please email or call. My information can be found below:

email: jen.kwiatek@gmail.com
mobile: 703-999-3769

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Wigging Out

Looking at myself in the mirror with a sleeping cap on, I said, "Now I look like I have cancer." I turned and looked at my friends. They said, "It's OK to feel that way." It's so strange being given a diagnosis of cancer, yet really not feeling "sick." Don't get me wrong, the left side of my chest aches along with my arm, but it feels like a pulled muscle. Other than that, I feel like myself. So shopping for wigs, buying items to prep for chemotherapy is all very surreal since nothing has really happened yet. I don't feel any different, other than knowing that I have the diagnosis of cancer. And that thought is incredibly scary.

My girlfriends met Kwiatek and I at Bravada's Wig Design shop in Fairfax, Virginia. This is the same shop Kwiatek bought her two wigs when she was going through treatment. With the advice of Kwiatek and another pink sister, I thought it would be good to try on a few styles and colors. My friends, Jennifer, Lola and Susan were there to help me find the perfect wig that I would feel like myself in. Believe it or not, I found a wig called Elizabeth in the color ginger brown that perfectly matches my current hair. Only difference is, it will ALWAYS look good. Ha!

I also found a hat with hair attached to it made by Henry Margu, which is perfect for when I need to run errands or want to take Cazazu for a walk. My pink sisters told me how useful having this will be for me. My girlfriends helped me find a beautiful hat, vintage-looking scarf and another scarf in golds, greens and browns that comes already tied. The woman helping me try on wigs gave us a tutorial on how you can tie the scarves. I'll have to give it some practice (along with my eyebrow stencils). I was just so happy my friends were there -- I don't know that I would have been able to shop for a wig on my own.

Afterward, we all went to Artie's for lunch where my friend Joanna and one of my pink sisters (also named Jennifer) met us. We drank mimosas, ate brunch and I realized that even though treatment will be challenging, my friends will be there every step of the way. I also know that my life will go on. I will have bad days, but on good days, I will still be able to meet girlfriends for brunch and do the other things I love. Cancer may slow me down, but it won't stop me.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Heart of the Matter

Today Kwiatek picked me up at 9:00am to take me to Reston Radiology for my echocardiogram. When I went into the imaging room the technician asked why I was having an echocardiogram. I responded, “I have breast cancer.” There was a pause and she looked at me in utter disbelief. She said, “But you’re so young.” I responded “One in eight … one in eight women will be diagnosed with cancer in her lifetime.” I realize now how powerful my experience is to not only bring awareness to the cause, but to perhaps remind someone to make that appointment with their ob/gyn, get a mammogram if they have a family history of cancer, or simply to go get checked out if they just don’t feel right.

The actual echocardiogram wasn’t a difficult test compared to everything else. It is basically a sonogram or ultrasound of the heart. It uses standard ultrasound techniques to image two-dimensional slices of the heart. The latest ultrasound systems now employ 3D real-time imaging (as seen on the right). In addition to creating two-dimensional pictures of the cardiovascular system, an echocardiogram can also produce accurate assessment of the velocity of blood and cardiac tissue at any arbitrary point using pulsed or continuous wave Doppler ultrasound. This allows assessment of cardiac valve areas and function, any abnormal communications between the left and right side of the heart, any leaking of blood through the valves, and calculation of the cardiac output as well as the ejection fraction.

The technician told me that my heart looked very healthy and incredibly strong. I started crying and reached forward hugging her. “I just really needed some good news,” I explained as I pulled away from embracing her. I realized that she had started crying, too. “Anyone who gives me good news gets a hug these days.” As I left I noticed the other technician who looked at me with sad and empathetic eyes. I guess cancer really does affect us all.

Today is a good day. I know my heart is strong and can sustain chemotherapy. Now my oncologist will have a baseline of how my heart looks pre-chemotherapy. They will continue to conduct these scans during chemotherapy to ensure my heart is not being damaged. I am hopeful and optimistic. Tomorrow is my PETscan that will ensure that my cancer is contained in the breast and lymph nodes. This should be the last test prior to my mediport surgery and chemotherapy. Please, God, let the cancer be contained.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Helping Hands

Guest blog post from Chrystal:

Many of you have asked how you can help. We found a way ...

We created a website for people to sign-up to provide help to Jennifer. Her most immediate need is dinner for her family during this difficult time. You can login and sign-up for a date. You will be responsible for providing a dinner meal for the family for your chosen date. It can be in the form of a home cooked meal or a purchased meal - whatever you can provide is appreciated. Meals can be delivered to their home or to Christian and Jennifer's office at Ernst & Young in Tysons Corner on weekdays. If you are not nearby, please consider signing up and having the food mailed or delivered. There are many delivery services and many restaurants deliver. You can still help!

Jennifer also needs positive, fun friends to accompany her to chemo treatments. Her first four treatments have been posted. If you are a good friend who would be willing to come and spend some time keeping up Jenn's spirits, please sign-up for this task! As more needs arise we will post them to the site so you can sign-up if you can help.

Second, we will be doing fundraising for Jennifer to help her cover medical costs related to her treatment. More to follow on this. Your support is wonderful and appreciated.

Lastly, Jennifer asks for your continued prayers as she continues her courageous journey. One of the positive experiences of her journey to date is the outpouring of love, support and kindness that she has seen around her. Thank you to all.

You can sign up to help Jennifer at the following website:  https://www.lotsahelpinghands.com/c/652673/

Fill in the right side of the form which is a Request to Join the Community. Once I have approved your registration you will be automatically added to the community and sent instructions for setting a password and signing in to help.

Please feel free to pass this message on to others who may wish to help Jennifer and her family on their journey.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chemo Countdown

Today was not a good day. I feel like I take two steps forward and three steps back. I guess that is just the reality of my situation. There will be good days and bad days and I have to fight to stay positive mentally and focus on the end goal. I have to stay alive. I will beat this thing.

I had a meeting with my oncologist, Dr. David M. Heyer MD at Medical Oncology and Hematology in his Fairfax office. He is a very nice man, but did not sugar coat what the next year of my life will be. It was hard to hear, but I appreciated him being straight with me. Kwiatek tried to warn me that he wouldn’t make me promises or give me false hope -- he will just be aggressive and fight like hell to save my life. Lord, hear my prayers.

By the time Kwiatek and I left, half of what Dr. Heyer had told me, I had already forgotten or missed completely. I am relying on her notes in order to remind myself what happened since I am having trouble retaining what I am being told.

Here are Kwiatek’s notes:

  • They will draw blood in Dr. Heyer's office on Monday morning to do the genetic testing. 

  • From the information we have right now, it appears the cancer is Stage IIIC
  • The cancer isn't hormone receptive 
  • When you have surgery, they will send the tissue to pathology again and they will test for hormone receptors -- if you happen to have any traces of positive receptors, he might put you on Tamoxifen 
  • You are HER2 receptor negative, so you will not receive Herceptin 


Full Body Scan:
  • You need a PETscan to make sure this cancer didn't spread anywhere else. This is JUST a precaution to ensure the cancer is isolated and can be treated with his recommended cocktail of chemotherapy 
  • If for any reason the PET is inconclusive, he can order a bone or CTscan 
  • Dr. Heyer is "not suspicious," but he wants to cover all his bases to treat you effectively and efficiently -- this is his standard M.O., to exhaust all possible options to have a clear picture of what he’s working with 

Heart Scan:
  • Assessment of your heart prior to chemo -- either a MUGA or eco-cardiogram 
  • 1 in 500 people on this chemotherapy cocktail -- the heart pumping is effected due to the drugs 

  • You might want to think about harvesting fertilized eggs to increase your chances of having another child post-cancer 
  • Pretty good odds (80%) that you won't go into menopause from chemotherapy 
  • Absolutely chemo first prior to surgery 
  • You will need to attend a chemo teaching session with Jessica on Monday at 9:00am 
  • It will be easy to tell if the chemo is working because the lump is so prominent and it will start going down and shrinking 
  • Having NO active cancer cells post-surgery is 20-30%, so you will absolutely need radiation to kill any remaining cells left over 
  • You will lose your hair within three weeks 
  • This type of cancer is very responsive and sensitive to chemotherapy, so Dr. Heyer is optimistic that this course will be effective 
  • Typically side effects from chemotherapy happen days 1-4 post-treatment (chemo day counts as day #1): 
    • nausea 
    • heartburn 
    • vomiting 
    • insomnia 
    • fatigue 

Chemo Cocktail: Option 1 (preferred): 
AC/ Taxol
AC = Adriamycin and Cytoxan -- together every 2 weeks for 4 weeks (After the first two treatments, Dr. Heyer will do imaging to ensure the cocktail is shrinking the cancer cells and will make a decision on whether Taxol will be every 2 weeks or weekly for 4 weeks).
Taxol every 2 weeks, or weekly for 4 weeks

Chemo Cocktail: Option 2: 
TAC = Taxotere, Adriamycin and Cytoxan
Every 3 weeks for 6 weeks

  • Thursday: MUGA Heart Scan (Jessica will call you to give you the time and location) 
  • Friday: PETscan (Jessica will call you to give you the time and location) 
  • Monday: Chemo teaching with Jessica at 9:00am, Mediport surgery arrival at noon, surgery at 1:30pm 
  • Wednesday: First chemo treatment 
Is your head spinning? Because mine sure is. I could really use a break from this whirlwind. All I can do is hope and pray that the cancer is contained, my body is strong enough to go through treatment and that the cancer will respond to the chemotherapy drugs Dr. Heyer has suggested. Please continue to pray and send your love and light. I need it now more than ever.

A Healing Gem

In March 2010, I suffered a miscarriage. By far, this is the most traumatic event I have ever experienced.  I am not underestimating cancer, but my medical team thus far seems confident I "will get my life back." However, I would never get my baby back and no amount of strength in the world can help overcome that sense of loss.

My dear friend, Jennifer Kwiatek, gave me a healing gem necklace. When I received the gift, I immediately put it on and religiously wore it until August 2011. The only reason I decided to no longer wear the necklace was because I received my beautiful "push present" from Christian which is a gold charm necklace with the letter "C" representing Camilla. I remember taking off the necklace - kissing the gem, saying "Thank You," and placing it in my jewelry box. I honestly believed that gem helped me heal. It gave the strength I sought to get me through a very dark period of my life.

This past weekend, I decided once again I needed my healing gem. I opened the jewelry box and found it tangled. I was so upset, but immediately removed it and attempted to untangle this "mess." As many of my close family and friends know, one of my worst traits is impatience. After a half hour, I was about to give up and wanted to sob because my healing gem was laying before me in a heap of tangled knots. I took a deep breath and told myself "Jennifer - Take a deep breath. You are going to need patience to get through the next year. Calm down." I looked at the necklace again and decided to take a different approach. Within minutes, it was untangled and around my neck.

The point of my story is I had a "moment." Laying before me was an object that I treasured with all my heart, but it needed me - it needed my patience and strength to make it vibrant once again.  I had to find it within myself not to give up and be impatient. I know the journey before me is going to take a lot more strength than untangling a necklace, but I vow to myself, my daughter, and Christian - that I WILL find that inner strength and patience to get through this and once again - be healed.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Promise

"Your life is in our hands now and we make you the promise to give it back to you." – Mary Autry 

Today I met with my breast surgeon, Virginia Chiantella, MD (who has been practicing breast care for 29 years). Jen picked me up at 10:30am and after we got a little turned around; we finally found the right building and were there for my 11:00am appointment.

The first woman who greeted us was Mary Autry who appeared to be a nurse and “the boss,” meaning the office coordinator. I later learned that she is a two-year breast cancer survivor. She explained, “When you come to us you are a baby. You fall and crawl for awhile. Then we pick you back up and you'll walk again." She also made me the promise to give me my life back … I was so incredibly thankful for her kindness and reassurance. More than I could ever explain.

My breast surgeon, Dr. Chiantella greeted me with a hug and a “What the hell?” No doubt this woman was my cup of tea. She told me, "This is the worst you will ever be. From this moment on, you get better." My throat tightened and the tears welled up in my eyes. This woman along with my team of doctors is going to save my life. I know they are.

These are the notes Kwiatek took during my consultation:

  • The most aggressive form of breast cancer is inflammatory -- you do NOT have that. 
  • The clinic that did your pathology report is CBLPath which is in New York and part of the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. This is the best of the best and the people are top-notch. No need to question, be concerned or second guess the report findings. 
  • It appears the cancer started in the milk duct. The inside of the milk duct has a lining of cells that are all uniform in shape and appearance. Something went terribly wrong with the cells along the duct wall. They mutated and basically multiplied creating something like a “clogged pipe.” The cells broke through the milk duct wall and created a tumor. 
  • Your cancer is triple negative (This isn't good or bad news, just classifies the cancer. It does mean you don't get medicine that can specifically treat these cells. Your chemotherapy "cocktail" will be more generalized.): 
    • estrogen negative 
    • progesterone negative 
    • HER2 negative 
  • Ki-67 positive: "quick spreading" 
  • p53 positive: "process in the nucleolus of the cell" 
  • "Invasive" means it went through the duct wall. Another word they use is "infiltrate." 
  • "Differentiation" simply means that this is absolutely breast cancer. There is no question whether or not this is breast cancer. Sometimes cells will become so mutated that it's hard to decipher the type of cancer they are. 
  • The lymph nodes shape had changed even though they weren't enlarged. They should look like rice grains or beans and yours were round like peas. The cancer cells in the lymph node were the same as in the cancer cells in the tumor, so we are to assume this is all one cancer and hasn’t spread further. 

  • Meet with Dr. David Heyer tomorrow, who Dr. Chiantella knows very well and LOVES! Continue building my medical team and having all of them conference about my reports and images. 
  • Dr. Heyer may want to do more imaging. That seems to be his standard M.O., so don’t be alarmed. He may want a CT scan, PETscan, MUGA scan, bone, etc. He likes to have ALL the possible information to treat a patient effectively. Blood work will also be necessary to ensure I am healthy and strong enough to undergo chemotherapy. 
  • "I'm not worried about the chest wall,” said Dr. Chiantella. There are two types of treatment, local and systemic. Systemic is chemotherapy ... something that goes into the veins and will hit your entire body, including the chest wall. That’s the plan.
  • We will hit you with systemic chemotherapy first to shrink all the cancer cells back to nothing and then talk surgery once the chemotherapy is done. There will most likely need to be surgery, but we need to focus on what's in front of us first. Tiny victories. 

  • Dr. Chiantella suggests genetic testing. 
  • She is going to get a referral. 
  • It is a blood test. 
  • This will not only tell if you have the genes, but the probability for getting cancer in the right breast, a secondary cancer, like ovarian, etc. 
  • You will be able to see percentages and probabilities using your DNA and family medical history and ways you can mitigate reoccurrence. 

  • Mediport scar will be next to the right breast, under the arm. The port sits on the top of the right breast. 
  • Mediport surgery is scheduled for Monday, January 30 at 1:30pm 

Kwiatek took me to get lunch after my appointment. She makes sure I always get something to eat in order to keep my body strong through this process. (She knows me well.) I tried to pay for our sandwiches at Potbelly but she was quicker than I was in getting her credit card out of her wallet. I turned and looked at her and said, “The only reason you were quicker is because I have cancer.” We laughed so hard that people were looking at us. I think I’m going to be OK.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pink Sisterhood

I knew there was a sisterhood of exceptional women who had faced and conquered cancer, but I never anticipated the immediate comfort of their outreach, openness in the retelling of their stories of survival and the undoubtable reassurance that life will go on. Their stories of battling cancer are heart aching, but their survival and passion for life is inspirational.

Here is an excerpt from one of these exceptional women who reached out to me:

"Fast forward to today. My hair is back. My love for life is full. My family is stronger than ever. I'm healthy. And I've got a huge (sadly) circle of young women who are so close to me  -- my silver linings out of all of this. The pink ladies I have made along the way have been a lifeline for me. We often meet for coffee or dinner to catch up, which usually includes a "show n tell" trip to the bathroom to inspect reconstructive surgeries, boobs, wigs and scars. But they are amazingly filled with laughter, sometimes tears, and undoubtedly always end with a big hug and a sense of connection -- one that is so rare. How you can have a stranger who barely knows your every day life turn in to someone at the other end of the "red phone"... I will never know why this is the case, but I can attest to the power of this sisterhood." 

The one line that has been the most overwhelming for me that I am grasping onto is, "Remember, you became a survivor the moment you were diagnosed." That is the mindset of these women that I proudly call my sisters now. This positive attitude and hopeful outlook is something I will hang on to and practice daily.

I am surrounding myself with my army of family, friends and newly found sisters to prepare for my battle. I am not going to sugar coat it. I'm scared. I’m scared out of my mind. I look in the mirror and use my hands to cover my hairline because I realize I will look different very soon. But I continue to tell myself “You have to do this to live. You have do this for Camilla.” I take a deep breath and then I am ok. I’m ready.

I cannot begin to describe how incredibly grateful I am for all the love, warm thoughts and prayers. I am truly blessed, despite being diagnosed with cancer. I guess life is just funny that way. I will never be able to say thank you enough. I am truly humbled.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Diagnosis

Jen picked me up at 10:30am and took me to Washington Radiology for a breast MRI. It wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. The test was quick and they printed out films and a CD with all my images from the ultrasound, biopsy and MRI so that I have it to share with my medical team. I cannot believe I have a medical team. I will need the images to share with my surgeon and oncologist.

It wasn’t until late in the afternoon while I was driving that I received THE phone call.

“Your pathology report shows that you have breast cancer.”

Even though I knew this news was coming it didn’t stop the black out. My ears rang with a high pitched siren and the words following “cancer” were jumbled. I wish Jen were on the phone with me to take notes.

invasive ductal carcinoma
The tumor is actually 5cm. From the ultrasound they could only see the side of it. It has spread to the axillary lymph nodes, the breast tissue and is positioned at the back of my chest wall. The fact that it has started to branch out and it’s positioning makes it difficult to do surgery first. This cancer is aggressive and I need to start chemotherapy immediately. The concern with the positioning is that it could potentially spread to my lung.

According to my biopsy report, it is invasive ductal carcinoma which is the most common type of breast cancer (which is some good news). The radiologist advised I seek a medical team and get several opinions from different doctors due to my situation.

I meet with the breast surgeon Virginia Chiantella, MD on Monday and Jen’s oncologist, Dr. David Heyer on Tuesday. Personal research and recommendations perceive them to be phenomenal doctors.

I just want this process to start already.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Whirlwind Begins

I am still in the whirlwind and am not quite sure how to feel about all of this. I just wish I had some answers and a plan or timeline. ANYTHING. All I can think about is my sweet Camilla. I watch her sleep and know that I will do whatever I need to in order to be here for her. I won’t miss out on seeing her grow up. It’s not an option. She is my everything.

Today I have come to terms with the fact that what I am facing is cancer. The only thing I can do now is lean on my family and friends, put myself in a positive mindset, hope that this is treatable and get ready to fight like hell for my life.

My friend Jen explained that the best way to approach this is to think about someone coming into your home and threatening to take your life. The life you have built with an amazing man and an angelic daughter. Today I am ready. Bring it.

I have a breast MRI scheduled for Thursday and should get my pathology report tomorrow. I am trying to be patient, but if you know me, you know it’s not a strength of mine. Oh Lord, help me slow down and learn to be patient.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Just Breathe

I felt a lump around the September/October timeframe, but thought it was a clogged milk duct as I had been pumping. I felt the lump get smaller after I pumped but as the months went on into mid-December it seemed to not shrink after pumping. I had an appointment with my ob/gyn on December 30 to get my birth control pills renewed. It was in the back of my mind to mention this hard lump I had been feeling, but was convinced it was a clogged milk duct or cyst. I think somewhere deep down I knew. I knew I had cancer.

My ob/gyn, Dr. Diane Barrett, MD did a breast exam and advised that I go for an ultrasound now that the lump in my breast had started to cause an aching that ran up my left collarbone to my shoulder and down my arm any time I laid down or held Camilla. Could I have cancer? Perhaps I’m just being paranoid. That’s it. I’m just being paranoid.

As my diagnostic radiologist, Dr. Angelique Floerke, ran the ultrasound wand over the lump in my breast and up under my armpit I froze … why had the wand stopped? What was she seeing? Someone say SOMETHING!!! She continued to conduct the test in silence. I could feel my pulse echoing in my ears. I looked through my tears at the TV screen hanging from the ceiling. There were clouds of grey, white and black – I tried desperately to make sense of what I saw. PLEASE JUST SAY SOMETHING!!! There was obviously something there that didn’t look like the other tissue. Oh my God, what is it?

The exam was over and I sat up.
Dr. Floerke: “I’m very concerned. This is not good.”
I couldn’t breathe.
Dr. Floerke: “I’m seeing a lump that is about 3cm and against the chest wall. There are also several axillary lymph nodes that are irregular that we need to biopsy. I’m pretty sure this is cancer.”

My ears started ringing and at that point I blacked out. I wrapped myself in the sterile white robe and was escorted to the waiting area. I was able to make a phone call and within 15 minutes my friend Jen, a cancer survivor, was by my side asking the doctors and nurses all the necessary questions. I was simply moving through the motions.

Dr. Floerke did an emergency biopsy where she took four pieces of tissue from the tumor and the fluid from the largest lymph node. Jen coached me through the procedure telling me when not to look and when to take a deep breath while they inserted the syringe deep into my tissue. I will not get the results back for two to three days. How is any of this possible? Do I have cancer? I saw Christian and Camilla’s faces and I kept my focus on them--my beacons of light.

Me: “What are the chances that this is just an infection?”
Dr. Floerke: “I would say it is a very very slim chance this is an infection. I am almost certain you have cancer.”

I don’t remember much from that day at Washington Radiology except that I continued to repeat “please don’t let me die,” Jen kept me enveloped in her arms and everyone was incredibly kind ... the rest is a blur.