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.

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