“与我妈妈的交谈，一个breast cancer survivor，，，，at Christmas 2020.
Mom: ‘That’s awful. She’s so young. I’ll keep her in my prayers. I haven’t heard of TNBC either. It must be pretty rare, especially if I just got throughbreast cancerand it was never mentioned. I didn’t even know there was more than one type of breast cancer.’
我清晰地记得那一天我发现的东西erious was wrong with my health. It was a chilly morning in February. My husband had just gone off to work and the kids were at my in-laws. I made my way into the city to meet with a lactation consultant. I had called for an appointment with my OBGYN the week before and mentioned I had seen some blood. Having just finished breastfeeding my baby girl a month prior, the receptionist assumed this would be a lactation-related appointment, and did not give me an urgent appointment spot. With this in mind, I was confident the symptoms were aclogged duct，，，，and perhaps an abscess from mastitis, and I’d be given some antibiotics and sent on my merry way.
You see, the problem with large and dense breasts is the standard ‘lay back on a table examination’ isn’t effective and mammograms don’t always pick up tumors in dense breasts. My OB couldn’t even feel the lumps until I showed her by sitting up and leaning forward. All I know is no antibiotics were given, and the serious look on their faces as I cracked jokes and tried to keep things lighthearted still haunts me.
The following week I went for a mammogram and ultrasound. As I waited to be called in, I posted a photo reminding people to still get mammograms even in the pandemic. I was still trying to keep things lighthearted. My mom had just gone through breast cancer a year prior to when my daughter was born. She had a double mastectomy with reconstruction and is able to take oral meds and completely avoid chemotherapy or radiation. It was a tough recovery for her, but she is thriving now. Surely, being only 35, I could get through it too.
It’s important to note here that women with dense breast tissue should always have ultrasounds of both breasts following mammograms. This should be the standard of care. If you are not offered an ultrasound, I urge you to request one.
科技和我聊了20分钟what a crazy year 2020 had been, but what I remember most from that conversation is her telling me what an absolute mess my breast was. The head of breast imaging came in to take over the ultrasound and recommended biopsies of three different areas of my breast and a swollen lymph node under the arm. I would have to make an appointment at the office where they perform the biopsies and surgeries, and they were booked almost two weeks out. The thought in my head at that time was, ‘My mom didn’t have that many suspicious areas… this isn’t good.’
It was our first time really doing mindless shopping since the pandemic started. We went to some home goods stores and ended our night at TJ Maxx, where I bought a scalp shampoo massager, a new shower cap, and some hair ties. It clearly hadn’t crossed my mind that this might be the type of cancer that requires chemotherapy. I shake my head in disbelief every time I look at that darn shower cap now.
It was late afternoon when I got an email from the lab that my results were ready. I had signed up to get results on bloodwork directly from the back when we were going through infertility treatments. We didn’t know my pathology report would also be done by them and I’d have the results of my biopsy available before I could hear from the surgeon. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to work.
I was finishing up work (from home) for the day and my husband was heading to pick the kids up from his parents’ house. I called him immediately and asked him to stay at his parents’ house with the kids. I knew getting these results at home by myself was something no one should have to go through, but I didn’t want my children to have to see me break down and I simply could not wait until the doctor’s office opened the next day. Our 4-year-old had been picking up on too much lately with all the stress the year had brought, and I couldn’t bear the thought of him seeing me upset, nor did I think I could put on a brave face through dinner and bedtime.
All too familiar with lab reports, I opened them immediately and scrolled down to the diagnosis, already knowing in my heart it was cancer. ‘Invasive Ductal Carcinoma’ it read, but it was followed by a lot of NEGATIVE testing and for a moment I had hope this was a good thing. I dialed the breast surgeon’s office and explained my situation to the after-hours answering service, asking if ANY doctor could call me back. I was told she’d relay the message but they did not usually call back after hours in situations like this. I never heard back from anyone.
I made some phone calls to two friends in the medical field and had to put one of them in the terrible position of telling me I had breast cancer, and the负测试were Triple-Negative Breast Cancer.
Triple-Negative Breast Cancer.
To say this has been an emotional journey is an understatement. I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by the most amazing village of friends, family, neighbors, and medical professionals. My husband drove me to every chemotherapy appointment (I had to go in alone thanks to COVID), my friends threw me a boob-voyage party pre-surgery, and my father drove me to daily radiation for 28 days.
My dad said something so simple, but I think about it all the time: ‘How do you know it didn’t save you? Maybe things would have been worse if you hadn’t breastfed.’ It was that perspective I needed to dig myself out of sadness. When I started oral chemo, I was dreading the idea of forcing myself to take medicine that would make me feel crummy. My PT suggested that each morning I thank science and the medicine for saving my life. I do this each morning while taking the medication and it has been so helpful.
I’m very much a dark-humored realist and dislike all the toxic positivity that floats around in the cancer world (encouraged largely by people who have never been in our shoes, who we call ‘cancer muggles’). I do, however, think we can often talk ourselves off the ledge by practicing gratitude and shifting our perspective from time to time, and these lessons have helped me immensely throughout this emotional year. I’ve learned it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to feel all the emotions, but it’s also important to be grateful for those who have been by my side, for the science saving my life, and the small silver linings. To quote one of my favorite songs by Kacey Musgraves, ‘If you’re ever gonna find a silver lining, it’s gotta be a cloudy day.’
It’s been 10 months since I was diagnosed. I went through eight rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, and now oral chemotherapy and radiation simultaneously. It will be a full year before I’ve completed all active treatment and I then hope to look into some trial treatments for TNBC. We hope and pray I will never need treatment again, and in the meantime, I stay vigilant. I urge you to stay vigilant on your breast exams as well.”
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