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The Actual Journey Begins

The morning of April 4th arrives. It is a Friday. We are going to drive into Santa Cruz, have lunch, go to my appointment and then hit the beach in the late afternoon. The weather is gorgeous and we are so pumped. We have finally accepted our move, are looking forward to unpacking and setting up house in our rented home. We are going to start looking for work, save to buy a new car (ours is 20 years old!), and start putting money in savings. We have a plan. But we are totally unprepared for the monkey wrench that is about to be thrown in the middle of all of our plans.

I arrive for my appointment with great optimism. In an hour, I will be done and we will have this behind us. We will head to the beach until dark, drive home, cook dinner and enjoy the evening watching television. I am called. I go into the room, take off my top, put on the gown, and the technician comes in. She starts squeezing my left breast to put it into the machine. After a few images, she then squeezes my right breast and puts it into the machine. She tells me she is going to view the images and when she returns I can most likely get dressed and leave. She comes back in and said some of the images were blurry and she needs to redo them. I was perfectly fine with this as I have had this happen several times in the past. She redoes some images, does them from a different angle, and leaves again. She comes back in a few minutes, and tells me that the angles weren’t quite right, and she needs to do some more images. At this point, I am beginning to freak out. I am trying to keep calm, but my gut is telling me that something is not right. I had never heard of anyone getting three sets of images on the same day on the same breast. But I try to remain optimistic. After all, I am small breasted, I have never had a problem with my mammogram, I am over 60 years old, and there is no breast cancer in my family. What are the chances????

I am left in this room by myself for nearly 30 minutes. As the minutes tick by, I am slowly beginning to have a melt-down. I am hoping for the best, but fearing the worst. Yet, I am still trying to convince myself that nothing is wrong. Then the door opens, and the technician comes back in. She tells me that I can get dressed, but that I am not done. The doctor has decided she needs to talk to me. At this point, I KNOW!! My gut is telling me “I HAVE BREAST CANCER!” The tears are beginning to well in my eyes, I have started to shake, and I can barely speak. The technician escorts me down the hall to another room. The doctor will be in shortly. Again, I am left in this small room all by myself and, at this point, I am getting incredibly scared. I don’t know anything about breast cancer, or treatment or outcome or survival. SURVIVAL? What? Where did that come from? Oh, I know. I had known of several women who had died through acquaintances, but nothing up close and personal. I realized I knew nothing about BREAST CANCER. I had always distanced myself from it as if it were a contagious disease, and if I stayed away, I would be spared. Well, that did not work!! Here I am, about to receive news that I never thought in a million years would EVER pertain to ME!!

The doctor opens the door and sheepishly enters the room. She knows that I know! She looks up at me and said, “The reason we had so many images done is because we thought we saw something on the first images. There was a tiny speck on the back wall of the right breast and we were not sure what it was. Upon changing the angle and getting more images, there is definitely something there.” There was no point in beating around the bush. I looked right at her and said, “So you are telling me that I have breast cancer.” She said, “Yes, I am fairly sure that you do. We need to schedule a biopsy in the next couple of days to make positively sure.” At that moment, when she said those words, it felt as if the ground had fallen out from beneath me. Again, the tears started to well and I started to shake. I had no breath. How could this be happening? And how could it be happening to ME??? What had I done to cause this? What had I not done? How on Gods Green Earth was I going to tell my husband. We had already been through so much in the last year. 2013 SUCKED! We just knew that 2014 had to be better. What could have been worse than 2013? We could not even have imagined what was about to happen to us. We had no idea. There was no way to even prepare for 2014. It was going to be a LOT WORSE than 2013. I mean a LOT LOT LOT WORSE. We were about to fall into the abyss, and we did not even know it.

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YOU HAVE ——-C A N C E R

My husband had run errands while I was getting my mammogram, and he kept waiting for me to call him and tell him to pick me up. He never gave it a second thought that there might be a problem. He knew that appointments many times ran over, so he was not the least bit anxious. I could not even call him. I was just hoping that he was in the parking lot waiting so I could tell him in person. I blindly stumbled out of the doctor’s office, and somehow made my way up the elevator to the parking lot. Yup, he was parked there waiting on me. When he saw me, his eyes lit up, but just for a moment. He realized immediately that I was traumatized, but he had no idea why. I reached the car, opened the door, and when he asked me how it went, I collapsed on the seat and giant elephant tears poured down my face. I think at that moment he KNEW! But he waited. I was sobbing, choking on my tears, my vision was blurred, and I could not even speak. I tried several times, but nothing would come out. I could see the hurt in his face, knowing he could do nothing for me in that moment. It took about 5 minutes of gut wrenching sobbing and stammering before I could pull it together enough to tell him the DEVASTATING NEWS.

When I was finally able to spill my guts, he got out of the car, came around to the passenger side, and put his arms around me and just held me. That was all I needed in that moment. I just needed to know he was on my side and that he loved me. I don’t know how long we stood there holding each other. He eventually wiped my tears and told me “WE WILL MAKE IT THROUGH THIS! I don’t know how or where this will take us, but we will give it everything we have. We will do everything in our power to beat this, I promise.” In that moment, I had HOPE. That is really all that is left when you get a devastating diagnosis. And of course there is LOVE. I wanted to believe with HOPE and the LOVE of my family that I could beat this, but at the core of my being, I was not so sure.

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Connie Ward

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