When I found out I had a rare form of Breast Cancer, I was in such shock that I could not even speak! Every time I would try to say something, I would start to shake and the words just would not come out of my mouth. It was if my voice box was completely shut off. My voice was silent for a few seconds and then the words were just bits and pieces, and nothing made sense as none of the words were complete. On top of that, my voice was very shaky and squeaky. As I would try to speak, the tears would start to well in my eyes and within seconds I had a full-blown waterfall on my hands. There was no way to stop it. This went on for days. It took 3 or 4 days before the reality really set in. Finally, I was actually able to discuss what was about to happen to us, my family, as we were thrown into this mess.
I really did not know what was going to happen until I had a chance to talk to doctors, counselors, and a myriad of people that I was immediately connected with. As the information began to flow in, I first decided it probably would not be that bad. I decided I would go through treatment and everything would be fine. My husband, Jeff, had battled kidney, colon, and liver cancer in 2010 and 2011. He did not lose his hair, he was in chemo treatment for 13 months once a week for 3 days, wore a body pump, and continued to work the entire time. So, of course, I thought if he can do it, I can do it! Little did I know that our treatments were COMPLETELY DIFFERENT because of the different kinds of cancers that we had.
After seeing a slew of specialists once I was diagnosed, I began to get very depressed. I learned that I would lose ALL OF MY HAIR! We are talking every single hair on my entire body. The hardest part for me when I heard that was the hair on my head. You see, I had hair down to my waist. I had enjoyed my long hair for over 25 years. I loved to french braid my hair and wear it down my back. My hair was blonde, on the thick side, very straight, and I absolutely LOVED it. My hair was my crowning glory. It was probably my best feature. Everyone always complimented my on my hair, even though I was 60 years old. My Mom always told me my hair looked like spun gold. Every time I looked in the mirror, I would remember what my Mom had said. She passed away in 1996, and that was just a tiny bit of her that I could hold onto on a daily basis. Oh, and I was also upset about the fact that I would lose my eyelashes. Again, another feature that I loved. They had gotten a little shorter and thinner, as I aged, but they were still beautiful with mascara! So, of course, sitting in the oncologists office and getting this news, I tried to be brave. But I could not control the tears! I was not going to cry! But I could not stop the avalanche of tears. I just sat there and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. I had heard of women losing their hair and how hard it was for them. But I always thought, “What’s the big deal? It grows back.” Well, I was now sitting in their shoes, hearing this from my oncologist, and it felt absolutely horrible. I tried to convince myself that it would not happen to me. Somehow, my hair would not fall out. I even tried to bargain with the doctor. I asked him to give me drugs that would not affect my hair. He just looked at me and told me that because I had a rare form of breast cancer, that just was not going to happen! It is funny how the body tries to react to bad news. I was in total denial, and yet I thought that I could bargain the doctors or maybe God and I would somehow get myself out of this mess!
After a few days, and after I had read the HUGE BINDER that I had been given on the topic of Triple Negative Breast Cancer, I began to realize how very serious this situation was. I also began to realize how devastating it was going to be to ME and my family, especially my husband. I want to explain where we had just come from so you can understand why this was so devastating. Of course, I now realize that any cancer diagnosis is ALWAYS devastating to every single person that gets one. But for us, the timing could not have been worse!
When my husband finished all of his chemo treatments in 2011, his company let him go the day after! He had suspicions, but he really did not think they would terminate him the day after finishing treatments. But they did. I also had not been able to work those last 6 months because I developed a blood clot in my leg, which led to 19 blood clots in my lungs. I had been in and out of the hospital for 8 months trying to get my clotting problem under control. I was put on warfarin and had to lay low. Because neither of us were working, our house fell into arrears and we started down the slippery slope of trying to figure out how to make the house payments. We liquidated what we could and tried to make payments. But once we missed a payment, it got harder and harder to keep up, let alone catch up. We applied for programs that were supposed to help us keep our house, but they were total jokes. The only good they did is they postponed the inevitable. They bought us some time. Once we realized we were in serious trouble, we decided to quit making payments and buy as much time as we could. We also had to decide where we were going to live.