Mornings with Breast Cancer

morning1Since my diagnosis mornings have become especially tough. This has nothing to do with the fact that I’ve never been a morning person (at least not Monday-Friday). Rather, when I wake up the sun is shining, my cat is meowing and the day is bringing new opportunities. Everything is just as I left it the day before and there is a calm in the air. After a few minutes, however, the thought comes back to me – I have cancer. And not just any cancer but inflammatory breast cancer, which is rare and aggressive. I can never do things the easy way.

The first and second weeks after my diagnosis I woke up in the mornings wishing more than anything that I was dreaming about all of those tests and doctors visits. I’d have to turn to my mother who sadly convinced me I wasn’t dreaming – I am living this nightmare. Today, nearly a month later, I still wake up in the morning thinking all is right in the world until a little voice whispers to me that I have cancer. I still have to repeat that sentence several times in my head before it clicks. Then I quickly remember the needles, medicines and sad looks everyone has been giving me.

Although starting the day out knowing I have cancer isn’t ideal, I remind myself to make each day count. I would grimace at that cliché when someone previously said it to me, but now I truly understand its meaning. Sadly, my diagnosis is what made me “get it.” So I have to do just that – be kind to people (even those who drive me crazy – you know who you are), smile more, complain less and be grateful that I have another day. And if the day wasn’t the best I can always pull out that other cliché – it’s nothing a good night’s sleep can’t fix.

Two Weeks Ago

feet in sandIt’s 2 a.m., and I’m awake thinking back two weeks ago when I was sitting in front of the Atlantic Ocean. The sun was on my face, the waves were at my feet and I was watching a little boy piss in front of me. I wish I could go back two weeks and make what was about to happen somehow stop from happening. Although my three days at the Jersey Shore were fun (they’re stronger than the storm you know), a heavy worry loomed over me from a doctor’s appointment one day earlier.

I actually went to my doctor to ask if she could change my anti-depressant, which I had been taking for over a decade. When I went into her “office,” I first chose to tell her that I had been noticing some changes to my right breast.

“How long have you noticed these changes?” she cautiously asked me.

“I’m not entirely sure, but I think about a month or so,” I cautiously answered.

“Well, it appears to be swollen and you can feel some hard nodules inside. I think you should get a mammogram when you come back from vacation.”

At least that’s what I think she said. All I was hearing was mammogram at the age of 31. Oh, and that maybe we should wait to switch my anti-depressants?

I did hear her say a few more things about not to panic and that nine times out of ten “it’s nothing.”

Well, if it were nothing I wouldn’t be up at this hour thinking about a three-year-old pissing in the ocean.

In fact, those hard nodules turned out to be tumors in my right breast, which came along with skin thickening and an inverted nipple. Oh, and don’t forget the enlarged lymph nodes in the auxiliary region (under the arm pit for you non docs out there). Last but not least, one of the zillion tests I had in less than a week showed more enraged (emm –enlarged) lymph nodes in my chest wall next to my breathing pipe.

Yep – you guessed it – breast cancer. I’m.31.years.old. Surely, there’s got to be another explanation? The swelling was my breast’s way of telling me it’s time to invite a hot guy over? Doesn’t every woman have one breast that’s larger than the other? Was I sure the symptoms presented themselves only a month ago? Maybe it was three months ago?  I was on the beach two weeks ago.