Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sentinel Node Biopsy

Next week when I have surgery I'll also be having a Sentinel Node Biopsy.

First I'll go to the breast center and will be injected with radioactive dye. Then they'll take me over to surgery to remove the tumor. They'll also use a geiger counter to follow the radio active dye to the first lymph node to biopsy it.

I came up with a brilliant question: "How do they inject the dye into the breast?"

I don't think I will be be asking anymore questions.

"The dye is injected through the nipple. You will be given a local anesthetic but there will be some discomfort."

What the…WHAT????

Through the nipple??? Ummm excuse me? That is a one-way orifice! Things don't go "in", they only come "out".  OUT PEOPLE!!!

Who came up with this idea? "Lets get a woman with breast cancer, and put a needle into her nipple, inject blue radioactive dye, then chase it around with a geiger counter. Yes. Yes lets do that!"

For your viewing pleasure, I present to you this one minute video titled, "Sentinel Node Biopsy"

I am not at all worried about surgery and being put to sleep. No. No instead I am worried about the DYE being injected before hand! I want a sedative. Now would be good.

Ok. I get it. Just like labor and delivery, thousands of women experience this every single day and they live through it, and in all likelihood I will too. Yes, I get that. I just don't really want to be one of those thousands who experience this biopsy. I don't want the "badge of honor", I won't want the battle scars. I just want it to go away.

Stupid cancer. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Audrey: One Week Home

I suppose, from the  last few blog posts, it seems as if I'd be laying in bed, hiding from the world as I come to grips with the fact I have breast cancer.


Who has time for cancer????? Certainly not me! Not us!

No, we have been enjoying this new little person who just waltzed into our family and is making herself at home. I cannot even begin to describe the light and joy this child has brought with her. *Everyone* in the family is enjoying her presence. Even Abel, who likes us to think he's not.

Our first night home Axel, Audrey and I all slept all night. That night I sank into our bed around 10:00 pm. I remember thinking "Oh man, I love my mattress. I love my leg pillow…." and the next thing I knew it was 6:00 a.m. and Dean was getting the kids up for school!

We jumped right back into our routine that day, with me doing breakfast for the kids and Dean putting everyone on the bus. Our course, our lives changed that day too.

I was so excited to discover I could get Audrey's hair into a pony! She left it alone all day long.

Asher is torn between wanting to be a big brother and help Audrey...

And wanting to go back to babyhood a bit. 

Audrey is making SO much progress in many areas. Because she spent 9 years always hungry, stealing food is a big problem. For the first few days, when we prepared meals we had to keep the food out of reach until we were ready to eat. Then one day she just didn't seem so anxious anymore. Now she waits patiently by her chair, not bothered by the fact the food is sitting out, right in reach. 

Audrey has also made HUGE gains in her eating skills! She is now using her lips on the spoon and learning all about using a fork and spoon. She'll be starting feeding therapy very soon so we can work on fine-tuning those skills.

Angela is really loving playing older sister to Audrey. The biggest adjustment for her has been that she cannot talk all night long. From Audrey's first night home Angela has slept quietly all night, without talking and keeping everyone up like she normally does. She and Audrey sleep peacefully all night long. 

It took several days before Abel seemed to notice that Audrey was in the house. This goes back to his inability to notice people unless they serve a purpose for him. But Audrey is hard to ignore, especially when she comes and sits herself on your lap! His facial expressions when this happens are priceless, and I hope to one day catch this on camera. He has been very careful with her which has been good to see. I moved all the toddler toys out of the boys' room and into the girls room so Audrey can play with them. The day I did this, later that night I discovered them all back on the shelves in the boys' room. Abel was not happy I moved things around. These are toys he doesn't care for, but he is very particular about where things go, and I had moved them! We repeated this several days. 

Axel had two weeks with Audrey in Serbia, so she's not so "new" to him anymore. Besides, he is a cool teenage boy now. But as he does with Asher and Abel, he will voluntarily help Audrey with her shoes, or getting her jacket on. Axel is a very good big brother to all the kids. 

Audrey does NOT like the dogs! The first time she saw them we experienced the girl's shriek for the first time! Oh man. Shatter glass, she can! She spent a few days changing direction if she realized one of the dogs was in her path, but now she will walk past them, and even push them out of the way a bit. Dudley is exceptionally tolerant of her, patiently laying his head on her lap even as she screams. Its much less "fear" now, and more "mad" that this dog is so persistent. LOL I have seen her very carefully trying to pet Dudley's soft hair, and I'm sure before too long she will fall in love with him. Zurri? Yeah she avoids little kids unless their face is messy with food. LOL The two big dogs are LOVING having a kid in a high chair again, laying beneath her to pick up all the dropped food. Roman is a bit leery of Audrey still, probably because he is a small dog and her reactions are not predictable. 

Audrey has mad a couple trips to the grocery store with me, and has learned how to walk with me holding the cart. One day I had to make a Target run with all the kids. Everyone did great, even Audrey who wasn't thrilled to be walking because she would prefer to be carried. Sorry Audrey, you're nine, and you'll have to walk around the store. Once she realized I was not going to carry her she did great and had fun walking with all of us. 

Audrey is smitten with her daddy and the feeling is mutual. She is such a happy, sunny, delightful child that it is hard not to get sucked into holding her all the time. She is learning to play with the other kids, and she and Asher can often be found leading one another around by the hand. We are making a conscious effort to spent time with the other kids 1:1, not only because of the addition of a new sister, but because of the general stress going on in the household right now. Next week will be difficult for everyone, Angela in particular. 

All in all, this first week with Audrey could not have been better. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Telling My Child I have Cancer

Of the five kids here, Angela is really the only one who has the language to understand about Cancer and what is ahead. Axel will understand that mom is "sick", as will Asher and Abel. Audrey is not even close to being able to comprehend at this point. I decided Axel will do best having things explained to him as they happen. But Angela…Angela knows something is up. The hushed whispers, the tears, the anxiety hanging in the air. I don't think its possible to hide cancer from my kids.

I didn't really know how to do this. I didn't plan a certain script. Angela is 17 but developmentally around 7-8 years old. Its hard to predict what she will understand about this so I figured simple facts and she'll ask questions as we go through this journey.

Today Angela and I went for a drive. A couple minutes down the road I turned down the radio.

"Hey!" she said, annoyed that I was messing with her tunes.

"Honey, I want to talk to you about something really important. Can you talk with me for a minute?"

Her eyes got big and wide. She folded her hands in her lap and turned to look at me. "Ok, lay it on me mom!" she said.

"Angela, do you know what Cancer is?"


"Have you heard of the word Cancer before?"


"Do you know what Cancer means?"

"You die." she said, blinking big. Then, counting on her fingers, "Grandma Spring having cancer and she died. Rubee having cancer and she died. Shep having cancer and he died."

I took a deep breath, swallowing hard to control the tears that were already threatening. "You're right. Sometimes people and animals who have cancer die. There are lots of different kinds of cancer. Inside our bodies are tiny little pieces called cells. They're like puzzle pieces."

"I have Down syndrome. I have an extra puzzle piece."

"Yes, that's right. Cancer is a different kind of puzzle piece. Inside of us are our organs, like our heart and lungs…"

"and my esophagus."

"Yes, and your esophagus. All those parts are made of cells. But sometimes those cells don't grow right. They get all confused and they start to grow wrong. Cancer means having mixed up cells in your body. We found out that Mommy has cancer."

"You will die?" she asked me, her eyes like giant brown saucers.

Oh dear God….this is so hard.

"No honey. Grandma had a kind of cancer that the doctors didn't have medicine for so she died. But I have cancer in my breast. Next week I'm going to have surgery and the doctor will take the cancer out."

"You get an IV?!" she asked excitedly, because she loves all things related to the hospital.

"Yes, I'm going to have an IV. The doctor will take my cancer out, and then I will come home. When I'm all better from surgery I'm going to have special X-rays every day for a long time. Those X-rays will find any sneaky cancer cells that might be hiding in my body. The doctor says I'm going to be just fine."

"Ok. You not dying?" she asked?

"Nope. Not dying. Just surgery."

"Ok. Great Mom! Can you turn the radio back on?"

Nobody should need to have this talk with their kid.

Stupid cancer.

Meeting with the Surgeon

Monday afternoon

For Christmas Dean had given me a gift card for a local spa. Last week I scheduled myself for a one hour massage and foot scrub. That was before I knew I had cancer. Before I knew that later today I would be meeting with my surgeon and oncologist for the first time.

Today I laid on that massage table, crying silent tears while the massage therapist did her thing.

When my massage was done I didn't feel all tingly like I usually do. My tense muscles didn't feel any different than they did before. Stupid cancer.

I picked up Dean from work and we drove to the breast center in relative silence. I knew what was going through my mind, but what was going through his? Disbelief that he is living through this again? That lighting can, indeed, strike twice?

They called our name and brought us back to a small conference room. "We're going to leave Dean here while we do another ultrasound. The MRI showed another small area we need to take a closer look at."

For real?

Stupid cancer.

The radiologist dug around my breast with the ultrasound probe. Finally she found the spot they were looking for, buried deep in the breast tissue. She studied it carefully for several minutes. "It looks like an intra-mammary lymph node. They are usually nothing concerning, but when you have your surgery we'll probably look at it closer."

From there I was brought to an exam room and a few minutes later Dean was brought in too. Then my surgeon entered and introduced himself. He started with a breast exam. It suddenly occurred to me I will have more breast exams in the next few months than I've had my entire life. The words of my friend came back to me, "Say goodbye to your modesty."

Dr. S. sat down and tried to get to know us a little bit, then finally said he was trying to get an idea where our understanding of biology was. Dean laughed and assured him I probably know almost as much as he does. I laughed, feeling a bit embarrassed. Dr. S said he had gone over the MRI images with the radiologist, along with the new ultrasound of the intra-mammary lymph node, and invited us back to the conference room so we could discuss everything. We were introduced to one of the clinic nurses who would be taking notes during the meeting. Wow..a notetaker? I've been through many very intense meetings with medical specialists before, and never been provided a notetaker. Did I really need that? I almost said, "Thank you, but I don't think we'll need you to take notes." But a tiny voice in the back of my mind stopped me. "For once, let someone else do the work for you. This is your first lesson in accepting help."

I sat back and tried to concentrate on what the doctor was explaining. He stared at the moment of conception, explaining cell biology, mitosis, meiosis, and DNA replication. I wanted him to hurry up and get to the cancer part. Finally he got to epithelial cells, and what goes wrong in their duplication and how they become carcinomas.

I have two types of cancer:

Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, which means the cancer is still within the ducts, and Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, which means the cancer has broken through the lining of the duct and is spreading to other tissues. These invasive cells can travel to the lymph nodes, sending them to other parts of the body.

My cancer is 2 cm, which makes it a stage 1 cancer. However, if at the time of surgery it is found to have spread to my lymph nodes, this will change. 

My cancer is estrogen positive, which means it is estrogen fed. Removing estrogen from my system means cutting off the energy source for this type of cancer. I'll have to take medication for the next several years. The medication turns off the estrogen receptors. It will put me into menopause, or have my ovaries removed and take a different medication. (this is more probable because I have a significant family history of strokes) 

My cancer is HER2 negative. That means it is not producing a specific protein. HER2 positive cancers are much more aggressive than mine.

Twice during the meeting my phone rang. I had to keep it on because Noah was at our house getting the kids off buses. Twice there were calls because of issues at home. It gave the doctor a good sense of what our life is like, and how I'm always "on call". 

At some point the doctor asked me, "When you were told you had cancer, what was the first thought that came to mind?"

I started to cry. One of those cries I couldn't really control. Finally I said, "The first thing I thought was, "I don't have TIME for f-ing cancer." He looked me in the eye, "I'm glad to hear that. I'll tell you that over the years I have learned some things. Everyone has instinctual responses. I've learned that for people who's first thought is something related to death and dying, they have a much more difficult time with treatment, no matter what the treatment, than those who are a bit more stubborn about things. You'll need to learn to take care of yourself, but I think this will be just a speed bump in your life, and nothing more."

He continued to explain all the different surgical options that go along with various stages of breast cancer. Right now I will need only a lumpectomy followed by six weeks of radiation along with several years of medication to block the estrogen receptors. A few weeks of treatment, and then I'm done. With this protocol my cancer has a 5% chance of recurrence. 

And  here is where I get irritated with cancer again. I had already decided I would have a mastectomy in a few months, but the surgeon assured me this is not necessary with this type of cancer, that it doesn't change the outcome. So even though I have breast cancer, I don't get to buy the t-shirt that says, "Yes they're fake, the real ones tried to kill me." This should be a good thing, I know. But my mind is doing funny things right now. 

Nope, I don't even get a boob job out of the deal! The Dr. explained I may have some shrinkage on one side from the radiation, but that I don't really need a breast lift at this time because I have no sagging. Ok, normally I would have taken this as a compliment, but in this context I was a bit annoyed. "What? I don't even get a boob job out of the deal?"

And yes, I know more about boob jobs than most who haven't  had it done. I have done drains and a 27 inch incision from hip to hip. I know I'd rather have a mastectomy and reconstruction done preventatively than in a more urgent manner. 

Well, because I have breast cancer, I can talk to a plastics person anytime I want, and I could even get a boob job if I wanted. Its just part of breast cancer. But I think I'm pretty lucky I get to keep my natural boobs and will leave them alone. However, I reserve the right to change my mind.

When the meeting was done I was given a 3-ring binder full of information, including the contact information for everyone in the clinic and what their roll is. Its almost like they've done this before. I was also given the 4-5 pages of notes the nurse had taken for me. 

On Weds, April 2nd I'll be having a sentinel node biopsy followed by a lumpectomy. This is outpatient surgery and I'll only be at the hospital a few hours. I was told, "Because of the size of the lump and its location, the incision will be small and you'll be back in the trenches the next day without restrictions."

Really? With Dean sitting right there the dr. couldn't even give me two days of "stay off your feet and rest?" 

Stupid cancer. 

The Space Suit

Monday morning

About few months ago I had this very strange dream. I decided it came from watching the movie "Gravity" twice in one weekend, because in the dream I was in a space suit, holding on to joystick-type handles, my face looking through a mask. But this space suit was really weird, and I could feel an odd suctioning on my boobs, as if I was hooked up to a breast pump.

Fast forward….

I had to drive to the other side of the city to have this special breast MRI done. I've had MRI's before and they're not really that big of deal. I was told this one would take 45 minutes and I would have contrast dye that would make anything else in my boobs light up, including possibly lymph nodes where the cancer may have spread. Er…something like that.

The tech took me back. It was really early in the morning and the place was totally empty. Like, NOBODY was around! She handed me two gowns and I removed everything except my socks and panties as I was told, then she brought me back to the lab area.

First step was to start an IV. They first do the scans without dye, then with dye. Once the IV was in place we went into the procedure room with the machine.

Oh my word, the machine!!!!!!!

When I looked at the table I wondered how I would get up onto it. It was at a very odd angle, then I realized why. You have to climb up onto the thing, and hang your boobs through two holes. (one hole for each boob. ) No really. I am not even kidding a little bit. Heres how it looks when you lay down:

I was lucky, I was given handles thingies to hold, just like in my space dream! But do you see the person in the drawing, and where her boobs are hanging? Yeah, it takes a bit to get them positioned just right, with the tech doing lots of rearranging of boobs to get all the tissue into the right area so it shows up on the scan. Lots of moving and manipulating of my boobs going on. My friend L, who is living with breast cancer, told me "Say goodbye to your modesty. It only gets worse from here." Lovely! So anyway, all the that moving of my boobs was pretty uncomfortable because I was still sore and bruised from the biopsies. Then the tech put headphones on me so I could listen to a local radio station morning show. (She let me choose what I wanted to listen to.) But really, it was barely loud enough to hear because MRI machines are so loud. She also put a pulse oximeter on my finger. 

Loud, continuous noises don't really bother me, and I will take any opportunity for a nap, so since I was face down with my head in a mask just like my dream,  I drooled my way through the MRI. 

At one point the tech said into the headphones that she was starting the contrast dye and I might feel……  Yeah I fell back to sleep so I don't know what I was supposed to feel.

Eventually I felt someone tapping me, "Leah? Are you ok????" 

Good thing for that pulse ox or she probably would have thought I'd died or something. No. Just me, taking a nap. 

The tech helped me climb myself and my boobs out of the contraption and had me sit on the side of the table for a few minutes because she thought I looked dizzy. I wasn't, I was just groggy from my nap! LOL Now it was time to race home for Dean to get to work on time. Later I would be picking him up and we would go together for the consult with my physicians who I hadn't yet met. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Waiting


The radiologist had told me we should have the biopsy results by 12:00 on Friday.  Thursday night Dean and I cried ourselves to sleep. Tears of fear. Dean's previous wife, Fae, died from breast cancer in 2001. How could this happen to him a second time? Maybe its not cancer. Maybe its just a benign lump and we can leave it alone?

They told me the results should be in by noon, but if I hadn't heard from them by 1:00 I should call. At 10:30 I picked up the phone, then put it back down. Dean needed to leave for work but he wanted to be home for the results. He waited as long as he could then at 10:30 he left reluctantly. He gave me a hug. There was still some time for denial.

At 10:45 I picked up the phone and dialed. I got the voicemail of the nurse practitioner and left my information. How many other women were calling for their results today? How many women are diagnosed with breast cancer at this one clinic on any given day? On this very day, how many other women were as afraid as I was? How many others were hovering over their phones, waiting?

At 11:00 I called again. The nurse practitioner answered, "Oh, I've been watching for your results from the lab. I'll call you the moment I get them!"

11:35 a call from my mom: Anything yet?

11:50 text from my sister: Do they wait until 11:59???

At 12:30 the phone rang. I knew it was her. I gulped for air.


"Hi Leah, its N. " She sounded friendly, " We haven't met yet, but I think I passed you in the hallway of the clinic yesterday. I heard all about your family."

"Yes, I'm sure I was hard to miss. I was the one freaking out. Was I still standing or was I on the floor when you saw me?"

She laughed, "No, you were on the way to the conference room with your husband. Dean, right?"

"Yes, Dean."

Oh Lord. She is very friendly. She can't have bad news. She's too nice for bad news.

"Can you verify for me your date of birth?"

Oh…her voice had changed. It was suddenly not so light. Still friendly, but more serious.

I gave her the information she needed and I realized I was holding my breath.

So much trouble breathing lately.

"I'm sorry to say, your biopsy was positive for breast cancer."

And somehow, at that moment, I was ok with this. Well, not ok, but my fear was gone. Now that I knew for sure, I was no longer afraid. My brain kicked in, and I started to ask semi intelligent questions.

What type do I have? I am lucky enough to have two types of cancer: Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) and Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC)

What is the treatment? It depends upon the results of the MRI and lumpectomy. It will either be lumpectomy and radiation, or mastectomy and chemotherapy.

How far out can I schedule surgery? The surgeon will discuss that with you but you're a couple weeks out from surgery.

She scheduled me to have a breast MRI on Monday morning, and to meet with the surgeon and/or oncologist (I can't remember which!)  in the afternoon to go over the results.

I hung up the phone and called Dean. I took a deep breath and told him the results.

I had to tell Dean I have cancer.

Then poor Dean had to go back to working, being happy and chipper to his customers,  knowing I have cancer. Knowing lightning found him a second time.

Then I called my sister. And my mom. And then I went into the bathroom, stripped off my clothes and stood in the shower in the hottest water I could tolerate.

I have cancer.

For real.

I stood in that hot water and cried. I didn't ask God why. I didn't ask him how. I just asked him to make it all ok. I told him I didn't have time for this! HE brought these kids to our family, WHY THIS? I begged him to not let me die. I have kids who need me. Dean needs me. And I knew then that I have always known I would get cancer someday. I always knew. I have odd little fears about things I have always kept to myself, like don't stand close to the microwave because those invisible waves scientists say are safe could trigger the cells in my body to go crazy. And here they are. They did it. They went haywire. And now I have to fight them. I have to. There is no choice. Cancer found me.

Over the weekend I had so much to get done, but I couldn't do a thing. All I wanted to do was sleep the weekend away so that Monday would come. Being awake meant listening to my brain screaming "CANCER CANCER CANCER CANCER." I would pick up a shirt to fold, "Oh my God I have breast cancer!" Wiping off the kitchen counters, "I have breast cancer." Holding sweet Audrey. "Cancer!"

Dean walked into the kitchen for something and I hugged him. I clung to him. I whispered into his ear "I can't believe I have cancer."  "I know." he said. "I know", and he held me, and we cried quietly so the kids wouldn't know we were crying.

And he held me while I cried.

So many tears.

If only I could sleep it all away.

I have breast cancer.

I can't believe I'm typing these words right now.

Breast cancer.

In me.

In my breast. The one that is bruised and battered from the biopsy. Several times throughout the weekend I closed the bathroom door behind me and stood before the mirror. There it is. My breast that has cancer in it.



Emotions I have no words for.

Thoughtless thoughts because…because…there is just so much nothingness in my head right now. Numb.

I took the boys to buy shoes. The sales clerk and I exchanged friendly small talk. Suddenly I felt words wanting to come pouring out of my mouth, out of control. "I have breast cancer. I just found out yesterday. Yes. Really." I was shocked at this odd desire to make an announcement. I don't know how I kept the words inside my head. I wasn't even sure they DID stay there. Did I say it out loud? How did I prevent them from spewing their vileness on everyone around me? Where did that come from? Maybe I'm losing my mind now too??? Cancer is already making me crazy. For two years I have been carrying these death-causing cells inside me while they multiplied and did their nastiness to my body, and now the knowledge of them was making me crazy. Thankfully the sales clerk was not exposed to the thoughts in my head and her work day continued on as usual. The boys and I went home and I told Dean what had almost happened. I think he's afraid of me now.

Tonight, Sunday evening, I have diagnosed myself with PTSD.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Yesterday I was fine, today I have cancer


Audrey saved my life.

My new daughter, who we just brought home, saved my life.

I had to have a physical for my adoption. This is standard procedure and required. I've had the same physical four times now, as every adoptive parent does. My doctor reminded me I was due for my annual mammogram. I scheduled it for a few weeks later then, in the excitement of getting ready to travel I missed the appointment.  I would have forgotten again but this time Dean reminded me. His previous wife had breast cancer and he wasn't happy with me for skipping a mammogram last year.

Dean insisted on coming along for my 9:00 appointment then we would get a coffee afterward before dropping him off at work.

 First I had the mammogram done. Nothing like having your breast pulled down all the way from your chin!!! The imaging screen was behind me, out of view. When all the images were taken the tech put them up on the screen so she could make sure they were good images and nothing needed to be re-done. I turned around to see them myself.

Suddenly I couldn't breathe.

This didn't look like my mammogram from 2 years ago. No. No it was very different.

The radiology tech said she needed to have the radiologist review the films. When she returned she told me I'd be having an ultrasound. I was brought to a little waiting area while they got the ultrasound ready.

There were a couple other women waiting with me, all of us in our white, scratchy clinic robes. I wondered if they were just getting screened. I wondered what they knew about their breasts. I wondered if they were as scared as I was. 15 minutes ago I wasn't scared, now I was petrified.


The tech put the wand to my breast. I asked her to turn the screen a bit for me so I could see. I was in school for a year for sonography. I didn't finish (we adopted Asher instead) but I was there just long enough to know what I was seeing on the screen. "That's not a cyst." I said.

In my head I was screaming, "Oh my GOD that is NOT a cyst. I know that is not a cyst."

Breathe Leah. Just breathe.

I went back to the little waiting area again, but this time I was alone. There were no other women waiting because they had their mammograms and got to go home.  It was only a minute before the nurse came back to get me. "Do you have anyone with you today? The radiologist would like to talk to you."

I wanted to vomit. They don't ask to talk to you, and if you have someone with you, when everything is all good. This was not all good. I could feel it, all the way in my bones. Every cell of my body screamed "RUN!"

I waited in a small conference room while the tech left to retrieve Dean from the lobby. I noticed a box of tissues on a nearby desk and quickly grabbed a handful, shoving them into the pocket of my scratchy robe.

Dean came in and sat down by me.  I couldn't talk. I wanted to vomit. I was afraid if I opened my mouth some kind of floodgates would open and the result would be really bad. And then the radiologist, in her white lab coat, stood before us, the tech at her side with her blonde pony tail and her pink and purple scrubs.  "I've reviewed your mammogram and ultrasound. You do have a mass there that is small, but it needs to be biopsied."

That is when my world started spinning.

I buried my face in Dean's chest and sobbed.

But is where the doctor didn't follow the script that was in my head. It was at this point she was supposed to say, "This is just a precaution. Chances are this will come back fine."

But she didn't say that. She just stood before us, waiting patiently while I composed myself. She said nothing.

She told us we would have the results back by noon tomorrow (Friday).

The radiologist and tech left to prepare the procedure room while Dean and I sat and waited.

"I can't have cancer." was all I could whisper. It was all I could think.

Couldn't this biopsy wait until Monday? Let me digest this for the weekend? do not waste any time here. This is a breast clinic and this is what they do. There would be no waiting.

Just a few minutes later they came back to get me. Dean disappeared to the lobby while I laid down on the exam table. The radiologist put the ultrasound wand to my breast and I stopped her. "You see these all the time. What do you expect these biopsies to show?"

She took a breath. Her words were gentle and soft, but very firm, very clear. "I am honest with all my patients. You're scared and you want to know so there is no reason for me to be vague. I expect this biopsy will show that you have cancer."

"I need a number. Can you give me a percent?"

"Well...I would say I'm 95% sure."

And then I cried. One of those silent cries where you want to say something, I needed to say something, but my throat was too tight to talk and...again...I couldn't breathe enough to talk.

"I'm ok. I'm ok. I'm ok....." I said. While I tried to breathe.

And then I told her why I was upset. About our family. Audrey. Everyone. I can't have cancer.

I cried some more.

Finally I said, "Ok...lets get this done."

The doctor was so patient with me. How many times has she had a freaked out woman on this same table asking the same questions?

She put the wand back to my breast and I told her what I understood of the image on the screen. "You would have made a good sonographer." she said.

She painted my breast with antiseptic. She explained she would be inserting a needle with novocaine (or some other numbing stuff, I don't even remember.) and it would hurt a little. It did hurt, but not as much as my tooth last month. Then she inserted a second needle for deeper numbing behind the lump.

"Next I'm going insert a special needle. When I'm in the right position I will activate it. It makes a loud clicking noise but it should not hurt. If it hurts please tell me." The whole procedure looked just like this.

Courtesy Mayo Clinic Health Library
I waited for it to hurt. My whole body tensed up with the waiting.


I tried not to jump but I did anyway. It sounded like a staple gun. There was a small tugging sensation, but no pain.

"I need to do three more just like that. I will tell you each time so you don't jump."

I asked her to show me the sample that was taken. It was about an inch long, and a thick spaghetti noodle. "There's my cancer." I thought.

I started taking deep, cleansing breaths like when I was in labor. Long, deep breaths to take me somewhere else. To a beach, with sunshine. Anywhere but here.

"Ok. Here is the next one."


I exhaled. I didn't know I was holding my breath.

"Alright. This will be the third. I'm activating now."


"Ouch. That one hurt a little bit. Not bad. Like a pin prick."

"That was the deepest one. This last one you should not feel at all. Activating now."


"There. That was the last one. Now I'm going to place a small metal clip, about the size of a grain of rice, into the lump. This marks it for future reference so if a new lump were to appear we know this is the original one."

The tech bandaged me up. Then the doctor asked if I have a picture of my kids. I showed the pictures I took back in August, then of Audrey on the day she was removed from the institution. Skinny, with her head shaven and in ratty clothes. Then I showed her a recent picture. "She's beautiful." we said together.

"This is a small lump. I can't say for sure until we have the biopsy results back, but typically this is treated with a lumpectomy and 6 weeks of radiation. Very rarely is chemotherapy needed for this type of lump. Six weeks of radiation won't stop your life. You'll be a bit tired, but it doesn't knock you down like chemo does. I expect that you'll be meeting with the oncologist and surgeon on Monday. But sweetie, you are going to be ok. This will likely show a very slow-growing cancer. Its gonna be ok! YOU are going to be ok."

I hung onto those words. No, I clung to them as if they were a life-ring tossed to me while I bobbed and floundered in the ocean.

They handed me a bright yellow sheet of paper with post-biopsy wound care instructions, then walked me back to the small waiting area. There were three other women waiting. I sat down in a chair in the corner. I started to cry. I couldn't stop. The tears just kept coming. Here were three women, waiting for their own  mammograms, and here I sat, golden ticket in my hand, sobbing. One woman wiped a tear from her eyes while the other two hid behind their magazines. I realized I was freaking them out and tried to compose myself. I picked up a magazine. What does it say? I couldn't really focus on the words or content. There is a puppy in the picture. Cancer. Do I have cancer? I don't like how the room on this page is decorated. What will the biopsy say? I couldn't concentrate on anything but the words screaming inside my head.

Yet another tech came to get me for another mammogram. This one is needed to make sure that little metal clip is in the right place. As she started to position my breast on the plate, my whole body started to tremble. Like I was freezing only I was dripping with sweat. "I need to sit down." I said, and she quickly moved a chair to me. Apparently I was a bit pale. I just needed a minute. Just a minute. Why was I shaking all over? I realized I was a bit shocky, probably from being really tense about feeling pain during the biopsy. Probably from just being told I have cancer.

I needed to talk to Dean. He didn't yet know what the doctor said in answer to my questions. He didn't know the doctor said this was going to show I have cancer.

We took the couple of mammo films that were needed and I was finally allowed to get dressed. I got into the changing room and pulled out my phone to text my sister. My hands were shaking so bad I dropped my phone twice. I sent her some garbled text about "its not good."

I walked to the lobby and spotted Dean. He came to meet me as my phone rang. It was my sister. "I can't talk now." I said, and hung up on her. I couldn't breathe. I was starting to hyperventilate. I wanted to away...I felt trapped. "Get me out of here." I mumbled to Dean. Really, I needed him to lead me because I didn't know where to go because I couldn't think.

We left the lobby of the breast clinic, and the eyes of others waiting, and stepped into the bigger, main lobby of the clinic. I lost it. Never in my life have I cried so hard. Dean just held me as I sobbed. I felt my legs give out under me and Dean held me up. Through choking breaths I told him what the doctor said. That she expected this to be cancer. "I can't have cancer!" I cried. I cried so hard. Dean cried with me and held me, there in the lobby of the breast clinic. And I became aware of women coming off the elevators, moving into and out of the clinic, going about their business, seeing this woman freaking out and knowing in an hour that could be them. Or for some, that was them just months ago and they know. They know the shock. The disbelief. I didn't want to be part of them.

Finally, after several minutes, I was able to catch my breath. Everything about today was about breathing. It was so hard to breathe all day. I had to call my sister back. I looked at my phone. A little over an hour.  In one hour I had a mammogram, and ultrasound, a biopsy, and found out I probably had cancer. It was only 10:30 a.m.

Yesterday I was fine, today I have cancer.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Welcome Back!

So, we took a nice little hiatus there, didn't we? Now that Audrey is home and our family is learning to be "one" with each other, its time to get back to blogging about it here! I can't wait to see what life has in store for us! If you're new here, I hope you'll stick around.