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!"

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.


AngelaLexi79 said...

Leah, I have followed your blog for over a year now and celebrated with you on both Asher's, Abel's and Audrey's adoptions. I am so sorry to hear this news for you BUT, you will prevail. I have faith in you! And I will celebrate with you when you come out ahead in this too. Much love from Texas! Angela L.

Hevel Cohen said...

I know this must sound odd, but I'm so glad you are sharing your journey with us, with the world. While it's a hard journey, your experiences will help others, too.

Thank you.

Relle said...

Hon you are not crazy, i promise!! Sometimes we just know stuff. I had a feeling from about ten yrs old that because i wanted kids so much i wouldn't be able to. Weird i know. But i was right as i was born without a uterus. I felt like God would find a way for me to have kids anyway. He used a car accident that left me with chronic pain to be my blessing. Due to the car accident i was given a pay out that payed for gestational surrogacy and he blessed us with triplets. One who is also called Asher. I too have thought i would at some stage have cancer. At one stage we were told that the triplets would possibly ALL die, and i know i nearly told complete strangers and thought i was losing my mind. You are so allowed to feel all the thoughts you are. I'm sure as you meet and and talk to others going through this you will see yourself in their stories. Praying for you and Dean to have peace that passes all understanding and that He will carry you though. Love and Hugs

Imogen said...

Sending you all the love in the world, and then more.

TUC said...

The way you wrote this, I felt so with you. I wish you the strength to get through this.

gwen said...

So, so sorry. You are one of my favorite bloggers in the DS community. I lost my mom to breast cancer last year. She had DCIS that was diagnosed as Stage 0, and we lost her six months later. Obviously someone was wrong. I'm sure there are a lot more educated people to help you, but I would urge you to go straight to mastectomy. I pray that you will be able to get effective treatment so you can get on with your busy life! Tell those kids to take good care of you.