Really, this detour started
about six months ago. Or maybe a year or two ago. Or seven. Who the hell knows? Maybe I was tapped on the breast right at the beginning. We will never know. I go back and forth in my mind wondering how … when … why. Can I take the liberty of bouncing around that timeline like a time traveler? If only I could really do that! How far would I have to go back to course correct this corrupted sequence of cells?
In this last half year, my subconscious mind and body have tried to tell me something was wrong. Dreams, cravings, intuition, outbursts, spirituality and a sudden interest in healing. All pointing in one direction. Looking back I can clearly see where I was being nudged to do what I hadn’t done since I turned fifty … go for another mammogram and find this silent killer. And go vegan. Clean up my physical, emotional and spiritual self. I guess my inner Goddess knew there was a huge battle looming on the horizon.
God must have finally facepalmed and moved this crisis into the fast lane mid-December 2016. I thought I felt something in my right breast at the 10 o’clock location. I convinced myself – amid the chaotic Christmas season – that it was nothing. And I did such a stellar job of deluding myself that I completely pushed it aside and forgot about it. I had too much going on. Finishing fourth quarter at work – our busiest time, gathering donations for charities, rescuing dogs, and preparing for Christmas, which is usually a big celebration for me and my modern family. Even if it is just my son Matt and myself. There were too many social butterfly engagements to flit through each week: Parties. Dances. Gift exchanges. Luncheons. Dinners. Drinks. Cookie exchanges. Meetups. Dates. And another birthday to celebrate in the final hours of 2016.
My life was almost perfect! Sure, I have my stresses and no life is perfect, but I have successfully managed so far to support my son, my dogs, myself and my charities. And thrive! Work was great, home was great, my social life puts my teenager to shame. I was thankful every night for the day I just had. I woke up each morning and said “What a beautiful day!” despite the weather, the news, and the people who try to piss me off.
I was so busy working and having fun that I wasn’t finding time for the things I should have made time for. Me and my son. My love of learning and continued education … feeding that brain that loves to be fed. Artistic and creative hobbies which I hoped would soothe my restlessness and provide a second income. And those boring things like budgets and medical checkups. But I figured I would eventually find time. There is always tomorrow, right? I felt happy, fulfilled, grateful, loved and loving … and heaIthy. I was healthy, wasn’t I? Right? RIGHT?! I have always identified as healthy and in reasonable shape (some seasons better than others!) I ate reasonably well, only indulged in a few risky behaviours, and assumed my Mom’s good genes would get me well into my 90s. Only the good die young!
God did the facepalm with both hands.
A month later in January 2017 the lump refused to be ignored. Again, fate and a dose of things happening for a reason … I was going out on a date with a hot guy and the evening was delayed thirty minutes or so or maybe I was ready earlier than expected. I lay down on my bed and absentmindedly reached up to my right breast because it was aching a little. Cramps? Menstrual changes? Sore back?
The lump was undeniably noticeable and definitely not normal.
I poked around so much that I bruised myself, but I had to be sure. Was it a rib? My lump was elongated, bumpy and hard. I had no “classic” symptoms – except for the large mass in my boob – of breast cancer, and was considered low risk. No skin changes, no nipple changes. My breasts were perfectly fine if you looked at them. I surely would have found this growth sooner if I had poked at it sooner while in bed
. I always did my self-exams in the shower. Note this ladies – try a new position – and feel yourself up for an examination while horizontal (don’t get me started on the possibilities!).
Again, I wasn’t worried. I’d deal with it tomorrow. Indecision really is the key to flexibility … Ignorance is bliss. It happens to someone else.
Then reality rolled in like a tsunami … in … all the way out … then back in for the big finale. I struggled as the “what if?” sank in. What if this is bad? It’s big. I had a fucking huge lump in my breast.
Waiting isn’t something I am good at, but all the doctors I needed were taking post-holiday season vacations. I had to park this lump and all my anxiety and wait, keep quiet, and bounce between fear and denial to my default emotions of happy and hopeful. While still living. I had to work. I had to make dinner and manage our home. I had to walk the dogs and pick up the Boy from work. I was dating. I was planning birthday parties and had places to be seen. Life went on and I kept going.
I hated to be told “Don’t worry!” and “Be positive!” I hated giving this thing life by thinking about it. I refused to name it. I barely googled it but I couldn’t completely ignore it. I looked at risk factors. I looked at possible outcomes. I also had to be realistic and reasonable, something I pride myself on being.
I thought – and still do think – I can take control and direct my path. When someone suggests that I will eventually have to relinquish control – to the medical establishment, to God, to life and/or death – I stick my fingers in my ears and sing “La la la la” like a two-year-old. I don’t fucking do what I don’t want to do. Never have.
My Mom loved to tell the story of how stubborn three-year-old Lisa was. We were doing the weekly grocery shopping at Steinberg’s – a Quebec icon – and the packing boys had shoved bags of food in the trunk and backseat. I got out to smile and flirt and twirl my long hair (yes, at the age of three)! My Dad – slightly exasperated with me – told me to get in the car. To which I promptly replied, “Then move the fucking bags.” He didn’t appreciate my language – told me as much – and put me in the car. I threw the groceries out the back window one by one on the drive home…
Unfortunately, I can’t just swear and dump this lump out the window.
I did all the right things. I breastfed.
I couldn’t – and wouldn’t – say “I have breast cancer.”
But I do. And just like that, my life has been momentarily interrupted by a pink dot. A 5 cm dot.
It’s one of those topics that you can choose to talk about publicly or not, and I have chosen to be public. I want to write and blog through the entire experience. It helps me get a grip on my new normal. It will be achingly raw, exquisitly honest, delightfully funny and hopefully eye-opening. It’s the only way I know how to get through the experience, and perhaps my strengths and weaknesses will guide others.
Follow along every day at Hear what the Fox really has to say
As I tell people the news, I am overwhelmed with the love, the helpful information, tips, advice, offers of help, tears, laughs, prayers, inspiration and even some really good breast jokes! I’ve often heard it said that you cannot go through cancer alone. You need a mentor and consultant, gifts from those who have walked this path before me, to navigate the confusing world of cancer and our healthcare system. There is so much that you need to know. And I don’t know anything. I don’t know what I don’t know.
It will be quite the journey. I have my A Team. Life continues. It has been interrupted and detoured, but it continues. And I will not watch life from the sidelines! That will kill me before the cancer does.
There are days when I smile and say “I’ve got this.”
There are days when I can barely pick myself up off the bathroom floor, crumpled in a heap of tears.
There are days when I am surprised by my own strength.
There are already days when I gave up.
There are thankfully more days when I got up, got dressed and kept going.
There are days where I wonder if I am not a tad crazy.
There are days when I’m in a fog of narcotics, otherwise I would be crazy.
There are days coming when I won’t want to live another day.
There are days when I will have to be dragged or carried into tomorrow, kicking and screaming.
And then there will be the days where I will lift my head, and walk through that fire with grace, grit and a wicked sense of humour.
Losing my days is not an option.
I hope you will be with me for the journey. All of you. I am quite sure it will be a rollercoaster of a ride. The highs, the lows, the hysterical laughs, the ugly tears at 3am. The harsh realities, the new beginnings. The scars. The pain. The fear. The fatigue. The triumph.
The science. The options. The good. The bad. The naked (yeah there might be boob pictures!) and raw.
Thanks for already being there.
To your health … and mine,
6 Comments Add yours
I sure hope this doesn’t sound insensitive, but this is a very good read. You write quite well, Lisa! I look forward to following your journey, though I sincerely wish you could opt for a different one.