I have tried to find the words to write down what has happened over the past week and a half but I quickly become overwhelmed, followed by fear, sadness and tears… so I have chosen not to write. But to hopefully answer some of your questions about how such news could have come to me just one month away from my 27th birthday I will transcribe the events below.
July 24, 2014 I got the call that I was BRCA 2 Positive for the breast cancer gene. (I had decided to take the test so that I would know my likelihood of getting breast cancer and how to be proactive). As a result my OBGYN ordered an MRI. She advised that as a result of being positive I am considered “high risk” for breast cancer. The statistics indicate that BRCA positive patients have a 60-80% chance of getting breast cancer in their lifetime. This futuristic fear led me to believe that at some point I will probably have breast cancer …….. but never expected it to be anytime soon.
Flash forward to a month and a half later, September 25, 2014. My mom flew in that morning to spend the weekend visiting me in Denver. The purpose of her trip was to walk with me, in of all things, The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Walk. We had decided to make a weekend of it, to honor her sisters, her mom all three touched by breast cancer and that both of us are BRCA 2 positive. Knowing that my mom would be visiting I decided to schedule my MRI while she was here so she could be with me. The evening of, Thursday September 25, 2014 I went in for my Breast MRI. My mom and I left the MRI glad the test was done for the year and ready for our weekend.
Friday September 26, 2014 I was at work while my mom was hanging around her hotel for the day. Around 10:30 am my phone rang from the radiologist. Two places on my left side showed up on my MRI abnormal. The radiologist explained that they wanted to do a mammogram and an ultra sound. Knowing that my mom was to fly out in the afternoon of Monday September 29, 2014 I asked if I could come in Monday morning. Fortunately they could take me first thing that morning.
The weekend with my mom was bittersweet and overshadowed by the looming unknown that would meet us Monday morning. All of a sudden my excitement to walk in the Breast Cancer walk disappeared by my own fear that someday my name would be a T-Shirt at a walk.
Monday September 27, 2014 I had my mammogram first. The mammogram specifically targeted the left breast. Following the mammogram my mom and I walked in to a small room for my ultra sound of that area. Although I was not able to see the screen, my mom looked on as the radiologist circled the same area of my breast and underneath my left arm pit. It was obvious something was in both places. After what seemed like hours of silence in that room (maybe only 10 minutes). The radiologist explained that I have an enlarged lymph node and a place in my left breast she wants to have biopsied. My eyes began to fill with water, as fear filled my heart. My mom in tears explained that she was in town visiting and it would be really good if they could get me in today. The nurse kindly said let me check and see what is open and I will come right back.
Waiting, we asked a lot of questions to the radiologist and she encouraged us that it could very well be nothing. She went on to explain that younger women often have developing breasts and this is not uncommon to find places. In my heart (for some reason) I had a feeling something was not right.
The nurse came right back in the room and said you will not believe this, but they can take you right now. Within 15 minutes I was prepped for surgery and having the biopsy done of the two places.
1. An enlarged lymph node under my left arm pit
2. Small tumor in my left breast.
That evening my mom and I weren’t up for doing much. We ate dinner, shared our fears, cried a lot and messaged family and friends to ask for prayer. Afraid of what the next day would bring, we anxiously fell asleep knowing that the next day a call would come that would either erase our fears or symbolize the beginning of my journey to fight breast cancer.
Tuesday September 30, 2014 (THE DAY). I decided to go to work, knowing that it would be miserable waiting around for a phone call. I thought work would distract. My mom had my car and was back at her hotel. Almost exactly 24 hours after my biopsy my phone rang while walking back from lunch downtown Denver…..
Walking away from my colleagues for privacy I answered the phone and the doctor kindly asked how my biopsy incisions were doing and how I was feeling. I answered him and my heart began to beat fast. (I thought, why is he lingering on the phone?).
The doctor then asked, “Is now an OK time to speak?”
As my eyes filled with water, and my heart began to ache, he said that he had wished he had better news for me. With a cracking voice and tears I listened and said “OK”. He said, “Your left breast tumor is malignant. You have Ductal Carcinoma Breast Cancer.”
I sat down on the side walk and listened. I am not sure I heard a single thing he said. Hanging up the phone I walked to my colleagues and nearly collapsed in my tears. I called my mom. I told her, “You need to come get me. My left side is malignant. You need to come get me.”
Like a robot my mom answered me as I spoke to her. The shock was in full effect for us both.
The rest of this story is kind of a blur.
What do you do when you find out you have breast cancer? How do you respond? The truth is I have no idea. I am still in shock. It is as though my life was ripped out from underneath me. I am grieving, sad, angry, and scared.
The following morning Wednesday October 1, 2014 my dad flew in to Denver so both of my parents could be with me as we met with doctors all week. I have seen a breast surgeon, oncologist and plastic surgeon.
November 5, I will have a double mastectomy. Following surgery my treatment plan will be determined (chemo, medicine etc). The tumor is small but the cancer is growing fast.
I am heart broken and I am scared but I am so grateful that I decided to have the genetic test done. If I had not, I would most likely not have found this tumor until it was much further along.
Your prayers are appreciated as this long road begins. My family is so grateful to all of you and it does not go without notice.
Amy Patwa a dear friend, also BRCA 2 positive, died after her battle with breast cancer two years ago in January. Her words have never been more true than they are to me today.
“I have my opinion and desires for how i’d like our stories to be written. but I trust God more than I trust myself. I know He loves us and desires way more for us than I could even fathom. now there are times where I’d take the boring life with nothing impactful happening. but that’s not what He’s got in store for us.” – Amy DiBias Patwa
Sending so much gratitude from this new place and journey