Toronto, December 2, 2015 — I love fairy tales where everyone lives happily ever after. Adventure stories like Star Wars inspire me where the good guys experience challenges and adversity, fight the bad guys and clinch victory from the jaws of defeat That’s how I saw my situation with the cancers. Lymphoma and Myeloma invaded my body nearly 4 years ago, caused havoc and pain, and almost cost me my life. With chemotherapy, medication and a stem cell transplant, I was able to get rid of the gremlins and come out on top. And since then, it has been a great life of renewal and rejuvenation. Until now.
Today I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am just so shocked that I don’t know how to respond. Do I cry? Do I say this can’t be happening? Do I ignore it and hope it’s a mistaken diagnosis?
It all started last week when I found a tiny lump in my right breast. I went to my family doctor who was surprised I found it at all because it was so minuscule and so deep. Within a week, I had two mammograms, 3 ultrasounds, a consult with a breast specialist and a surgeon, multiple visits with my family doctor and a biopsy. Two days later, the preliminary results of the biopsy showed that I have invasive ductal carcinoma. Invasive because that tiny, almost-could-not-feel-it lump had the audacity to spread the cancer into two lymph nodes under my right arm. I also learnt that this type of cancer makes up 80% of all breast cancers.
The next steps are additional tests next week that include a complete CT scan and a bone scan. This will determine the stage of the cancer and the treatment plan. The treatment will certainly include surgery to remove the tumour. Depending on the results of the tests, treatment will most likely include a combination of chemotherapy, radiation and hormonal interventions.
We called Dr. Tiedemann to see if it is normal for someone with my history to get breast cancer. He said that it was highly unusual and perhaps, that I was just “unlucky”. Dr. Tiedemann recommend that I have genetic sequencing to get a sense of whether there is a specific gene in my body that is the culprit and making me more susceptible to cancer. I am curious about the results given that there is no history in my immediate family of breast cancer, lymphoma or myeloma (although one cousin died of myeloma, one year after diagnosis).
The hardest part was to share this news with family. Nagib just looked shell shocked and then took my hand and said, “Here we go again”. Shayne was in Africa, and the first thing he said upon hearing the news was, “I am so glad to be coming home in two weeks”. Sabrina was in-between classes and could only talk for a few minutes. She thanked us for not keeping the news from her. My mom is worried. My father-in-law is sad. I am feeling badly about putting my family through this journey again. I know that this is not the best place to put my energy, but it is how I feel at the moment.
I am dealing with this new diagnosis by taking one step at a time and learning as much as I can about this cancer. The surgeon asked if I had any thoughts on whether I want to just remove the lump or get a mastectomy. I actually had to google mastectomy to find out what it meant and got a bit scared about the possibility — so I’m not thinking about this yet. All in good time.
A part of me is very calm given what I have gone through in the past. Cancer no longer has that hold over me. A part of me is wondering what God’s plans are for me. Is it to learn about another type of cancer so I can hopefully extend my reach in supporting more people? I am optimistic that I will have a happy ending with this cancer given the huge advances in breast cancer treatment and the knowledge that I have been here before But like all good fairy tales and adventure stories, it may mean that I have to slay a few more dragons and fight the bad guys along the way.
In the meantime, did I tell you that I just love Christmas ?!
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