“It’s official”, I have cancer…

The day was November 7th and I was scheduled that afternoon to see a surgeon. I hadn’t received my official diagnoses but, I was expecting the results of my biopsy to arrive by fax in any moment. Everything was moving so fast. A little over a week ago I was oblivious to anything being wrong with me and yet that afternoon I stood there at the age of 31 contemplating a mastectomy. I think somehow I was still in denial because it wasn’t till I reviewed my results that my world came crashing down.

There I stood, holding one of the most important pieces of paper I would ever have in my possession. As I began to read it, the words stood out loud and clear, HIGH GRADE DUCTAL CARCINOMA. There was no running away from it, I had cancer. I showed my mom (who worked with me at the time) and all I could mutter was, “it’s official.” I wanted to break down into tears but knew I had to keep it together. I was at work and this just wasn’t the time. I needed to get through the day and my appointment with the surgeon that afternoon.

To be honest with you, this was my attitude through my entire journey. I just needed to resolve the issue. I had no time for this, I had a plan! I still hadn’t registered the fact that I had received what I later considered to be a gift. The gift that would teach me to appreciate life more than I ever had and the knowledge to really live it to its fullest. I just wanted it gone and to never think about it again. Of course, this sort of attitude also kept me from acknowledging what was really happening and this proved to be a problem further down the line.

I arrived at the surgeons office that afternoon accompanied by my mom. We sat down, discussed the results with him and for the first time received a bit of good news. My surgeon was more than convinced that a mastectomy wasn’t necessary. That he could perform a lumpectomy (also known as a partial mastectomy) and simply remove the tumor along with any affected lymph nodes. “Thank you god.” This was going to be a much simpler surgery and an even faster recovery.

Somehow, amongst all my fears and frustrations I was able to find a moment of peace and happiness. This was my gift and although it wouldn’t have been something I’d put on my wish list, it only took a short period of time for me to find the beauty in the pink ribbon it was wrapped in. This was my opportunity to grow and make the most of this experience. To conquer it, gain self confidence in myself, and take the leap to start my new journey.

The decision was made, I was scheduled for surgery on Monday, November 11th. It was already Thursday the 7th so we had to move fast. The following day I was scheduled for a PET/CT scan and my pre-op. Then, I was scheduled on Monday to have a lymphoscintigraphy done prior to surgery. The results of this test would be used as a map during my surgery to find the sentinel node and determine if the cancer had spread. It was something I had considered but didn’t want to give to much thought. I could only pray at this point that the cancer hadn’t spread…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

*** Note to reader ***

Below are some links I thought might be helpful to those interested in knowing more about PET/CT scans and Lymphoscintigraphy. Please be aware that I am in no way affiliated with these sites and have provided them for my readers educational purposes only. If you are more of a visual learner, I encourage you to watch the short video included in the link. 🙂

Lymphoscintigraphy – http://www.radiologyinfo.org/mobile/en/info.cfm?pg=lympho

PET/CT scan- http://www.radiologyinfo.org/mobile/en/info.cfm?pg=pet

Plan B…

I’ve always been the type to have “plans” for almost everything. Looking back I’d say I lived my life with far too much structure. When things didn’t work out the way I planned them to I was a complete basket case. And though planning can be good to some degree, this can also be your “Achilles Heal”. The disappointment I felt from my failed attempts at life’s challenges were so great that I wouldn’t allow myself to move forward and grow from my experiences.

Falling in love is a perfect example of my failed attempt at being single. This was in no way part of my “master plan”. Instead it was a magnetic pull that was greater than me. Of course with this came lots of change and desires to try something new. To experience life outside of what I already knew and the structure I had become so comfortable with. We talked for months about my moving but I kept asking myself, “how could I do this”? I loved my family, my job and my friends. How on earth was I going to leave all of that stability behind over a simple desire to experience something more? Why were my feet so firmly rooted into the ground?

Then, as the light bulb in my head turned on, I realized what my biggest problem was. It was me. I was so scared to switch gears into “Plan B” and get out of my comfort zone that I was robbing myself of the opportunity to experience life in a new light. I had yet to learn that it was okay to be spontaneous and I realized that I was far more uncomfortable than I thought with change and giving up control of my own life. After much consideration though, I had made my decision. I was moving at the end of December. That was my new plan and nothing was going to stand in the way of that happening. I was finally being what I called “spontaneous”.

I gave my notice in October so we could find a great replacement and once we did I felt so at ease knowing things were going to go well after I had left my job. What happened next, however, was completely unexpected. It was the power of the “law of attraction” working its way into my life once again. Only this time the universe wasn’t sending subtle hints anymore on how I was going to be able to learn to lose control and live life to its fullest. It was no longer giving me an option of left or right. The universe simply said, “you want to break free from your own fears and live life to the fullest? This is how you will learn to do it”.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

You’re too young…

“You’re too young.” Those were the words I heard after asking if I should be concerned with the mass and micro calcifications they found in my left breast during my first mammogram and ultrasound. I asked if it’s something I should have checked again in the near future and the response was a simple, “because you are so young I would simply recommend for you to have it checked in 2 years.” “There is nothing you need to worry about.”

My mind felt at ease and I was so comforted by how well mannered and educated the doctor was when giving me my results that I ignored my gut feeling telling me to push for another follow up within a couple months or to have more testing done. I even ignored my right to a second opinion. I felt guilty for even questioning this man who was so polite and had taken the time to explain everything in what I felt was such great detail. A man who had gone to school and had many years of experience. Working in the medical field myself and realizing that I may be overthinking things because of all I’ve seen with my patients, I quickly set aside the gut feeling and wrote it off as my being a hypochondriac. After all, he’s the professional and knows what protocol to follow, right?

Well, that logic made sense at the time so I decided to go about my daily life and follow the recommendation to do another mammogram and ultrasound in 2 years. That was the early part of January and it was a new year. I was single, working full-time and going to school part-time. I had moved back home to save money and take time out for myself to grow spiritually and figure out what I really wanted out of life. Things were going well and with this great news, I was able to keep moving forward with my plans…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

A gift that came with a pink ribbon…

This is my first blog and boy am I nervous but, it’s been suggested to me on many different occasions by my partner to write about my journey so, I decided to stop thinking about it and just blog. Talk about everything from my diagnosis with breast cancer to everything that’s happened since. My recovery, treatments, my support systems, my life as an athlete, my decision to move to a new city and start a new career, traveling and exploring new cities and cultures. It’s been a very interesting 7 months!! Nevertheless, I sum my journey up as “A gift that came with a pink ribbon”, and even through the most difficult times, I’m happy I was chosen to live this experience as I’ve grown in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth 🙂