When Cancer Came Knocking: A Breast Cancer Diagnosis Timeline

This has been quite a stressful few weeks, but at the same time everything is happening so quickly...

Early October: I felt a hard “lump” in my left breast while showering. Of course, I turned to Doctor Google, who told me not to panic. Monitor its size and texture over the course of my next menstrual cycle. Google said at my age, lumps come and go naturally, due to hormones, throughout any given cycle. So, I checked that sucker everyday, hoping it would magically vanish after my next period.

Early November: my period came and went, but my “lump” was still there. It didn’t feel at all like I imagined a lump would feel like. I always expected lumps to be small, like a small pebble and kind of squishy, like a pea. What I felt was pretty big, like maybe the size of a prune and it was HARD, like a rock. The nervous pit I had in my stomach began to be a constant feeling of panic! I called my doctor and scheduled an appointment.

November 12: I had my primary care physician exam me. She tried to be positive and give me hope, but I knew something was very wrong. She tried to calm my fears with statistics about my age and how unlikely it was to have breast cancer at 40. But she was also honest, she did NOT like how it felt. She said it didn’t feel like a cyst, but she had “been wrong before”. She ordered a diagnostic mammogram to be followed by a breast ultrasound. I left her office with an impending sense of doom.

November 21: the day before Thanksgiving, I went in for my first ever mammogram. Having never had one before (I had just turned 40 and knew I should start getting them yearly, but hadn’t yet). I was nervous, having heard how detested mammograms were. Let me assure you all, they are NOT bad at all! And they last like 1 minute, 30 seconds for each boobie. Next, I had the ultrasound. Having gone through 2 pregnancies in 3 years, I knew ultrasounds were not scary. But the ultrasound tech was taking her time and being too quiet. I knew she wasn’t allowed to tell me if she saw anything bad, but she certainly didn’t tell me she saw nothing to be concerned about. After the ultrasound, rather than sending me home, they had me wait and talk to the radiologist who was reading my results. She was very nice, but very direct. She was “worried it might be cancer” and she had actually found TWO suspicious spots on my left boob AND one on my right! She sent in my orders to have something called a core needle biopsy as soon as possible. 

Thanksgiving: I tried to hold it together and present myself as normal as possible. I didn’t want to worry my family unnecessarily. 

December 7: after what felt like an eternity, my biopsy day was here. My best friend went with me because that’s just the kind of person she is. She’s also a cancer survivor. And while she didn’t have breast cancer, she certainly understood my concerns. They biopsied my three spots. Right away the technician was able to tell me the lump in my right breast was fluid filled and thus, a cyst. That was a slight relief, but because I didn’t even know that existed before the mammogram and ultrasound I was hopeful it was nothing to worry about. Plus, Doctor Google had told me great cancer in both breasts at the same time was exceptionally rare unless the cancer had metastasized. Phew! Only had to worry about that left ta-ta. 

December 8-16: Time begins to really start dragging while I waited for my results. By this time, my Mom was worrying and telling our family members about the biopsy. Everyone sent well wishes and it seemed like everyone knew someone who found a lump that turned out to be nothing, so I would be fine. Everyone said it would be fine, but I knew something just wasn’t right. It’s Christmas time now and I’m trying to distract myself and get into the Holiday spirit. Not even so much for myself, but for my boys. I have TWO BABIES at home, I can’t let them see me upset. Tick, tick, tick, I waited and waited and waited. 

December 17: it was 6:20 in the morning when my doctor left me a voicemail. Now, I really knew. If it was good news, she would’ve told me so on the voicemail. I tried to brace myself for what was about to come, and I called her back. The words I knew I would hear was still crushing to hear, CANCER. I had fucking breast cancer. She didn’t know much about prognosis or stage or anything like that. Which just made me more nervous. She said she was going to pass me over to the cancer specialists now, because we had to move quickly. 

December 19: Matt and I have our first meeting with a Breast Surgeon Oncologist. He was awesome and I felt confident being in his care, but I was completely overwhelmed. Our heads are spinning and I can’t wrap my head around all the information I was receiving. Thankfully, Matt was better able to ask appropriate questions. I just wanted someone to tell me how bad it was. Did I have 6 months? 10 years? Was it treatable? Curable?!

December 21: Matt and I meet the Medical Oncologist who is able to give me a bit more information in terms I was somewhat used to hearing (stages and type). I have INVASIVE Ductal Carcinoma, stage 2, borderline stage 3. It wasn’t good news, but it SEEMS survivable. However, I was going to need a mastectomy. At least a full mastectomy of my left breast, the location and size of the tumor meant I wasn’t really a candidate for lumpectomy/breast saving surgery. I was gonna lose the left boob regardless, so it is up to me if I want to have the right one removed as a preventative method. I mean, I am only 40, I do not want to have this again in my right boob 10 years from now. Right now, I’m leaning towards a full double mastectomy with reconstruction. 

December 22-26: it’s Christmas. I try to have a fun, family Christmas.

December 27-30: Matt and I fly to NYC and try to enjoy ourselves on our well deserved adult-only vacation. 

Tomorrow we have an MRI scheduled. The results will give us a clearer picture of lymphatic activity. If the cancer hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes my treatment plan will be easier. Until we get the results, we are just speculating our plans. We won’t know if I need chemo and/or radiation prior to surgery until we get the results. 

So, folks, that’s where we are. I will definitely always remember the Holiday season of 2018. 

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