Before I share the details about the moment I realized I have cancer, I want to disclose that I actually wrote this post almost 6 months ago. Really, I wrote it so I could get it off my chest. I’m not the best writer, but sometimes writing it out is therapeutic. Somehow I mustered the guts to share this with you all. Coincidentally, today happens to be my three year cancerversary and yesterday I went in for treatment. Crazy how life works out that way, am I right?!
I Was Diagnosed
January 25, 2016 was the day I was officially diagnosed with breast cancer and you’d think that day was the day I realized I have cancer’. After all, I vividly recall my doctor telling me, “Unfortunately all 4 lumps confirmed to be malignant tumors. I’m sorry to say you have cancer.” I heard cancer and I knew she was talking to me, and all I can do is listen. Like yes, now tell me what I need to do next. And yes I admit, some tears fell down my face. At the same time, there was doubt.
***Please know that these thoughts were around the early phase of my diagnosis. I hadn't seen any second opinions at this time.***
Immediately after hearing from my doctor, I called family members and close friends. I told them I have cancer. You’d think after repeatedly saying these words over and over again and scheduling several appointments that very day would register that I have cancer. Honestly, part of me didn’t think it was real. I kept thinking to myself that the hospital would call me back and apologize that they got the test results mixed up. I was ready for the hospital to apologize. None of this felt real. Me with cancer? There is no way that can happen to me.
The Next Steps
But I kept on following the next steps and scheduling these necessary appointments. Everything seemed surreal. I knew I was living it, but I thought I would eventually get a good shake, and the whole cancer thing was just a dream.
It wasn’t until I had a meeting with one of the oncologists. She wanted to thoroughly go over the pathology report with me since they finally got the full report. This is about two weekish later? I can’t remember. My mind is a little fuzzy with the timeframe. For those who don’t know, when you do a biopsy, you can get the pathology results (about a day or two) and that confirms if it is or isn’t malignant. The full pathology report contains every detail about the type of cancer (for me it was what kind of breast cancer), what is feeding it, how aggressive, etc. Hence, why the full report takes a bit longer to receive.
The Pathology Report
She went over everything i.e. what is feeding my cancer, what grade it is, and what it all means. I was attentively listening to it. I didn’t want to miss one detail, and Tre was there taking as many notes as possible. You’d think at this point it would hit me that I have cancer. Nope, just needed to listen to a bunch of medical terms I had never heard of.
About The Treatment
She went into details about my treatment plan (with this hospital); named every drug they will use, how long they will use it for, why they are going to use it, and every possible side effect I might encounter. I did get the reassurance that I might not get all of the side effects, but they can’t rule anything out. Nothing is guaranteed until they know how my body reacts to the drugs. Real talk, nothing is guaranteed when it comes to cancer. She mentioned warning signs I should look out for. Full disclosure, I told her to be candid with me. So she warned me that yes they are treating me very aggressively.
I remembered asking her “Will I lose my hair?”, and she looked at me in the eye and said most likely. That was kind of sad to hear because that’s what I pictured in the movies. The cancer patients didn’t have hair. But at the same time, I reassured myself that things in the movies don’t really happen in real life. Hollywood is not real life.
What Just Happened
Tre spoke up and said “I don’t feel well”. I looked over at him and he didn’t look well at all. But I couldn’t pinpoint what it was. His skin immediately lost all its color. His lips were turning purple blueish. I was internally freaking out. Then my husband just dropped. He fainted in the middle of a doctor’s appointment. The oncologist and nurse immediately had Tre and I switch spots and took care of him.
You’d think at this point it would hit me that I have cancer. After all, I put my husband into this position. Tre usually can keep it together. So the fact that he just fainted was shocking. My mind erased cancer and went to survival mode. I just wanted my husband to wake up. Thank goodness he eventually came together. Nope, it didn’t hit me that I have cancer.
Affected Our Future
We resumed the appointment about half an hour later. The doctor asked if we can continue our discussion. She said she understood if today was a lot of information, and we can resume at another appointment. I looked at my husband, afraid he’d faint again, and he said no, let’s finish it today.
She gradually started talking right where we left off. She looked at Tre and I and said “Let’s talk about your future. You two just got married. I’m not sure of your future family plans, but we should talk about it.” Based on the drugs I will have to be on and what chemo can do to the body, it might lower my ability to have a child. Chemo not only attacks cancer cells, but even the good cells in your body. My reproductive system and organs may not function the way they should by the time I’m done with treatments.
Caught Off Guard
I was completely caught off guard. I had no idea that cancer treatment would affect that. Tre and I didn’t have immediate plans to start a family, but we knew 100% that we wanted to grow our family. My oncologist recommended fertility preservation before starting any treatment. It was something we should really think about regardless if we want kids. In my head I was saying yes we want kids. She explained the fertility preservation process at a high level (she admitted she didn’t specialize in this and can only speak to what she knows). The main detail I took away from it was that they will most likely need to induce more estrogen in my body to speed up the fertility preservation process.
To sum up, fertility preservation with cancer patients is similar to going through IVF except the timeframe is shortened to 2 weeks or less, and then we can freeze the eggs or embryos. In our case, it would be embryos.
I’m like what?! Isn’t estrogen one of the receptors that is feeding my cancer?! SO essentially I’m feeding the cancer? I was torn. Really really torn. She still recommended I see this fertility doctor that specializes with cancer patients. I agreed to schedule that appointment but in my head I’m like WTF.
I did not feel like myself after the appointment. I was shocked how much it would affect growing our family. Tre held me close as we walked to the car. As we drove out of the parking lot, everything just poured out. I couldn’t stop crying. And I didn’t want to stop crying. Tre pulled over, and told me to just cry. Then I tried to stop crying. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t stop. And Tre told me to stop fighting it. Just let it out.
Eventually, I let out “this is not fair”. Everything that possibly could go wrong was flashing through my head. All I could say was sorry, numerous sorries to Tre. I told him I’m sorry I had put him through this, and I’m sorry I can’t guarantee a future, and I’m so sorry this all happened shortly after we got married. Honestly, I was scared, and I hated that we may not have a family. I told him I don’t know what to do. Should I risk potentially my life going through the fertility preservation? UGH. Tears after tears. That was the moment I realized I have cancer.
I questioned everything about myself. Am I a good person? Is this karma? I swear I tried to be a good person. And then I thought of everything that I’ve done wrong that could have been right. I seriously questioned my character at this point. My mindset at that moment was that bad things only happened to bad people. It sounds silly looking back, but when something bad happens, I think it is a natural instinct to figure out why it happened.
I Have Cancer
Even after that aha moment, I sought 3 other second opinions. And during those second opinions, I was secretly hoping when they re-ran the biopsy tissue that there was nothing malignant. Instead, I got 3 other treatment plans to choose from other hospitals. Even though I had my ‘I Have Cancer Moment’ and it’s been 3 years (as of today) that I was diagnosed, I still question from time to time if this whole thing is real.
I apologize how long this post ended up being. But it really is hard to describe the moment I realized I have cancer without explaining all the details that led to that moment. Writing this post was emotional and therapeutic. I know that moment very well as if it just happened seconds ago. I really don’t know how to end this post except to say that sometimes acceptance takes time and that really in life there never ever is a perfect moment. Things happen, and you just have to roll with it.