March 9, 2018. That’s the day my life changed. Before that day my biggest worries were shredding that last five pounds or explaining to my six-year-old daughter how babies are made. Those things seem so silly now. Now that I have cancer.
Never in a million years would I think that I would get cancer. Me?? The one who has focused my whole adult life on health. I’ve avoided processed foods. I pop broccoli like skittles. I breastfed for four years. I have exercised consistently since high school. I chose a career in health care. And I am easy breezy with stress. Anyone but ME! But I guess cancer doesn’t discriminate.
February 24: found a lump in my breast while driving. I was listening to a podcast that was talking about self-breast exams and thought “I haven’t done that in a while.” So I did it. And I felt a lump.
February 26: went to my PCP for an exam. She felt the lump, but suggested it was probably a cyst and to get a mammogram to be sure. Also suggested I get a colonoscopy due to my GI issues #gettingold.
March 7: got a mammogram.
I didn’t think much of it until the mammo tech brought me back to get extra angles. And then in for a breast ultrasound where a radiologist came in to told me “it looks like cancer, you need a biopsy.” The next biospy appointment was not until March 15. So I took action into my own hands and emailed a colleague who was able to get me in the next day.
March 8: I am starting to get a little nervous – especially when they mention that I am getting a biopsy on four sites “Usually we only have to biopsy 1 or 2 sites.” As I was in the room getting the biopsy I didn’t feel pain. I felt scared. Tears gently rolled across my cheeks as the nurse Mercedes rubbed my leg. It was comforting. Then they told me to tell my doctor to look out for results, they should be available in the next day or 2.
March 9: I went to work to pack up my office. I was moving to a new department on Monday. That’s when I got the call. I was hoping for the best. I was NOT preparing for the worst. So when my doctor told me I had metastatic breast cancer I was calm and collected. What stage I said?? And her response, “4.” I immediately left the office and called Tyler to come home. I called my mom to meet me at my house. I had to tell them I had Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer when I still didn’t believe it was true.
I was able to schedule my PET scan and oncologist appointment for the following Tuesday. I was hoping, praying, wishing, bargaining that it wasn’t stage 4. That they made a mistake.
Over the following few days I made my rounds to my family and friends to tell them the news. Everyone had the same reaction – “WHAT, this can’t be possible.”
I got numb. I thought about not being around for my girls wedding. I thought about not growing old with Tyler. I thought about missing out on all the fun memories and adventures with my friends and family. I thought about not being a sassy old lady with my girlfriends. It broke my heart. I committed to myself to do anything and everything in my power to live as long as I can.
March 11: I saw a rainbow! It was my little glimmer of hope.
March 12: Thanks to a family friend I was able to expedite my PET scan. I hold onto a little hope that this was all a big mistake. The PET scan is where they can tell if the cancer has spread to anywhere else in the body. I know it was in my breast and lymph nodes – but we weren’t sure if it was anywhere else. We were so anxious for this day to know what we were facing, but there was a pit in my stomach and I wanted to go back, rewind and not be here. That afternoon me, Tyler and my mom went to meet with the oncologist. The medical assistant took my blood pressure and it was HIGH. Seriously!! Who’s blood pressure would not be high when they were just diagnosed with cancer. The doctor came into the room, Dr. Rohatgi (who I use to work with when I was marketing oncology for Sutter) and he said “Sara, who told you you have Stage 4?? Lets look at your PET scan together. You have Stage 3. Now, I am guessing most people are not jumping for joy when they hear they have Stage 3 breast cancer. But I did. We all did. Dr. Rohatgi said the goal of treatment is to get rid of the cancer. Music to my ears!!
On the way home I made calls to share the “good” news of a treatable Stage 3. And that I had a treatment plan, I was starting chemotherapy the following Wednesday.
March 15: After being on a high a few days for being downgraded I was back to earth realizing I still had cancer. A fast, aggressive cancer. I started feeling it my my breast. I started looking on message boards. I got scared. I had an emotional few days. Then I knew I had to get out of my head. I believe in the placebo effect and if I put my mind to something I always accomplish it. That’s what I decided was going to happen with this F*CKING CANCER.
March 16: I went nuclear!! Chemotherapy wreaks havoc on your cancer, but also on your body so you have to do lab tests and additional heart imaging. I went to get my MUGA scan and the technologist describe to me that they would take out my blood, make it nuclear, and put it back in me to track the effectiveness of my heart. Hmm, I have watched a lot of superhero movies and now is the time to pick my super power if I am going Nuclear!! I am hoping my super power is living for eternity …. or at least into my 90’s.
That night I bought some nice organic red wine, knowing that it was the last alcohol I would have for a few months.
March 17: One of my biggest fears through all of this is my girls. How is a 3 and 6 year old going to take the news of their mom having cancer. Or are they too young to even realize what it is. My hope is that they don’t see mommy too sick or frail. My hope is that they continue to recognize and count on their strong mommy. We sat them down and told them mommy has a tumor/ouchie in her boob. That mommy would need a lot of medicine. That mommy would loose her hair and be tired for a while. And that they needed to be big girls and help more around the house. Maile, of course, was worried about me being bald. I mean, this kid doesn’t eve like it if I wear a pony tail, so I knew that was coming. Lucy I think is still too young to understand. Mental note: need to get a wig. Maybe one in unicorn colors. The girls will like that!!