Category Archives: Breast Cancer Scare

The wait is over. Tests came back negative.

I don’t have breast cancer. I am beyond grateful. I’ve seen what cancer has done to my loved ones. I honestly don’t know if I could have been as brave and strong facing something so terrifying.

I have to admit, this experience scared the ever loving shit out of me, and got me thinking about a lot of decisions I’ve made. Good and bad. Let me tell you something about my life of the last eight years. It hasn’t been all that great. It hasn’t been horrible but there are a lot of decisions where I’d like to request a do-over.

But the decision I’m going to tell you about tonight isn’t one of those moments I want to do-over.

I met my husband in the early part of 2006. Online of all places. A good friend of mine thought it was time for me to put myself out there. I didn’t feel it was that great of an idea, anonymous dating. No one had any idea if I was a lying, homicidal psychopath or a normal person (but they contacted me regardless, fools). I wasn’t really looking for a relationship.  Nonetheless, I gave the online dating thing a try. Boy did is suck ass. Well, with the exception of my husband.

As I said I met my husband online. The timing was a bit off as another man had contacted me about the same time. A widower who had some…..well let’s just say some issues that I can blog about another time. Regardless, he had contacted me first, so I met up with him first and the limited exposure with him left me thinking I’ve had enough of men and their issues.

However, despite my feeling I should become the official cat woman on my street, the man that eventually became my husband had something that made me go back and continue responding to his emails. He was honest (in his emails) about his life situation (unlike the widower, more on that later) and seemed like the genuine article. After a long and agonizing internal debate, I agreed to meet him for coffee. But he was going to be my last date. Not a joke. After this guy, I was done with dating.

Day of the coffee date, I had a good friend call me with a drama filled need (even today I consider her my drama puppet). I contacted my future husband and explained I had a friend with an emergency and could we reschedule? He said, Look. If you don’t want to go out with me just say so. I was taken aback by his attitude (a bit on the snarly side), but decided to not rip his head off. Instead I reined in my inner bitch and said Let’s reschedule right now. I do want to meet you but I honestly have a friend in need and she (and not the strange man I met online) is my priority.

Side note….he met this friend later on and realized she is a bit nuts and could understand  why I rescheduled. Now back to my story.

We met a few days later in front of a Starbucks after work one evening (shocker…Starbucks happens when you live in the Pacific Northwest). When I walked up and introduced myself, he looked like he’d been hit with a frozen halibut. I asked him what was wrong and he said You look like your profile picture.

Side note – here is where I was told once again, most women post pictures of themselves that are 10 or 20 years old. Apparently I was one of the rare women that actually look like my picture. Ladies? A tip regarding online dating? Have the integrity to post a recent picture of yourself. Especially if you plan on meeting the guy in person. Once again, back to my how we met story.

We hugged and started heading for coffee when he looked at me and asked “Are you by any chance hungry? Would you mind getting something to eat instead? I came here from the gym and I’m starved.” Little did he know I suffered from Grave’s Disease and I was always hungry. Foolish man. I told him that I just finished at the gym as well and I would love something to eat. Please note I was pulling a Monty Burns, finger-tip drumming, excellent move inside my head.

Next door to Starbucks was this little restaurant. They had room in the bar for us and we were seated right away. The server handed us the menus and said she’d be back with waters. My future husband (FH for short) looked at me and asked if I wanted some wine. I said I’d love some. He asked if I would pick it out, because he doesn’t know much about wines. I smiled and responded with Sure but my knowledge is limited and I mostly like red wines. FH told me that would be fine with him, then asked why I preferred reds over whites (wine racist). I explained I liked both but reds are my favorite due to how I was raised and what my family liked.

FH looked at me and asked How you were raised? I explained my family made a lot of their own wine, reds, and that I usually leaned towards those strong flavors. FH asked then about my ethnicity, because I’m sure my looks were confusing to him (at the time my hair was red and I looked like I should be slugging back barrels of Guinness, not drinking Merlot). I said my family is from…..(later he would tell me he was expecting me to say France, Germany, Scotland,  Ireland, anything but what came out of my mouth)…..Portugal. Well not really Portugal but a little island called Madeira.

FH looked completely astonished, as though I just told him I also liked to make out with junkies with open mouth sores. He started beating his own chest and declared Portuguese? You’re Portuguese??? I’m Portuguese!! I was born in the Azores!!!

At this point I realized I had been stalked by a psychopath and needed to remove myself from the restaurant tout de suite. I lived in Portland, OR. No one and I mean no one in all the years I lived here knew where Portugal was (isn’t Portugal like, a suburb of Russia??), let alone knows anything about the islands. I started looking around for the nearest exit and a weapon. Though not in that exact order.

However, FH was excited and talking a mile a minute (I would eventually find out he does this 18 hours a day. The rest of the time he’s asleep. Imagine my astonishment when I found out he doesn’t talk in his sleep as well.). He didn’t even notice my distress about being stalked and declared any red wine was fine with him and he noticed there was stuffed calamari on the menu. Did I like calamari? Of course I did! I was Portuguese! All Portuguese love seafood!

At this point I had calmed down enough to realize he wasn’t a stalker. He started waxing nostalgic about all things Portuguese. Portuguese festivals, Linguiça , morcela (blood sausage), Bacalhau (salt cod), acorda and several other items with which I was very familiar. FH was the real Portuguese deal.

After determining I would not have to peel him off of my front window in the days following, I ordered a nice red wine for us and we chose three appetizers to share (yes one of them was the stuffed calamari). We found out we had been raised nearly the same way. Though he was born in the Azores, my father was born here the states to Portuguese immigrants. My mother’s side of the family is from Holland (grandfather) and the Midwest (grandmother).  However I spent a lot of time with my paternal grandparents, which caused me to identify more with the Portuguese side of my roots.

During the course of the evening we opened up a little more than we did in our emails to each other. I had a nutty ex-husband. He had a nutty ex-wife, however unlike me he was still in contact due to his pre-teen daughter. I had no kids. We both had cats. We had both been divorced for several years (me 14, FH about 9). We both also had lots of extended family, had a contest to see whose family was crazier and discovered we both felt the same way about food and travel.

Note – sadly I would only find out about his aversion to anything related to the Beatles and Science Fiction after the nuptials. And don’t even get me started on the reading thing. I was completely duped. Duped!!!

I think what amazed us both was though we had a lot in common; we had a lot we didn’t agree on but in a good way. One of the things that drive me nuts is being with someone who feels you must be joined at the hip and agree on all things. Talk about annoying and things that make me stabby.

Mostly I found out he was an intelligent, sweet guy with a great smile and was extremely loyal to those he loved best. He was a gentleman (to this day he still opens doors for me (including car doors), walks on the outside, carries everything when we’re shopping and cleans the litter box), he cared about what I had to say and respected my opinion. Even when it differed from his own. Plus bonus points for the fact he resembled a thinner version of John Candy in Uncle Buck.

As I said, tonight I’m not going to reflect on a bad decision but one of my good ones. Which was not getting my knickers in a twist when he thought I was trying to avoid him (normally any man giving me shit because I was choosing to help a friend rather than go on a date would have become chum). Instead I kept my cool and insisted we reschedule our coffee date.

Which turned out to be the best first date I’ve ever had and ironically he did turn out to be the last one.

three doors

The waiting game.

Before I left my job, I made sure to take care of a few important appointments. One being my annual mammogram. I’ve been getting them since I was 35 for two reasons. Family history of breast cancer and I have dense breasts.

And that doesn’t mean they’re not very bright. It means my breast tissue has less fat and feels firmer than most breasts. Awesome in one way, as they are still managing to defy gravity. Crappy in another sense, as I will not be able to feel lumps and mammograms can be an ordeal.

Like this last one.

I go in for my mammogram. New technology. Awesome (in a can’t wait for you to squish my breasts flat as a pancake with your new toy kind of way). They can see more of the breast now and get a better image. After posing for several thousand images, I was paroled and let go. It looked like someone had ironed creases in my breasts.

Three days later, I was at work training someone on one of the reports I run, when my cell phone rang. I looked down and saw it was the hospital number. I ignore it, assuming they were calling about my results. Not two minutes later, my phone rang again. This time it was my doctors office, and I was seized by gut-wrenching panic. I was so scared and I didn’t want to get emotional in front of a co-worker, so I pretended all was well and threw my phone into my purse. With a little more force than I intended.

She however noticed I was agitated and asked me what’s wrong. When I explained, she said listen to your voice-mails and do what you need to do. I walked into an empty conference room and called them both back. They found a spot on my left breast that needs to be looked at again.

Gulp.

I scheduled another mammogram appointment for a few days later. However, when they call my name and walk me back, instead of being led into the usual changing rooms, I was taken to my own personal changing suite. Warning bell #1.

They lead me into a different radiology room than the last time and take a series of pictures of my left breast in various poses. Though I noticed this time around, they are more soft spoken and are treating me more like a patient than a once a year visitor. Warning bell #2.

Once again I’m sent back to my private suite, where I try and relax and stay calm. I sit with my feet up on a cushion, reading my book. I’m quite comfy. A cup of herbal tea would have completed the picture. Then the door opened up and Dr. Blanchard (radiologist) walks in but doesn’t smile.

I burst into tears.

Poor thing didn’t even get a word out before I started crying.  I didn’t realize how scared I was until that moment. She was very nice, handing me tissues and calming me down. She explained I have to come back for a biopsy on my left breast. They found some calcifications that weren’t there on my last visit, a bit concentrated and they want to test them.  She explained my screening today fell into a no-man’s land where they can’t tell if they are benign or malignant.

Once she explained the procedure and I got all of my questions out of the way, she sent in a nurse to schedule the procedure. I started crying again, they must be used to this because the nurse also calmed me down by asking me questions to get my mind off of the traitor Lefty.

Once I was calm, she scheduled my appointment and I left the hospital to go back to work. I was numb and scared of what my future may hold for me. I called my husband, who immediately asked if he needed to fly over to be with me. I asked him if I could sleep on it and let him know. He assured me he could be here the day before but we could talk about it that evening.

I got a hold of my good friend and told her what happened. She explained her sister has had this done twice and both times she was okay. She said I shouldn’t worry and asked if I needed to drink a bunch of wine with her (I love this friend oh so much). I said, let’s wait for the biopsy results where we can either celebrate or commiserate.

Her attitude though calmed me the most and when I spoke to my husband later that evening , I relayed what she said to me about her sister and we decided to hold off on him flying over unless I received bad news. Then he can be here to comfort me and help me with treatment options.

Yesterday was my biopsy. All in all, it was not completely unpleasant, but also not a day on a sunny Hawaiian beach either. They had me take some more pictures so they could mark the sight. Afterward the photo shoot, they led me to another room and had me lay face down on a bed with a hole in the middle of it ( I think you get the idea what goes through that hole).

After laying on the table the severity of this situation hit me, and I started crying. The nurse noticed, brought me some tissues and started asking me questions to get my mind off of what was happening. She was an angel.

They placed my breast in another mammogram like machine and take some more pictures (The trick to this whole procedure? No matter what, lay perfectly still). The doctor then administered a local anesthetic to numb the breast. Took another picture to recheck the correct sight and stuck a 9-gauge vacuum biopsy needle to remove the tissue and calcification from the biopsy sight.

After checking to make sure they had a good sample, they injected a titanium marker so when I have future mammograms, they will be able to tell that area was biopsied. After cleaning and patching me up, they asked if I wanted a massage. Oh hell yes I did.

I have to wait until Friday for the results. I’m not going to lie. I’m scared shitless I may have the big C. Though I have amazing friends around me, I have no family close by and my husband is currently living/working in Hawaii. This is quite the scary prospect to face on your own.

But face it I will, because that is what I do. I don’t hide under the covers. I face things because what else can I do?

You know….besides crawling beneath my kitchen table, nursing a bottle of wine.

FYI – if you’re over 35, go get your freaking mammogram. Yesterday.

 

mammogram