5 Days

Within five days I found out I had one simple ovarian cyst, one complex cyst, fibroids, stage 2 breast cancer and in the middle of all that, of course, I started my period.

I have to thank those pesky cysts, especially the ruptured one.  It was the ominous and increasingly debilitating stomach ache that prompted me to to make the appointment for my routine girlie exam and check up.  My awesomely comprehensive primary care doctor found a lump in my breast and sent me for a mammogram.

The mammogram didn’t detect the lump.  I was temporarily relieved after the nurse accidentally told me the mammogram came back normal.    Since I have two aunties that have had breast cancer, my awesomely comprehensive primary care doctor had also requested an ultrasound, to be on the safe side.  It was that test which showed a dark one inch mass.  The mammogram missed the lump because mammograms work better for women 45 and over.  Younger breasts are too dense for it to see through and mine are young in mammogram years at only being 35.

I knew something was really wrong when the ultrasound technician gave me a hug.  At my previous mammogram 5 years ago I was told my breast were just lumpy (cystic) and the doctors and nurses joked around letting me know I was too young and they didn’t want to see me back there for at least ten years.  The nurse said goodbye with a jovial ‘get outta here’ tone. I never self checked because they were always bumpy to me and I thought I had nothing to worry about.

Now, just 5 years later there was no light hearted joking and no jovial send off.  Instead, as I clutched my pink breast center gown, the ultrasound technician  kindly guided me down what felt to be the longest hallway of my life.  Her hand was reassuringly on my back, which let me know something was very wrong.  A doctor briefly told to come back for two biopsies, his eyes lowered unable to meet mine.

One week later on a typically sunny Southern Californian Thursday morning, doctors biopsied the lump in my breast and a lymph node.  They did not use enough pain killer. If anyone has to go through this, and I really hope you don’t, but just in case, ask for extra numbing.  My biopsy went wrong, and feeling a three and a half inch needle searching to puncture a lymph node was excruciating.  Almost as excruciating was the endless wait until Monday for the results.

I don’t like to take medicine, I rarely use headache tablets and I am even suspicious of vitamin supplements.  This weekend, all my caution about pills went out of the window.  To calm down I took Zanex, drank beer, smoked (medical) weed, ate chocolate and indulged in Vicoden.  The haze I was in only slightly lessened the fear I’d felt when I saw the looks on the doctors faces.  Their expressions  belied any belief I may have had that biopsy was not the end of the road.

My friends all told me not to worry, offering reassuring phrases, “You’re too young,”  “You’re a vegetarian,” and “My mother predicted you will be fine and she is always right about these things”.  I tried to ready myself for a phone call that would mean either life would go on exactly as it always had, or my world would never be the same again. My friends sweetly teased me for being overly dramatic.  I wished they were right, but my body told me they weren’t.  I could not only feel the pain in the biopsy site which was in my left breast, but just beneath it, I felt my heart breaking .  In the unknowingness, I grieved.  Time stood still as I felt myself helplessly hurtling towards a future I did not want. I was desperate to hang onto every positive thought I could find, but each one slipped through my fingers as I remembered the nurses face and her eyes that told me everything.

On the day my results came in my lovely doctor was out of town. I sat at my desk at work as a soft but unfamiliar voice delivered the news.  “I am so sorry to have to tell you…”

I glanced at the pile of binders in front of me, the phone lists pinned to my cubicle wall, everything looked the same, as it always had, in the right places, but suddenly it all became an alien landscape.  My mind struggled to focus on the doctor’s words, but all I heard was “cancer” and “spread”.  Only 7 percent of breast cancer patients are women 40 and under and only about 5% 35 and under.  The odds had been in my favour but that was not the hand I was dealt.

After that moment, I no longer had the option of hoping, wishing and praying for a negative result.  I had only one path and it was forward.  In the unknown world of having cancer, my life became instantly clear.  I knew what was important, what was to be cherished, what was special and my overly talkative negative voice fell silent.  I was no longer depressed.  I was sad and scared but at the same time suddenly happy for everything I had.

The few friends I told wanted to come over to my house to comfort me. I quickly thought of something I wanted to do instead.  A drinks and positivity party.  I invited several friends over for an impromptu get together around the fire pit on our garden patio and we spent the evening with wine, chocolate and laughter.  A night that might have been filled with tears and tragic desperation instead turned into a night I will always remember as wonderful. I truly appreciated their presence, their voices, their crude jokes and kind words .  I know there will be some dark days ahead.  I know there is a strong chance I may not be able to have a baby.  I know that treatment and surgery will be painful.   I know everything has changed, but at least for the first day, at least to begin, the love and support,made that night perfect.

I decided to keep the drinking and positivity party going by starting this blog.

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About tatumderoeck1111

Welcome to my new blog. When I found out I had breast cancer I threw a 'Drinks and Positivity' party. I wanted to keep the drinking (although my drink of choice in the future might be a healthy smoothie) and Positivity going, so I started this blog to keep everyone in the loop.
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15 Responses to 5 Days

  1. Karma says:

    Tatum dearest.

    Thank you for finding the time to share this with everyone who loves you and cares so much for you. You bring your feelings to life so vividly, which makes it easier for those of us so far away to feel like we’re going through this with you. The ‘technical stuff’ in your second post is massively useful (I foresee hours of fun on the Internet) and reassuringly, solidly medical. Practical stuff! Information! Activity!

    Desperately wish you weren’t so far away so I could be there with you now and in the weeks and months ahead, but it’s so comforting to hear of all the love and support you’re getting from your wonderful friends out there.

    All my love darling, Karma xx

  2. Lauren says:

    “I knew what was important, what was to be cherished, what was special and my overly talkative negative voice fell silent. I was no longer depressed. I was sad and scared and at the same time suddenly happy for everything I had..”

    So profound and so powerful darling. Thank you for this deepest example of wisdom.

  3. Donna Tegan-Yonehiro says:

    I can’t begin to explain how inspirational your blog was amongst such (for lack of a better word) tragic news. I love how you keep such wonderful spirits w/ friends. You’ve always had an amazingly positive beautiful disposition and it shocked me to read the challenges you now face. Your smile, your demeanor and wonderful energy always made you seem so invincible and untouchable from any harm or bad situations and IT IS those qualities that will get you through this. I will constantly be sending such loving, light and positive vibes/energy your way with my thoughts and prayers. I know you have tons of great friends that are there and WILL be there for you through thick and thin…. Always remember I am here for you too.

    Sending you so much love….
    xoxo Donna

    • Hi Gorgeous Mom Donna,

      Thank you so much for your immensely kind words. I am blown away by all the sweet things and slightly blushing.

      Sending you, your beautiful little Zander and Scott tons of love. I can’t wait to see you and meet your little one.
      xoxoxox
      Tatum

  4. Cheryl Kingsburg says:

    Hello, dear Tatum, it is Cheryl, Jesse’s Mom. You’ve got many strong, brave hearts willing to stand beside you as you move forward. One of the wisest women I respect is Maya Angelou, so I would like to share some of her wisdom from her 70th birthday:
    – I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better
    tomorrow.
    – I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.
    – I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands – you need to be able to throw
    some things back.
    – I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
    – I learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.
    – I’ve learned that people love a warm hug.
    – I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.
    – I’ve learned that people will forget what you’ve said, people will forget what you did, but people will NEVER forget
    how you made them feel.
    And you, sweet Tatum, always radiate so much love that you make us feel good just to be near you.

  5. Tatum this post is really beautiful (you had a lawyer man with teary eyes behind my desk this morning). I wish lots of healing energy, strength through the pain, a speedy recovery and all of the love and support that you need during this time. You’re a badass yogi/vegan and I have faith that you’re going to kick some cancer ass. xoxox.

  6. Julie says:

    Tatum,

    Just wanted to let you know I had that same biopsy, phone call, as well as broken heart, and four years have passed. Not to say that some days will not be longer or worse than others, but I can tell you that your ability to keep a positive attitude and saying to your physician(s)…Let’s do this…I will do whatever it takes so my death certificate does not say CANCER, will help you get through the worst of times. Just keep your head in the game and keep reaching for the prize which is to be cancer free. It can and will happen….all you can do is the best you can do with what you have to work with at the time. Don’t be afraid….scared is ok….but afraid makes it more difficult and allows the “bad guy” (cancer) to win. Face it head on and do not allow it to knock you down. If it happens to knock you down….get back up…dust yourself off..and keep moving forward.

    I wish you luck, health, and God speed. It’s all about choices for you now….make the best ones you know how to make and move on. You have some beautiful, big-hearted and extremely positive people surrounding you….lean on them if you need to…..you would want them to lean on you.

    Take care and best wishes to you for a speedy and healthy recovery
    Julie

  7. Trish Pedroza says:

    Tatum, My Mother in law beat breast cancer 30 some years ago. She did not have the positive attitude that you have and was sure she was going to die. She did not! With your attitude and support system I know you will be OK. If you ever need someone to talk to I’m available. I know that you don’t know me from sh*t nor shinola, sometimes it easier to talk to a stranger. I’m on your friends list if you need me. To you, everything positive I posses, Trish

    • Hi Trish

      Thanks so much for letting me know about your mother in law. It is kind of nice to hear that even if you have a less than positive day it isn’t going to bring imminent death.:) I am really glad that she is doing so great ! Thank so much for your sweet offer of a chat. xoxoxox Tatum

  8. Mary Stewart says:

    You’re indeed a brave women. You are a source of hope for those who suffer with this kind of disease. I wish everything will be fine with you now. All the best and keep on fighting.

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