I was always certain I would never get breast cancer because my mother told me it didn't run in our family genes. She should know I reasoned, she's part of the medical community--a registered nurse. Heart attacks and strokes run rampant in my family. But breast cancer? Not one case.
Perhaps that's why I never bothered to check my breasts once a month for any unusal lumps. And maybe that's why--when my general physician slid her hand across my left breast during an annual check-up and found a formidable mass of tissue thickening--cancer had pretty much taken over the entire area. I had a tumor the size of a baseball that had already invaded the lymph nodes. After an MRI scan, they also found a smaller tumor in my right breast, although that side was lymph node negative. My prognosis? Stage 3, locally advanced breast cancer.
It was March 12, 2008 when my doctor called and gave me the news. For some reason, I started screaming at her angrily. I said something like, your prognosis is all wrong, I don't have breast cancer in my family, check the records again. Then I realized I was simply trying to kill the messenger and apologized for my rude behavior.
I got off the phone and marched into my boss's office, slamming the door behind me. "Gerry, I have to tell you something, I have breast cancer." He gave me a hug and then started asking me all these questions. Once again I got hostile over his barrage of inquires and yelled, "I can't answer anything now, I just don't know!" At that point I stormed out of his office, grabbed my jacket and drove home.
Morbid thoughts swirled through my head as I drove: I have cancer and I'm probably going to die. I'm going to have a slow painful death where my physical body will shrivel and deteriorate before everyone's eyes. My life is over.
The first person I called to share the news was my boyfriend. "I have breast cancer Joe-Joe. Promise me you won't leave me right now. I need you."
"Of course I won't, I love you, I'll always be here for you Marcy-girl," he assured me.
I knew I had to call and tell my parents, but I just couldn't do it on that day. The only way I could completely absorb the bad news was by going home, cuddling on the couch with my cats, and staring blankly at the drone of news on CNN TV. It was important to maintain normalcy by just carrying out a mundane routine. That enabled me to calm my fears and start thinking logically about the daunting task ahead. I got on the internet and researched everything about breast cancer. When I looked at the survival statistics, I leaned back and thought, maybe this journey I have go through to battle cancer won't be so bad. And maybe, I might come out of this a better person and win.
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