The Diagnosis (The first of “many” blogs about my journey with Stage 3 Breast Cancer)
First of all, I must say, I really didn’t want to blog about my battle with breast cancer. I’ve lived it once, why relive it again as I write? However, I have been encouraged to blog anyway for several reasons:
- to encourage others who may be going through a similar journey by being honest about all aspects of my diagnosis: positive as well as negative!
- to recount many events and circumstances that I have forced into the recesses of my mind over the past 5 years.
- to give praise to those many doctors who gave me excellent care, to family and friends who became by support system, and to my God.
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A little over 5 years ago I found a lump in my left breast while in the shower. Having just had a mammogram 5 months previously I didn’t get too concerned about it at first. I called my primary care doctor and made an appointment just to be on the safe side. The following week we reviewed the results from the mammograms I had had in 2003 and 2004 and discussed the calcifications that had been found both times. She decided to send me for not only another mammogram but also an ultrasound.
The mammogram appeared to be routine. It was not until the ultrasound was being done that I first began to worry. The look on the technician’s face and the fact that he called the radiologist into the room to view the live procedure made me uneasy.
They asked if I had experienced any trauma to my breast in the last several weeks. In fact, I had. I am a teacher and had been carrying armfuls of books to my car one day when I missed the curb and fell flat on my face in the parking lot. I had dismissed the incident because at the time I was more embarrassed to have fallen in front of students and their parents than I felt injured. The radiologist suggested that perhaps the “mass” (yes, I noticed he wasn’t calling it a lump any longer) was a hematoma caused by the fall. I grasped on to this hope like a drowning person grasps on to a life preserver!
A few days later I was back with my doctor to review the results of the tests. The calcifications had increased in number and had clustered; not a good sign. The next step was to see a surgical oncologist in my area for a consultation for a biopsy. My husband and I met with the surgeon. Not impressed. In fact we felt like we were imposing on a very busy person who didn’t want to take the time to explain what would be done to me and why.
I decided I wanted to see another surgeon for a second opinion. That decision may have been the most important decision I ever made. It may be why I am still alive today.
I made an appointment with Dr. Kristi Funk and the rest, as they say, is history! From the moment I entered her office and interacted with her staff, I KNEW I was home! The degree of professionalism and compassion between this surgeon and the first one with whom I had consulted was like the difference between night and day. My husband and I both felt like valued individuals with lives that were important, not only to us, but to those who would walk beside us, from the medical prospective, for the next several years. Dr. Funk immediately said, “Let’s do a needle biopsy. Why wait? Why make you worry for another day?” Within 10 minutes she had explained the procedure to us, numbed my breast and was extracting tissue samples to be taken to the lab for pathology. The first sample did not offer any hope that my tumor was caused by my fall as the tissue was solid, not liquidy or bloody as a hematoma might indicate. Dr. Funk has very expressive eyes! Unfortunately, I looked into her face as she was handing a slide to an attending nurse. Their eyes met, and I saw (or my intuition saw) a knowing glance pass between them that this was not good!
The next day, February 2, 2005, my husband and I returned to Dr. Funk’s office for the results of the pathology report. We were extremely nervous because we knew within the next few minutes our lives could change forever.
We joked about running away and never getting the results! But news like this isn’t something from which you can run.
And, in what I was to soon find out is true “Funk fashion”, she gently and positively relayed the news, “You have cancer. The next year of your life will not be like the one you had planned.” At this point, I no longer was the teacher; I was the student, and I had a lot to learn about this journey I was beginning called Breast Cancer. Dr. Funk laid out the next few steps…initial tests, breast MRI, scans, nutrition, lumpectomy, mental outlook/attitude, etc. That was when I realized I would have very little control over my life for the next year. But I could control, or attempt to control my attitude. I would try to face this journey with a sense of humor if at all possible.
That was the day I decided my mantra would be,” If you have to have breast cancer, you might as well have it in Beverly Hills!” I knew I would have no trouble convincing family and friends to be my support network in world renowned Beverly Hills. And I wasn’t wrong!