I hastily saunter into an imaging center for an ultrasound on a warm Friday afternoon; August 2ndof this year to be exact. To be honest, I was mildly annoyed I had this appointment, as I felt my health practitioner was being over-cautious and I just wanted to get on with my weekend. Afterall, she hadn’t “found” anything specific – more of just a general “dense tissue” concern, whatever that meant. Oh how naïve this feels now.
I am newly engaged (just 5 days earlier!) and over the moon with life at the moment. My fiancé and I are already in full-swing wedding planning mode for the Summer of 2020. I am in love, blending a family, going to nutrition school to build my dream career and spending my weekends backpacking in the mountains with the love of my life. Life is good. It is “pinch-me” good. I don’t have time for this, I think to myself.
I fill out what seems like arduous amounts of paperwork for a simple procedure. Still frustrated, thinking – I had a mammogram. It was clear. I had an ultrasound and benign biopsy just a year before. I’m FINE.I am finally called back. I change into the dreaded “open in front” gown, lay back on the crackling paper-covered exam table and bite my lower lip furiously as the sonographer moves the wand over my now jelly-clad chest. I have always had a “nails on chalkboard” kind of reaction to breast exams. Something about them have always made my skin crawl, and the ultrasound is worse…more pressure and longer duration. I still wasn’t worried about anything being wrong, more just ready for this uncomfortable feeling to be over. Well, it wasn’t over anytime soon. She spent what felt like a nano-second on my left side, and a reaaaalllly long time on my right. Then came the questions: “do you have a family history of breast cancer”? No. “Have you felt anything on your right side”? No. “Have you had any pain, swelling or discomfort in your right breast”? No. And so on. I felt my skin begin to dampen. My eyesight narrowed. My hands were clammy and getting a little shaky. She said she’d be right back. I swallowed hard but my mouth was so dry it was nearly impossible. Why wasn’t this over yet?
The sonographer returns…with the Radiologist who immediately picked up the wand and went back at it. Re-enter the discomfort. Then along came all the same line of questions, except he added in a somewhat irritated and confused tone…”has no one told you that there is something going on in your right breast”? No, I utter quietly. I feel the lump in my throat. My stomach leaps to my chest. He adds matter-of-factly “We need to biopsy you today. I need you to call someone to pick you up.” This is all very different from my biopsy the year before where they said things like “there is a 99% chance this is benign, we can even just watch it” versus the look of deep concern on this doctor’s face, the tone in his voice and the fact that he mentioned my lymph nodes needed to be biopsied as well. The room is spinning. I can’t catch my whirling thoughts. They leave the room so I can make a quick call.
At this point, I can barely operate my phone. I’m sweating, yet I feel so cold. I’m shaking so bad I am curious if I might die or if I’m literally having a seizure. I stop. Take a deep breath and I hear Ben, my sweet fiancé’s voice answer the phone. “Babe…I need you to pick me up” I utter in a low, barely audible, meek voice. I give him the address and tell him I have to go. Of course he says he’ll be there right away and seemed to know better not to ask any further questions at this time. I can only imagine what is going through his mind as he drives through Friday afternoon traffic to an address that happens to be a medical imaging center. I hadn’t told him about my appointment, you see as I mentioned, I had thought nothing of the appointment. Just satisfying my doctor’s request.
The doctor and nurse come back in. They give me some oral sedatives that calm me some, but my shaking wouldn’t stop. They kept suggesting I take more, but I refuse (the stubborn purest in me). On they go with the procedure of multiple (painful) biopsies…including my lymph nodes. I learn during this procedure that I don’t respond well to Lidocaine and I felt a lot of the biopsy. I was trying so hard to keep it together and be strong – for who I don’t know. I didn’t want to believe this was happening or that something was truly wrong but my tried-and-true gut knew all too well this was not good. So down came the first of many tears. Hot streams of lava down my cheeks. I felt myself desperately trying to hold them in. Holding my breath. Holding in my fear. Holding in my life. My health. My everything.
They finish what felt like an archaic act of torture given I felt so much of it. Sit me up and make sure I can stand. Walk me in for x-rays and back to the room where the nurse tells me to get dressed and that Ben is waiting for me. The doctor says that they will be in touch early the next week with results. I’m still half functioning on whatever “sedative” they gave to me. I can barely walk. I feel like I have just been through some sort of hellish war of one. I feel out of my body, yet so connected to every cell. I feel numb yet feel everything. I can’t even imagine what I must look like. Only an hour earlier I was simply ready to get this over with to get on with my summer weekend. What happened? Within an hour my life went in a strange, unfamiliar and terrorizing direction. I’m a bit delirious and disoriented. Time feels nonexistent. I open the door and see Ben and thank all the stars in heaven that miraculously NO one is in the waiting room but him. I immediately collapse head first in his lap and sob more deeply than I have in my entire life. I let myself go there. I can’t catch my breath. I could pass out at any moment, but there was no stopping it. I surrender in this very moment to what was, to what might be and to what I must overcome.
Ben helps me up and to the car. I continue to go in and out of moaning “no, no, no” and sobbing to silently staring off to nowhere. Waves of life hitting me like contractions every minute or two. Primal cries to the universe. To God. To anyone or anything out there that would hear me. Ben soothes me with just the right amount of sweet, understanding words and gestures but doesn’t get in my way of doing what my mind and body needs to do and just lets me ride through it. God I love this man. I feel so much gratitude for him in this moment, and then an odd sense of guilt covers me like a heavy blanket. I think to myself…he has just proposed to a broken woman. I mention this, and it was the first time I saw him tear up – as he was working so hard to be strong. I wish I could remember his exact words, but I was so in the moment, I can’t. All I know is that his response melts me into a place of even deeper love and the look of pure devotion on his face, and the sweet smile he gives me is all I need.
The weekend is one I will never forget. We are enjoying a beautiful weekend, just the two of us. We just nurture each other. We don’t call or tell anyone. No one knows what is going on and I like it that way. It is a glorious Pacific Northwest summer weekend. Blue skies, warm but not too hot. We go on walks with our sweet dog Winston, we pick pounds of blueberries while Winston bounds around the blueberry fields. We are very connected – holding hands, hugging, kissing and just being close. We let our feelings come and go as they need, but I feel more in control of my feelings now, I have moments of fear, but I lean into them. I listen to what fear-based stories I am telling myself, and work to find a better story that brings me a sense of ease and peace. This takes a lot of effort, but I knew I didn’t want to waste a single day of this precious life at this point. Life has a whole new meaning all of a sudden and I am all in on making every day, hour and moment count. On Sunday night, I let my immediate family and a few close friends know that we were waiting on results. It feels good to have a support system…knowing that I don’t have to be in this alone, and something in me already knew what was to come, so I knew I was going to need them.
Monday comes and goes – I jump every time the phone rings and finally leave work mid-day because I just couldn’t focus. Tuesday, I wake up anxious. I am pretty certain today will be the day I get the call, but I have meetings and a life to live so I push myself to go into the office. I drive into the parking garage that I drove into every day, but today that garage would be so much more significant. I get out of my car, walk about 10 steps and my phone rings. It’s my doctor. I know there is only one reason she would be calling me early on a Tuesday. I answer with a broken hello. I swallow hard, but again my mouth goes dry. She asks if I can talk, and her voice begins to sound unsteady. ”It’s cancer” she gets out with a deep sigh. I turn, walk the 10 steps back to my car, get in and cry out in a broken uneven voice, “please tell me I am going to be ok”. I felt ridiculous immediately following this statement because I know no one can tell you that. She assures me we’re going to fight this with the best doctors and she will support me through this. I thank her for saving my life and pushing for the ultrasound. I get off the phone and in my numbness, I text my family the news and let them know I wasn’t ready to talk. I sit there numb. My brain won’t seem to work. A few deep breaths and I come back to life a bit. Ben is teaching a 3-hour class so I can’t let him know what is going on. I collect myself, begin driving home, call my sister and we cry and cry together on the phone as I drive home to begin a life that will forever be a bit different.
I pull up in my driveway, go inside, re-shower, dry my hair, curl my hair, put on make-up and get dressed as though I have somewhere special to go. I’m locked in a trance. I felt as though I wasn’t in control of my body. I was calm this whole time. Going through the motions. Processing and accepting what was with a deep heaviness that suddenly hits me…HOW will I tell my son. This brings me back to uncontrollable tears. We have a very special bond, and I know this will not go over lightly.
Once I knew Ben would be done with his class, I send him the simplest, most important text of my life, “please come home”. And he does. No questions asked. Lets me fall into his arms. He doesn’t have to ask what is wrong, he just knows. We hug, we cry and we decide that day to get married now. Before treatment starts, because that is the amazing kind of man I married. He wants me to feel like I have him 100% by my side through it all as my husband. I’m not 100% sure where I took enough right turns and made enough deposits into the karma bank to attract this man, but I did and I am eternally grateful.
August 2ndforever changed my life. But I can say with complete confidence, that cancer has changed my life for the better. I have been able to put all of the years of deep self work…to work. I am able to truly walk my talk (NOT perfectly by the way, but with so much more ease and grace). What a gift I have built for and given to myself. Those years of falling down hard and getting back up stronger each time, and going deep and learning about myself and stretching, growing and elevating my consciousness. My gratitude for my teachers over the years and my close group of friends and family is higher than it has ever been. In circumstances like this you learn who and what matters. Through all this work, I have attracted and manifested an incredible partner and life that now holds and supports me during one of my most intense life tests. This disease has brought me clarity, not despair. I now trust my body and myself more than I ever have in my life. I now fully believe I can handle life’s curve-balls and find the goodness and lessons in it. There is always a silver lining or something to learn if you are open to seeing it. Just as a lotus rises out of the mud, we can find light in any darkness. This does not mean I don’t experience deep fear or sadness or frustration or anger. It just means I am learning how to lean into these feelings – find their source, be with it, not against it and to learn what I need to learn and move forward. It’s the “staying stuck” that I am learning to move away from with more grace.
I know there are many lessons packed in all of this that I will continue to uncover and share, but I will start with continuing to love, nurture and care for this one body that I have – this miraculous vessel that I get to call my own in this lifetime for as many days as I am given. I will love and honor it in good days and bad for all the days of my life.
This is just the beginning to a much longer story, and I will share more of my prognosis and treatment in future posts. Thank you for reading and being part of this healing journey!
With deepest gratitude,
Becky…with the good life.