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Path and Personality

Read What Happened Next to see how we got here

So what does one do when waiting? You go on, but barely. You get your kid dressed. You get dressed. You try to eat so that your baby grows. You go to work. You hug your husband. You hug your daughter. You cry when people ask what is going on. No one believes it is going to be bad. They all think you are exaggerating and dramatic. No one can understand how they can be so sure without results. But you saw the faces. You will never forget those faces. You hide so that you don’t have to tell anyone. You wonder the what if’s as your brain wanders into dark places you never knew your mind could find. You cry through preschool graduation. You pretend it’s for the same reasons all the other moms are crying. You go to your daughters checkup and whisper the unspeakable to the pediatrician. She confides she is a survivor. She is along the path for me for a reason. Then the phone rings and you find out the results are in. Results came back early. Come in as soon as you can. And you go.

Walking into the Cancer Center, holding hands with That Guy, I asked, “Are you sure you love me? Enough for all this? I’m sorry.” I said. He said, “Yes, I love you. You don’t have to apologize.” I’ve asked this question and apologized more times in the last four months than I can even remember. “In sickness and in health,” he has reminded me.

But back then, Dr. Bedside Manner came into the little room. He was smiling. I will never understand why he chose that moment to smile. “Well, we know it’s cancer,” he said as he grinned like a maniac. I kept looking over to the nurse trying to figure out when he would get to the punchline. There was no punchline. He left the room. He was still smiling. I have not seen him since.

Not all the “personality test” results were available immediately, but we knew enough. The biopsy revealed Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC). It showed to be aggressive. Eventually we would learn that it was ER/PR + and HER2+ when the full pathology results came back the following week. But that day, “It will be a bad year”, said the nurse, “but you are going to be ok.” All I could think is, “how do you know that?”, but instead I said, “Well then we will have the biggest damn first birthday party and breast cancer beating party ever”. I was shaking, but I decided at that moment that I didn’t want to be That Girl. I want to be the girl that people look at and see hope, strength, and resilience. I want My Girls to see me be That Girl who stands tall to spend my life with them as their mother for many years to come. And somehow the tears slowed to a trickle. I might have been in shock. I might have just found an inner strength I had never had to use before. Whatever it was, I knew I needed to get myself together and pay attention.

The initial nurse involved in the ultrasound and biopsy was a former Labor and Delivery Nurse. When I asked about the doctor’s (lack of) manners, compassion, or what have you, she said that was what nurses were for. She had contacts. She got in touch with my OB-GYN and the Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialists and let them know what was going on. She called former L&D nurses throughout the network and made appointments happen with the people she knew would be best for my situation. People who gave up their lunches. Who called me from their vacations. And who gave me their home numbers. She introduced me to my Navigator. I joked with my family in the beginning that this sweet woman was my b*tch. She does all the phone calling, the coordinating, the follow up and follow through that you sometimes need to get things done when so many people are involved. I was left with a team people who laid out a path of comfort and care in a medical industry with a reputation for being all about the numbers.

We saw the surgeon the day after the initial results came back. She gave up her lunch and she gave us her time. She examined me. She drew pictures and wrote down the possible paths. She let me ask my questions. There were pages of questions. She went through all the what ifs, since the pathology was still to be determined at that point. We talked about surgeries, the order of things, and treatment options that were both available and unavailable since I was pregnant. She was positive. She was inspiring. She was blunt and to the point without being impatient or condescending. She also had amazing jewelry on. I may not judge a book by it’s cover, but I apparently judge a surgeon by her accessories. I knew this was the surgeon for me. Based on what we knew, she put me at Stage 2A. Without a body scan available while pregnant and lymph node status unknown, it was based on the things they believed at that time. She referred me to the medical oncologist and the genetic counselors. When we came home, I told my mom how great this surgeon was. I felt really good with her. She must have aced Bedside Manner 101.

As we checked out and made appointments, I looked at the wall beside me. Hanging there was the poem I read at my high school graduation. It was another case of something telling me that this was the path meant for me. I did not understand the path, but it was a comfort to know it was mine.

 

Hope is the thing with feathers

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Emily Dickinson

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  1. […] Read Path and Personality to see how we got here. Or just start at the beginning. Once we left the surgeon’s office, it felt like the longest week ever began. Yet somehow with a holiday, in reality it was a short week just packed full of constantly changing information, appointments for both the baby and I, meeting new doctors, seeing my current doctors, and trying so hard to get an understanding of options available. Oh and just go about our daily business as best we could. My husband and I came out on the other side emotionally and physically exhausted, yet I know I was unable to sleep. […]

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  2. […] was a lot to learn about how breast’s exist in our body and we all know from my post about my initial meeting with my surgeon that I like seeing it all drawn and clearly explained. This was the same type of learning […]

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