Thursday, August 8, 2019

Day 1

Thursday, August 1

I was sittin here, waiting for someone to talk to me about the results of my biopsy ten days previous. My incision site was still very tender and not completely healed, but I was 90% sure everything was OK, because they told me 90% of biopsies come back normal.

While I was waiting, I snapped this pic and sent it to my kids, "Just waiting for the results..."

Seconds later, a young woman, wearing head covering, (Muslim, I'm assuming) and my favorite nurse, Bella, walked in.

"Hi Jane. I'm Dr. Cader. I'm sorry. I have bad news for you. You have breast cancer."



They both looked at me and Dr. Cader quietly acknowledged, "I know this is alot to take in."

And I felt like I was in a Woman's Network Movie. And THEY knew the script but I didn't. What were my lines? What was I supposed to say? What was I really feeling? Panic? Fear? Anger? Confusion? Lonely? All of that?

"So you have two options at this point. A total breast removal done by a Plastic Surgeon, followed by a reconstruction. Or, a partial mastectomy and lymph node removal, done by me. Regardless of which option you chose, the lymph nodes will be biopsied to see if the cancer has spread. And the area that I would remove, around your original tumor site, will be biopsied to see if we got it all. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"Yes," I say.

"So which route is your choice?"

"Uhhhhh. I don't know. What do you recommend?"

I am so not prepared or equipped to make decisions like this. I am overwhelmed. This has escalated from Bob and Betty lumps on my boob to removing lymph nodes and part of my breast and considering that I may have cancer in other places. Like, my knee that's been hurting? Do I have knee cancer? Bone cancer? My right arm has tennis elbow, or does it? Maybe I have elbow cancer. Maybe this is it. Maybe this is the end. Maybe my life is going to be a progression of surgeries/procedures until the final declaration is 'we're done. You're done'. I feel myself coming undone.

She said if it were her, she would do the partial breast removal. Less invasive, easier recovery.
So I said, OK, let's do that.

"My office will set up a surgery date soon. We have a booklet for you with all the information you need clearly laid out." And then she left the room.

"Is that it?" I ask Bella. "She's gone?"

"Yes, I'll walk you through the next steps. Are you ready to get started now? Or do you want to come back on another day?"

"I'm fine. I guess. What's next?"

And within minutes I filled out permission forms, surgery forms, health history forms. I had an EKG. Xrays. And blood work done. These are pre-op activities. And for the first time ever, ten minutes after I was told I had it, I had to add these words to my health history.

Do you know what this reminded me of?
The first time I had to check the DIVORCED box on the kids' school registration forms.
Equally awful.

An hour and a half later, I was done. Just waiting for a surgery date. It will be soon. This summer. This month. Bella told me I was in good hands. "This is what we do. Every day. We are excellent at it. And if you get breast cancer in Canada, BC is the best province for breast care. We see 50 women a day. And 2 - 5 of them will get the same diagnosis as you. And we will look after you all in the best possible way. Please know that you are in very good hands."

So I went down to my truck.
And saw that I had overstayed my one hour parking pass and was the recipient of an $80 parking ticket. Which felt like salt in the wound. And it changed my mood from being sad to being pissed off. There should be a rule against getting parking tickets while you're finding out you have cancer.

I had to get my truck over to the dealership for servicing. I'd made the appointment 10 days ago, not knowing, of course, that my world would be turned upside down. But despite everything, my truck still needed an oil and lube. And it couldn't wait. Originally I was gonna get a shuttle to work from the service department and work the rest of the day.

I decided I wasn't up to working.

But what was I gonna do? Drop my truck off and then what? Sit there for 5 hours? Get them to shuttle me to the mall? I needed a ride home. Taxi?

I called my sister.

"Hi," I said in a weird, strangled voice.
"What did they say?" she asked.
"I have cancer. Are you busy? Can you pick me up from Dam's and drive me to mom's? I don't think I can work this afternoon."

Half an hour later, Daryl and Julie picked me up, drove me to Surrey where my mom saw us drive in and met us at the door.

"What?" she asked.
"I have breast cancer," I croaked as I gave her a hug.

It's very real when you start telling people.
If I hadn't have had that truck servicing appointment, I could've/would've kept it to myself for a few hours. I would've chatted with The Almighty about His Plan for my life. I would've asked for some peace before I started sharing my news.

I wanted to control how this thing rolled out. Just blurting it out is hard for the recipient. It puts pressure on them and their response.

The whole thing just sucks.

I needed to tell my kids.
Is this something you text to the people you love?
Should I call each of them individually?
Invite them all over after work and tell them in person?

In the end, because I couldn't think of a better way, I posted a message on our family group chat. They would all have to process it AT WORK, with the people they worked with. Clint was at his office in Burnaby, Drew was in Chilliwack , Dani in Langley and Max was at his new job in Gastown. I prayed that when they read my words, there would be someone close by who'd listen to them say, "My mom just texted me that she has breast cancer."

We chatted online for a few hours, which was lovely. And perfect for us. It was the next best thing to telling everyone in person. They all DID have someone at their work to talk to. And we did end up spending a couple hours together during the evening.

After that I let the Sr.VP and my work partner at Focus know via email. And I called my brother.

Having cancer becomes a logistical communications challenge to manage. I knew I had to tell people, but I really didn't want to do it so soon. I STILL hadn't come to terms with it. It was still so very raw and unreal. I felt I needed to get my shit together before I start telling others about it. What do other people do? Is there a right way to share this kind of news? I needed to slow this down. I needed some peace. I decided not to tell my friends and my co-workers til I had a grip.

I needed to talk to God. Or listen to God? Or something spiritual.

This is what a family that's processing bad news looks like:

So much heaviness.

So much bravery.

So very much positive thinking.

So much support.
"We've got this. We are doing this together."

And some very strong opinions about that parking ticket.

After they left, I sent an email to extended family members most of whom live way-far-away from me. (London, Germany, Winnipeg, etc). Telling them in person was out of the question, and having them read it here on my blog was unkind.

And then?
I was absolutely exhausted.

Mentally. Physically. Emotionally.

And as per usual, at the end of the day, it was just me and My Creator.

"So. God? This was your best plan for my life? I needed to learn something, again? And this would be the best way to learn that lesson? You've got my attention. Is this going to hurt? Can we do this and avoid some of the pain? Can this be it? Like, no more cancer? Can this procedure be IT? Can we be done after that?

I know that You are good. And You love me. And THIS is going to be used for Your purposes and once I understand the big picture I'm going to be in total agreement with this cancer thing. Right now though? I'm scared. And lonely. And wish there was a husband lying her beside me, holding my hand. And I'm sad. Because this is one of those things where I just have to do it on my own. Help me figure it out, so that I do it well.

Please give me peace. Flood me with it. Help me to be hope-filled. And positive. And if there's more cancer in my body, could you just get rid of it? Without the use of chemo? I don't want it. I don't.

Is this about my hair? Is this a lesson about The Hair you've given me? Are you gonna take it back? (Singe it off?) My hair and boobs are the only things that make me feel feminine. Who am I without them? Am I going to have to explore that? Oy. Life is just too damn hard sometimes.

And God? My kids. Please.
Please speak to them. Remind them that You are God. And You do have good plans. And You are dependable. And capable. And miss them. Please protect them from unhealthy ways to cope with my diagnosis. Give them strength. And if there is a lesson for them to learn in all this, please let them learn it quickly; like in the next 2 - 3 weeks. God I pray you would handpick some great companions to walk alongside them while they support me.

And my mom. I know this probably hardest on her. Comfort her. Give her peace. Provide her with people she can share her heart with. Fill her with hope.

Thank you for deciding on making this all happen during my favorite season of the year. I can't imagine how depressing it would be to find out I have cancer in the winter. Thank you for sunny days, long evenings, fun plans, watermelon and ceiling fans.

And God? Tomorrow? The forecast has been for a thunder storm and 'more rain than we usually get all summer' TOMORROW. You also know I have tickets for me and Danica to see Mama Mia tomorrow. At an OUTDOOR theatre. Pleeeeeeease. Can you get all the rain rained out by 7 pm? I know there are bigger prayer requests to occupy Your time with, but if I HAVE to have cancer, could I have a rain-free evening with my girl?

Oh God. How do I do this?"

Amen. And amen and amen.


Three things I'm thankful for:

1. Peace. Unexpected, glorious peace.
2. Miracles.
3. Family. SO grateful that I have people.
4. Friends. I am not alone in this. I am loved.


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