Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pink Ribbons post - When They Tell You, You Have Cancer

Pink Ribbons is a featured series of my blog about my journey with Breast Cancer.  
At the bottom of the page, you will find the links to the other posts.  
I am currently "No Evidence of Disease" (NED)


Rosey's Story

I can't describe the buzz that begins in your head when a tech tells you to come to the ultrasound room. "There is something we want to investigate." I was here for a routine mammogram! This was not how it is supposed to go!   She was supposed to come out and tell me it was okay to go on home!

I laid on that table in total disbelief. I remember looking away, asking 

"God...really? Are you sure about this? 
Do I really have to do this?" 

And then my next thought was about my husband. He's out there waiting for me and it's already been considerably longer than expected. I asked them to go out and tell him I was having more tests. They did but it turned out they alarmed him even more, because they would not tell him what was going on. "She is having more tests" is all they would tell him.

We are a single vehicle family. I am a home maker. He has a new position at the Hospital where he works. It's a stressful position and he has new hours. 8 - 4:30 doesn't leave a lot of room for scheduling appointments. So even though this date, is our 31st wedding anniversary; I had scheduled an appointment for a routine mammogram.

Still I told myself they are just being cautious. This was not really happening.  I struggled to hold myself together. Just a few moments into the ultrasound the Radiologist came in and told me "I am certain this is cancer. It is ductal carcinoma." 

And just that quickly she changed my life. 

In that moment, something in me gave way, like the way the ocean waves dissolve the sand castle.  There was a kind of shift where denial is left behind and you face a different future with a cold sweaty, absolute horror. You are facing the Unknown. It made me shiver.

She turns to me and speaks, "I'm here now and I can do a biopsy right now and get that out of the way or you can go home and schedule a biopsy at another time." My blood went solid. I tried to speak. My throat is so dry. I cleared my throat and tried again.

"Are we talking about a needle biopsy?"

She nods and tells me "We can do this now, so you have a final answer. I am certain this is cancer, but I understand that you need the confirmation. But if you would rather, you can schedule to come back to have it done later in the week."

"NO!" my mind screams. The idea of waiting around with this THING inside me, is something that makes me shake. "Where is my husband? I want my husband." They told me that men are not permitted back out of respect for the other women. I nodded because I think that's what I'm supposed to do. But this sucks.  I am alone and trying so hard not to panic, not to come unglued.  The technician gently takes my hand and squeezes. Tears drip from my eyes, collecting in my ears.

I know what KJ's answer would be. He would tell me to get the biopsy now. So I tell them, "Go ahead." Then I ask them to please send someone to let him know that we are now doing a biopsy. They do. But when he asks, why? They won't tell him. He told me later that he knew then. I wouldn't have sent someone out to him, if it was something normal.  So unknown to me, he sent out a panicked prayer request by texting our pastor Jason and his wife Marcia. "Pray for Tina. She was having a routine mammogram today. But she's been back there over an hour and they keep coming out to tell me they are doing more. They won't tell me what is going on. So please, pray."

I turn my head away as the Radiologist takes her position. She explains that this biopsy tool looks similar to a large syringe. The needle is large, a 16 gauge needle. I cringe. I know what that means. It is a huge needle. She explains that I will feel a pinch, then a sting. She will cut a tiny incision to insert the needle. "Whew," I told her. "I wondered how you would get that garden hose through my skin" She pats my arm and knows what I know. I'm just trying to be brave. I'm willing myself not to panic. I'm trying to cope with humor. I tell myself just one breath at a time. In and out...concentrate on breathing.

"Really God?" Are you serious? 
Have I not dealt with enough in my life?"

The room is suddenly freezing. I started actively shivering. The hard surface I'm lying on isn't helping my herniated disc, but I barely acknowledge the muscle spasm. The room is silent but for the soft whir of the ultrasound machine. There's the pinch and the sting. I can't believe this is actually happening to me. Now I understand the concept of living through a nightmare.

As she takes the biopsy, the device makes a snapping sound that makes me jump. "I will take a biopsy from two positions on this tumor. It is a small tumor, Tina. You caught it early." She adjusts the instrument. Another snap and another jump. "Tina, you will need to make an appointment with a surgeon. Do you have a surgeon?" Have a surgeon? Does everyone have a surgeon in their contact list. It so happened I did. "Dr. Pitt did my lap band."

"Oh, He is an excellent doctor. You are in good hands. He's a wonderful breast surgeon." Despite my resolve to maintain some dignity, a tear rolls down my face. I have to hold things together. I want things to slow down. I can't believe I'm now talking about surgery. She is STILL talking. "If there is no involvement of the lymph nodes, you can have a lumpectomy. If there is involvement of the nodes...well he will go over your options." Silently I tell her, there will be no lumpectomy. These breasts have betrayed me.  In 2005, I had a cancer risk assessment done.  Because mom was negative for BRCA 1 & 2, I was told I was at no more risk than the general public.  Now I feel anger. I could have had mastectomies before I got cancer.  The question crowding my mind is "how much cancer do I have?"   I already know, I will choose a bilateral mastectomy.  I won't go through this again.

The Radiologist is speaking again. I strain to hear her over the machines. "Tina, there are 2 lymph nodes that are a little large. Not grossly large, they are just on the big side of normal. But since I am right here, I am going to take biopsies of them too." I nod that I understand and continue to instruct myself to breathe. Two more snaps and a jump. 

I cannot prepare myself for those snaps.

Dr. Radiologist is speaking again. I shake my head trying to shake loose the buzzing in my ears. The room has become so loud and hot. The buzzing lifts an instant and I hear her. She's been talking so I catch mid-sentence..."Steri-strips over the incisions. They will come off on their own. Take it easy tonight. I'm giving you an ice pack to use for the drive home. Let your husband drive. Take Ibuprofen for the pain. If you develop redness, swelling or fever, call this department immediately and they will page me." Again I nod that I understand while my voice hoarsely answers, "OK."

They help me sit upright on the table. Gravity hits my head, and the buzzing is back. My mind cannot focus. I am struck with irony as I pick up my bra to dress. I just bought this bra yesterday. Pink with hot pink and yellow lipstick kiss marks all around. It was a fun bra. Now I stare it blankly. 

The fun has been drained away.

My knees are weak as I headed for the door. I stagger slightly and walk out of that chamber of horror. As I walk down the hallway toward the waiting room where Kelly sits, I stiffen my spine. I fight back tears. I have to explain what happened. I have to be strong for him. I just walked the longest hallway in the hospital. I tell myself how relieved I am that we celebrated the day before, because I just ruined our 31st anniversary.

I open the door to the waiting room and I see my husband jump to his feet. Just seeing him there breaks my resolve. We are alone in the room. Tears break forth and stream down my face, despite my determination that I will not cry. I fought the urge to run to him. As I move closer to him, he is shaking his head as he says, "They found something didn't they?"   It was not a question.  I had lost my ability to speak. He swept me into his arms and buried my head into his shoulder. And I sob.  His touch had melted my resolve to hold it together. He is an anchor in the rapids swirling around me.

I honestly don't know whether he was crying too or just stunned into silence. His voice shook as he directed me to the door and out to the truck. I think we are letting go of what once was. But I know whatever happens. I won't be facing it alone.

Fighting Cancer is hard 
when you just found out you have it

This is an ongoing special feature of my journey through Breast Cancer.  I was diagnosed on 7.27.2010 and am currently NED (No Evidence of Disease).
Link to next Pink Ribbons post -
#4   Scared
#2  This page


  1. Thank you for sharing. I know reliving these moments was difficult for you but I'm sure they will help another woman.

  2. Tina, your transparency is very moving. May the Lord use your testimony to bring help, support and encouragement to other women struggling with this diagnosis. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us all.

  3. I think you need to put a tissue warning on this one. I was unprepared...
    I said this on another comment, but I sure am glad to know the outcome of this. So glad you have a strong husband who is there for you!

  4. Wow, Tina. What a story. I worked for a breast surgeon back in the early 2000s. When you're around it all the time it's easy to get callous, but when YOU'RE the one in the gown trying to collect your spiraling thoughts, it's a whole different story.

    You captured it beautifully. Thanks for sharing :)