Summer Lovin I Was Having a Blast...then it Started Getting Cloudy!

Updated: Jun 1, 2019

As I sit here writing today, I have 8 radiation treatments to go and I cannot believe that I am almost at the beginning of my “new normal” life. If you have just been diagnosed, are enduring treatment, or currently have no evidence of disease, we all have that day that we will never ever forget. For me, being diagnosed with breast cancer was like being thrown off of a suspension bridge, being run over by limousine full of happy empty nesters, or jumping from an airplane with a parachute that would never open. If you have ever been a teacher, know a public-school teacher or have chosen to say the words, “You are so lucky to have summers off” then you can relate to my lifestyle for the past 19 years. So, there I was minding my own summer business completing teeth cleanings, annual pap exam, and the dreaded mammogram. Trust me you can never schedule these important self-care appointments during the school year. These appointments were at the end of a very nice summer and had just returned from visiting family and friends in upstate New York. While we were away, I noticed in the mirror that my areola on the left side looked like it was being pulled in which I thought was odd but not alarming. Also, over the summer I had been attending the local YMCA and was consistently participating in my favorite class, “Bodypump”. Bodypump works every single muscle in your body within a 60-minute period. The 47-year-old me was trying to keep up with my 19-year-old daughter and I have to say I was holding my own. I never cried, threw up or passed out in front of the other people enjoying the pain that the cheerful trainers put us through that summer. For about a year previously my cycle was occurring less and less and I once went as many as 4 months without a period. So even without the internet I assumed that I was simply in perimenopause. Unfortunately, these factors set me up for the perfect storm of my hypochondriac self completely missing my own breast cancer diagnosis. *Warning* Just like having a conversation with me there will be times when I veer off topic to add little fun tidbits about my life. My family thinks it is very funny that I often use the internet to diagnose myself with crippling, disabling or life ending diseases. There was the time when my Mirena IUD tried to kill me and this one was not made up as I ended up hospitalized with stroke like symptoms. I am just saying that birth control device may not be for everyone and trust me when I say you may not be as freaking happy as the beautiful blond lady and her frolicking dog on the informational pamphlet. Although, I will give the makers of the Mirena (BAYER) credit it was absolutely the best form of birth control as the headaches, memory loss, and not being able to move half of my body did not lead me to feel sexy enough to actually have sex. Anyway, back to my made-up illnesses you know like that one time I was completely convinced that I had lupus or perhaps Lyme disease. There were a few brain tumor self-diagnoses but I truly blame Grey’s Anatomy and Chicago med for these misconceptions. Anyway, I think we can all see how this girl would be completely dismayed with a REAL cancer diagnosis that I missed. I had not even Googled one of the weird symptoms that snuck right up and bit me in the form of a very nice but sad and serious radiologist chat. Admittedly, I had been having many daily “personal Florida summers” which you may call hot flashes. Really the only place I enjoyed was the gym as I was hot and sweaty anyway. When I would get my period, my breast did feel like it did when I was breastfeeding my beautiful child back in the day. But alas, I thought this pain could certainly be blamed on increasing my chest press weight at the gym! I finally went in for my yearly mammogram and I received a call back during planning week (the first week) for teachers in August 2018. My thoughts about this pesky call back went something like this, “they always tell me I have dense breast tissue what a waste of my precious time”! Another note about me is that I detest change, I make it extremely infrequently and when I do it is not a light or quick decision. My previous 19 years had been spent at 2 elementary schools and the last one for 17 years! During the summer I had also made an amazing leap of faith right into teaching middle school 7th grade civics. I know what you are all thinking that I should probably Google mental illness, but trust me these kids in my opinion need the most love of any age group. I leave my new job during planning week for my second mammogram appointment where I am sure they will tell me again about my dense breast tissue. That mammogram led to an ultrasound and the ultrasound led to me having an extremely sober talk with an extremely nice radiologist. Let me set the scene, I was alone as I was not taking this seriously so brought no family backup support and the lights were off in the ultrasound room. When the radiologist entered he seemed somber you know like people tend to look before they tell you that a beloved relative or pet has passed away. He started talking about cancer and I wanted to start laughing, but that did not seem appropriate so I asked him if we were having a serious kind of talk. Once he clarified that indeed we unfortunately were, I asked if I were his wife would he be scared? He stated that he would and that the next few months would be tough for me…understatement perhaps of the century. He was really good at his job as this was all before the biopsy! Join me soon for my next post concerning the immediate aftermath and diagnosis of the 100% chance of breast cancer. To be continued…


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