Dear Cancer,

 

Love, Vanessa

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I Have Breast Cancer. Now what?

Updated: Apr 13

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Dear Cancer,


You almost had me fooled. When I first heard the news that I had breast cancer, I was told that the tumor on the MRI showed up to be just under 2cm in size. According to the doctors, this was a good sign as it was detected early. This was good news for me, or so I thought.


The first doctor I went to meet with was the surgical oncologist. She was a very nice woman, and I had heard wonderful things about her. Because of my prior cancer history, she recommended I have a double mastectomy. If you don’t know what that is, it means to have both breasts removed. To the average person, this sounds like such an extreme procedure for early

-detected breast cancer, especially for someone so young. I remember telling a few people that I was going to be having this surgery and they were shocked. They couldn’t believe that I had to do something so drastic, especially if it was found early. But thankfully, I was okay with this recommendation from the doctor. Before I met with her, I had actually made this decision myself. Having already had cancer before, I wanted nothing to do with these breasts anymore. Clearly they were making me sick, and because of that I wanted them gone. I have to admit, I did feel a bit sad with the idea of completely getting rid of my boobs because I actually did always like them. They weren’t too big or too small: to me, they were just right- and I was pretty happy with them up until this point (haha)!


So, the decision was made- gone with the boobs!!! This invasive surgery needed to be done, and to be honest, I couldn’t wait for it to be over and to move on with my life. This was the way I needed to get the cancer out of my body for good. I was told I probably wouldn’t need any other treatment, except possibly some medication. Naturally, I had to take some time off work. The plan was to have the surgery, recover, and then return to work (aka normal life) as soon as possible. I really didn’t think I was going to be off work for much time but I was definitely wrong about that.


Leading up to surgery, I had my moments where I felt sad. I couldn’t believe I was losing my body parts at such a young age. Then I had moments of fear- imagining myself in the operating room was such a terrifying thing. This wasn’t the first time being there, so I knew what to expect, which didn’t really help. I thought to myself, what if something went wrong? What if I don’t wake up from the anesthesia? The thoughts were relentless in my mind, so I just tried to keep myself as busy as possible and I continued working for as long as I could. When I left work, I didn’t tell many people why- again, this was me being super private about my health. I left as quietly as possible because I was planning to return soon.


The day of surgery was very nerve wracking. I basically hurried up to get to the hospital and all I did was sit and wait for a few hours once I got there. The waiting was the worst part. I tried to remain as calm as possible, because I didn’t want to worry my family, who were all there to support me. I am so lucky to have such an amazing family. They have always been there for me and have been with me every step of the way. As soon as the nurses rolled me down the hall to the OR, I burst into tears and started panicking. This was really happening and there was no way out of it. Thankfully, the drugs kicked in quick and before I knew it, I was fast asleep.


When surgery was over, I can’t even begin to describe the pain I was in. This was one of the worst feelings I had ever experienced. I could barely move. NO ONE PREPARED ME FOR THE PAIN I WAS IN. Not only was I sick to my stomach from the anesthesia and pain meds they gave me, but my upper body was in excruciating pain. I stayed in the hospital for one night and I was very glad to leave and go home the next morning where I lived on my couch for the next two weeks. My husband had to lift me off and put me back on the couch because I couldn’t do it for myself. I was on some strong drugs to help with pain management, but they made me sick to my stomach. Really, I just had to wait for time to go by -- and boy did it go by oh so slowly.


My surgery happened at the end of November, so the only good thing about this was that I could spend a lot of my time enjoying Hallmark Christmas movies. Thank God for these cheesy, but incredible movies. They really meant a lot to me at this time. (Thanks Hallmark!!) They made my recovery a tiny bit better and I was thankful for that.


Fast forward 21 days, I finally was able and sooo ready to leave my house. (I was going pretty stir crazy by then!) I was still in pain, but I could move around a bit more now. A few weeks before Christmas I had a follow up with the surgeon to find out the pathology report. I felt a little nervous going to this appointment, but nothing could have prepared me for the results she was about to share.


My tumor was not 2 cm like they thought, but actually 12 cm large and had spread to my lymph nodes. Hearing the report was an absolute nightmare. The type of cancer I was diagnosed with (Lobular) often goes undetected in scans. It was a very thin tumor and it was almost hiding in the middle of my breast. The surgical oncologist was really shocked by these results as well. Because of the seriousness of my case, the surgeon then referred me to an oncologist (a chemo doctor), and do you know what the first thought that popped into my head was? My hair!! Not this again!! I lost my hair once and I can’t believe I’m going to lose it again!! What did I do to deserve this?


I was absolutely sick to my stomach. I was a complete mess, and was in total shock. I was angry, sad, in denial-- you name it, I felt it. I was also told that I would need another surgery as well, to remove more lymph nodes since the cancer had spread to that area. In this moment, everything had changed. This was only the beginning, of a long journey ahead…


Love,


Vanessa

This was me out with friends celebrating my 30th Birthday. My double mastectomy was just under two weeks away. I was trying really hard to have fun, but I'm sure you can guess what was in the back of my mind the entire night.



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