Never In a Million Years…

It’s taken me 3 months to write a post about this.  If ya’ll know me, you know I don’t sit on things I want to write about, but I didn’t know if I wanted to write about this.  It was throwing me off.  I barely even wanted to talk about it with friends and didn’t and still (to this day) don’t know how to process it.  Here it is.

On March 13th this year, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Just writing that makes me want to punch the keyboard and throw my computer against a damn wall.  My mom.  My mom, whom, is one of my best friends, that watches our boys, that goes on vacations with us, that lives 5 minutes from us, that is around us everyday, and that is always there when we need her.  Yep, that mom.

Now that I’ve gotten the worst part out of the way (actually typing the word and seeing it written in front of me), I’ll tell you some more about what happened.

In February, my parents went to Destin for 4 days for a mini vacay over President’s Day weekend.  She told me she was getting a mammogram when they got back, because it had been a couple years and the year 2019 was going to be the year she caught back up with everything, medically.  She went in for her procedure and we went about her business.  They’d always been normal before.  Also, I should note, not that it really matters these days, but we have NO FAMILY HISTORY of breast cancer, or any type of cancer on my mom’s side of the family that we know of.  Even on my dad’s side of the family, there’s been no breast cancer.  The next day, they called to say they saw something very small, but couldn’t tell what it was, and wanted her to come back and have a diagnostic mammogram.  I had urged her to get the diagnostic before she went in for the initial appointment because they are the type I always have to have, and there’s less chance of them seeing thickened tissue or fibrous tissue and thinking it’s something else.  She went in for the diagnostic and they saw the same small spot, but couldn’t tell if it was a tumor or not because of the size (less than 1MM), so they did a biopsy and told her it would be 2-10 days before she would hear anything, but probably sooner rather than later.

On March 13th, Mason had a teddy bear parade for Pre-K.  It’s a big deal to the kiddos; they make a float and put their favorite stuffed animals in it, and walk around the gymnasium (a la parade) for the guests.  Then, after the parade, a special guest gets to stay for a picnic.  Mason had chosen me to stay after with him, but my mom was with me for the parade.  When we were going to gather his float after the parade before the picnic, one of his teachers invited my mom to stay for the picnic as well.  I could tell my mom was anxious because it had been 2 days and she was expecting to hear from the doctor.  I was completely thinking everything was going to be fine.  I mean, my mom is the picture of health, minus her addiction to baked goods.  She had left her phone in her car accidentally while we were watching the parade and having our picnic with Mase and I’m so glad she did.  😦

After the picnic, I went home to grab a PB sandwich to go back to work and on the way back to work, I got “the call”.  Invasive lobular carcinoma, very small-less than 1MM, stage 1.  What the actual hell do you say?  What do you think?  I can tell you what happens:  You don’t think.  You don’t say much.  You have a dark cloud in your brain that won’t go away.  It’s not real, after all.  It’s not real.  It’s not real.  It will all be OK, because it’s certainly not real.  I told my mom the doctors had found it very early and everything would be OK.  I went to work and called Brock and started to feel the knot in my throat.  At work, one of my favorite co-workers came in to hand me something and I told her.  When I said the word, I just started crying.  About that time my boss called me for something.  I can’t even remember the conversation I had with her, but it was between sobs.  I told my therapist.  I figured she was going to have to deal with me at my worst and wanted to prepare her.

My mom had already gotten an appointment the next day with the doctor in the women’s center and 3 people had asked if I was going to the appointment.  It honestly hadn’t crossed my mind.  Newbie over here at this kind of thing.  I figured she and my dad would want to handle it themselves.  Also, it was early March and as all of my readers know, I have contamination OCD, and the flu was still going around, and the appointment was at the hospital….I’ll let you put the pieces together.  I finally texted my mom to ask if she cared if I went to the appointment, because I had a lot of questions to ask and I needed to hear the answers from the doctor herself.  I figured every single person in the room would interpret what the doctor was saying differently, and I needed to take notes and really understand what was going on.  If you don’t already know this about me, you should know I go down medical rabbit holes I never come out of.  Mostly because of my OCD, but also I’m a nutrition NERD, so I’m pretty good with medical jargon.  I had reached out to one of my oldest friends in the midst of all of this.  She was always so close with my family and offered to watch Mason while I went to the hospital with my parents.  It was all happening so fast and still felt like I was outside my body, just going through the motions.

In the appointment I tried to do what I do best in awkward situations, I tried to make them all smile by making dumb jokes.  If there’s one thing I know, it’s to ALWAYS look for the silver linings.  Always.  I tried to make sense what was being told to us, and to the doctor’s credit, she was literally drawing everything out for us, which helped a ton.  I heard about hormones, and sizes and treatments and through it all, I kept my calm.  The nurse for the nutritionist came in next and you guys, I’m not kidding when I tell you that the nutritionist’s name was Dr. Macaroni.  No lie.  I couldn’t stop laughing.  The nurse was explaining some basic things to my mom and I was chiming in with what I knew.  Finally, she suggested that I make my mom an eating plan since she said I was telling my mom the things she would suggest anyways.  To end our visit, a nursing assistant came in, sweet as ever, and gave my mom a binder with references and information on just about anything and everything.  Then, she said, she had forgotten my mom’s bag, and came back with a bag that had a crocheted hat in it, a stuffed animal and blanket.  THAT put me over the edge.  No, my mom wasn’t having chemo, she wouldn’t lose her hair, why did she need a stuffed animal?  I get it….volunteers do these projects for the hospitals and it’s very sweet.  Very thoughtful, but nope….it suddenly made it seem more real.  I couldn’t have that. Because, you know, it still wasn’t real.  Since my mom’s doctor was able to get her in so soon, we were still waiting on the hormone test to come back.  If it was HER2 (I think that’s what it’s called) negative, like the doctor anticipated, then no chemo would be required.  She would take a hormone pill for the next 5 years and have mild radiation after surgery that that would be the end of it.

I left the doctor that day feeling numb.  I kept asking myself what was happening.  We had asked the doctor what her thoughts were that caused it and she said likely environmental and nutrition factors.  But, they weren’t for sure, of course.  Like I mentioned above, my mom is the picture of health, tall, decently skinny and hasn’t had prior medical issues.  But, she likes her sugar.  I know sugar feeds cancer cells similar to throwing a steak at a dog.  All I kept thinking about was how I was going to fix it, how I could help and what I could do.  We had a plan after that appointment, dependent on the hormone test that was due to come back in the next few days, and that made me feel a little better.  I felt like we were organized and had dates and kind of sort of knew what was headed our way.

You know, grief is weird.  Denial is weird.  I remember that Friday I went to Chipolte to get dinner and just cried in the parking lot.  I started opening up to a few more friends and to my surprise, a lot of their mothers/mother in laws/grandmothers/aunts etc. had a bout with breast cancer as well.  When I went to see my therapist the next week I told her it was so unreal to me that it felt like nothing was even happening.  She explained to me that when we love someone so incredibly hard, and something bad happens, our brain puts up an incredible force shield in the form of the strongest denial you can experience.  She said both my mom and I were feeling this.  I’ll be really honest here, to this day (post surgery, and radiation) I still don’t feel like it’s real.

My mom was only concerned about one thing.  Getting the tumor out.  ASAP.  She was advocate for herself, calling the doctor daily until surgery was scheduled (2 weeks sooner than planned) and I’ve honestly never seen someone so excited and in a rush to have a surgery.  She decided on a lumpectomy.  The hormone test came back, just as the doctor anticipated, HER2 negative (Praise Jesus!), so no chemo was on the horizon.  Also, they were relieved to find that it had not spread and nothing was in her lymph nodes.  The man upstairs was taking care of my mom, for sure, and still very much is.  The surgery went extremely well.  She was so happy it was out of her body.  She was groggy the day after surgery when I came over with the boys to see her.  All she kept talking about was how relieved she was that the poison was out of her body.  Honestly, I would have handled it the same way as she did.  “Ok, this blows, but let’s get this sucker out … right this minute!!”  With a mastectomy, the chance of it ever coming back was 1% or less.  With a lumpectomy, the chance was less than 2%.  I personally would have hacked both of my boobs off and went through the painful surgeries to get new ones, but I respected my mom’s decision to get a lumpectomy.

About 2 weeks after the surgery, she started the process of preparing for radiation.  So many new things were coming up that I was learning about.  For example, they mold a “bed” for you at the radiologist, so you can basically slide right in and be hooked up and out as soon as possible.  After meeting with her radiologist and getting a CT scan (that came back great) and a few other tests, he suggested that she just come for a month, for only 15 minutes a day.  Basically, she had one of the lowest forms of treatment, which again, was such a blessing.  We prepared our schedules (my boss is AMAZING by the way) and worked radiation in every single day of the week (Saturday and Sunday were off days) for a month.  She was proudly able to “ring the bell” on May 29th.  Looking back, I wish we could have been there when she rang that bell (I had the boys and Brayden had conditioning camp), because it was just another hurdle she hopped through with grace and courage.

The next step was starting the hormone pills.  She hated the idea of going to the oncologist, because it kinda just reiterated that she had ONCE had “the c word”, as she says.  She had blood work and a bone density test done before starting her pills.  All of that came back great, so she started the pill last Wednesday.  The pills scare her, just because of their menopause-like reputation.  And, I get that.  It took her around 8 years to go through menopause, so the idea of reliving all the hot flashes and night sweats and mood changes is, I’m sure, no walk in the park to think about.  However, we know we are all very blessed in that she only has to take a pill and doesn’t have to go through chemotherapy.  She will be on this pill for 5-10 years depending on how her follow ups go.

So, here we are.  July 1.  I feel like yesterday was March 13th.  Call it denial, call it, I don’t know, whatever you want, but it still doesn’t feel real to any of us.  My mom has handled everything like a rock star.  Whizzed through surgery, healed up awesomely, went through the entire month of radiation with no side effects and has had amazing test results.  There is still, and will be, so much emotion wrapped up in this.  I think the reassurance the doctors are giving all of us is letting us just run right through everything.  My mom told me that one day the radiologist looked right at her at one of her follow up appointments and said “Patty, you do NOT have cancer, remember that.  It’s gone now.”  When she told me that, I wanted to drive to Avon and give him a high five and a hug and I’ve never even met him.  Little reassurances like that.  They are so important.  In my mind, this battle has been won.  I cannot even tell you how strongly my mind is SET on that.  I keep telling my mom this was just a bump in the long, exciting road of life.  Oh and I told her we should take vacations more..haha.

So, that’s what has been going on with our family since February.  We are so incredibly thankful for those who reached out, who asked questions, who checked on her, who checked on my family, and those who called and texted.  My friend Danielle that willingly gave up most of her day to watch Mason so I could go to my mom’s initial doctor’s appointment, Mason’s pre-K teachers who prayed for my mom and always checked in, my amazing co-workers and friends who were literally checking on her everyday and my friends and mother in law who reached out to my mom and sent her cards and flowers.   Everyone has been so amazing.  I wasn’t sure about…literally, anything, when all of this happened, except for that my mom would be OK.  That’s all I could think about.  It’s surreal.  It’s one day at a time and one foot in front of the other.

See, my mom is such a big part of our lives, that there’s no other way to look at things.  It’s all a marathon she’s going to continue to win.  The “c word” as she calls it, is GONE.  Now we move forward in a healthy way.  She’s touched so many people and so many people have been inspired by her.  I was proud of her when she put her story on Facebook.  I was glad she wanted to talk about it and share the good news.  I can’t even describe to you all how wrapped up in the clouds of Heaven that I feel.  Is that a thing?  I mean, can you be wrapped up in clouds?  I don’t know, but I envision them to be perfectly fluffy and something that just engulfs a person in the best possible way.  I know how extremely blessed my family is.  I know not every family gets this and I’m not naive enough to think we all have all the time in the world.  I know life is about one day at a time.  But, I can tell you that every day is a wonderful day, a cherished one, a fortunate one and one filled with a lot of love.

My ask is this.  Please continue to pray for my mom and our family.  Always keep her in your thoughts and in the back of your mind.  She’s on the tail end of this journey and has come out of this with flying colors, but we pray for continued great health.

A final thought and PSA.  Get a mammogram.  Even if you are under 40, even if you are under 30, even under 25.  Don’t be scared to get a mammogram.  It literally saved my mom’s life in every way (with a healing hand from Jesus).  I’ve had to get them since I was 23 because of fibrocystic tissue and the year they came out with the diagnostic mammogram, or “3D” mammogram, I switched to that.  It doesn’t matter what age you are, if you feel ANYTHING out of the ordinary, go, run, to your nearest women’s center and get one.  And if you are at the age that they are required, please, please go every year and get yours.  They are a blessing and a gift.  Truly.

xoxoxo

Mary

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March 13, the day of “the call”

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Throwing it back to 2002

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Brock and I’s wedding

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Beachin

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Throwing it way back!

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A little Holiday World fun!

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