I opened my eyes the next morning nearly gasping for air. It hit me like a ton of bricks. That wasn’t a bad nightmare. It’s real. I have breast cancer. My eyes welled up with tears and I had crippling anxiety. How could this be? I went into the bathroom and saw my reflection in the mirror, I couldn’t help but stare. I took my shirt off and stared at myself. I looked at my breasts and cried. How could this be?
I thought about my day, and my appointment with that alternative “doctor.” Our phone conversation the previous day had given me some hope so I got a jolt of adrenaline and felt that same hope again. I looked in the mirror and had one of those “you got this” pep talks with myself. I made a promise to myself that I would stay positive, the entire time, even as hard as that may have seemed. I needed to try. I needed to believe that I was going to be fine. I took a picture and sent it to my two best friends. I was holding up one finger and told them this is day one of kicking this fucking things ass. I had tears in my eyes. I was petrified. I wanted to believe it but I wasn’t convinced. We named my tumor Bertha, so I apologize in advance if someone reading this is named Bertha!
I came out of the bathroom and my dad had left me a note. It had a telephone number to some Doctor on it. My Dad is a fixer. Not just in my life, but with everyone. Sometimes we call him Oprah. He is resourceful and he has connections. He has always been a major problem solver in my life. No matter what the situation, he knew someone or something that could fix it. He had solutions for everything. He knew that he couldn’t take my cancer away and I know that crushed him, but he also knew that he was going to get me the best of the best doctors imaginable. I had the number of the president of the board at one of the best cancer centers in the world now in my hand. I felt a sense of calmness knowing that no matter what the outcome, I was certain I was going to get the best care possible but I also knew that I needed to feel comfortable with my decisions on how I was going to treat this thing.
My Mom and I got in the car to head to this alternative appointment. I asked her on the way to please hear him out. She is generally a skeptic and I knew that a lot of what he may say, would go against the grain. I just knew that I needed to uncover every possible option before I was going to be able to think clearly but all I was actually doing was clogging my already fogged mind and starting my mental torment.
Everything he said sounded too good to be true. How could this be? If I just do x,y, and z my cancer will go away? We hung onto his every word. We sat there for hours, we kept looking at each other with hopeful, but skeptical eyes. He advised me to avoid surgery at all costs. He said that could make it worse. He knew of my upcoming appointment at the surgical oncologist office the following day and asked me to call him after. Was he going to guilt me to go against every form of modern medicine? How was I going to choose to forgo everything a medical doctor advised? We are talking about cancer. We are talking about a fatal disease where time is of the essence. We are talking about my 30 year old life. I wanted to believe him, but I just didn’t know if I could chance this.
My mom had a bag packed and we headed into the city. My Dad was on his way as well. They were going to be checking into a hotel right near our apartment for the night so that they could be at my early appointment the next day. It made me feel safe.
I walked into my apartment and felt a rush of emotions. The last time I was here, I thought I didn’t have cancer. The last time I was here was the Friday they said it was benign. I packed my bags that day and had no idea what was going to happen shortly after. I remember that feeling as I was leaving that day. Here it comes, anxiety. I go into the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror again. I cry. I try to tell myself to pull it together. We had dinner reservations and I figured doing something ordinary that I loved, could maybe help me regain some normalcy. I surely didn’t feel it though.
We went to dinner and ordered all of our favorites. My dad bought three bottles of Ruffino Gold Label, we were surely going to try and have a great night. We told stories from our amazing trip to Italy the summer before, and talked about our upcoming trip that summer. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would be able to be on that trip. Everyone told me that no matter what, I was going. It would be my light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t believe them though. Who knew what was about to happen. Who knew what I would go through. We tried to talk about all of the good things in life but our conversation kept coming back to the obvious. The four of us were full of anxiety. I have a picture from that night and you can see it in all of our eyes. Fear. We had no idea what to expect that next day. We had no idea what was in store for us.