The Devastation of a Cancer Diagnosis
A Cancer Diagnosis is devastating, mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially! This is why I had to ask my Children, Family, Friends, Co-Workers, Church and Community to pray for me. These are the life events that I have encountered with this diagnosis.
I received my diagnosis of Breast Cancer on July 21, 2015 at 6:28 PM. I was traveling to Charlotte, NC to conduct a Technology Development Seminar for the company, where I was employed. It would have been an in office consultation but, as a busy professional, I travel for work and I don’t like to miss or delay any of my assignments. I was anticipating the call earlier that morning, but the Doctor had several surgeries that day and could not tell me the results until he returned to his office to review the pathology report.
I know the timing was strange, if you think about it, this call was after office hours. The Doctor asked me the HIPPA questions first, to ensure he was speaking to the correct patient. I confirmed that I was the patient he was contacting. Then he said the words I never expected to hear, “Michelle, I regret to inform you, the diagnosis is Breast Cancer.” I was stunned, so much so that I did not even remember to ask him, what type of Cancer or the grade. I calmly thanked him for contacting me, especially since it was after office hours.
I thought about the diagnosis over and over for what seemed an eternity, but it was only fifteen minutes. I called my spouse and reported the findings. I had to say, the Doctor said, I have Breast Cancer. I was so stunned, I did not have any tears to cry. I drove to the Airport and picked up my work colleague and we traveled to the Hotel, we checked in. I tried to rest in an effort to meet the demands of the training schedule the next day, but sleep was not easy for me that night.
My mind was in a constant state of, how could I have Breast Cancer? Their was not any history of Breast Cancer in my family among women, I’m the first. Wow, yes I’m the first Woman in my family to have Breast Cancer! This was surprising for me because, I was in relatively good health, and I don’t have High Pretension/High Blood Pressure, Diabetes or Heart Disease. How could Cancer just pop up and devastate my life?!!
I had my in office consultation with the Surgeon to discuss the diagnosis and pathology report. The formal diagnosis was, an Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma, Grade 2; that is ER+, PR+ and HER2/neu+ receptive. It is a rare Breast Cancer, but treatable because it is hormone driven. First line of treatment, Surgery. Because of the diagnosis and chance of recurrence; I elected to have a Bi-lateral Mastectomy with Sentinel Node and Axially Node Dissection if necessary. This decision is part of the Mental and Emotional Devastation caused by a diagnosis of cancer.
Having the Mastectomy is part of the Physical Devastation that’s begins with a diagnosis of Breast Cancer. The Surgery is 3–1/2 hours in duration, because the nodes must go to the pathology lab to be tested for cancer cells. If the hospital has a good and reliable lab to perform the test, it may save the Surgeon from having to perform the Axially Node Dissection. This is the event I was praying would happen, unfortunately this was not the case and now I have another health risk to deal with; Lymphedema. This risk can cause loss of arm mobility and excessive swelling in the affected limb.
I performed a lot research about the Cancer I was diagnosed with, about 72 hours total time. I subscribe to the fact that knowledge is power. In my mind, I was required to be able to make good decisions about my treatment options and care. I needed to know if the cancer was treatable and the long term prognosis of this disease. I have a great respect for the medical community, but having had a Mom that had been a Nurse, she taught me the key to great care is knowing your body and being able have input about what course of action will take place. She told me that, you and your Doctors are partners in the healing process. Thank you Mummy for all your wisdom and GOD rest your soul.
I contacted several of my Good Friends and told them exactly what was going on with my health, these Great Friends prayed with me and for me. I did not tell my immediate family about the Cancer diagnosis. Why? Their Emotional Devastation to the diagnosis, would have devastated me emotionally, mentally and physically. That is why I just requested extra prayers, I just did not have spiritual energy to emotionally babysit my family. I needed GOD to be with me on this journey and that was my focus. This was not a popular decision with my spouse, but it turned out to very good choice for me.
The night before my scheduled Mastectomy, I could not sleep, my nerves were on edge and I was praying hard, that this was a dream. I was hoping to wake up and find that the lump was gone. I woke up, felt to see if the mass was gone, I declare it was larger. I showered as instructed and we traveled to the hospital. My Prayer Warriors, texted me before surgery and I prayed silently all the way to the hospital. I walked into the hospital with this huge chip on my shoulder, I was angry and ready for all of these events to be over.
I know GOD was with me; Why? Everyone was so pleasant and smiling, it had a positive effect on my solemn attitude. Thank you to all the hospital’s Nurses, Doctors, Technicians, Support Staff and Volunteers at Athens Regional Medical Center. Your sincerity, warmth, hugs, prayers, and well wishes really had a positive effect on my healthcare. I received a Hug and an I.V. after changing for surgery, along with words of encouragement from the Nurse. She informed me that my Surgeon had performed her surgery and that I was in great hands. I smiled and my soul became calm.
They wheeled me to the Operating Room, again more smiles and some hugs too! I kept praying and asking GOD to keep me safe, it is the last thought in my mind and prayer from my lips as I succumbed to the anesthesia. The mantra of the day, GOD please be with me! After surgery, I was gently awakened in the Recovery Room and told my hospital room number 2645. My Surgeon told me the initial findings from the node biopsies, the margins were clear, the Cancer was removed. My mind was still in an anesthesia fog, but I remembered that statement with perfect clarity. I saw the flashing lights roll by has I was wheeled to my room, I was thanking GOD, I made it through. By GOD’s grace and mercy, the surgery was successful. Then, I heard that sweet familiar voice, my spouse had arrived. Of course, confirming what the Doctor had told me and wanting to see the effects of the surgery on my body.
The Physical Devastation of a diagnosis of Breast Cancer, for me is going from a 40D to just Chest. I love being a Woman and I had nice breast with full nipples. It is a genetic family trait from our Mummy, which my Sister and I share, we all have great nipples. I miss my girls (Breast)! No, I am not having breast reconstruction, I don’t want to have a place for any cancer to hide, because of the chance of recurrence. I looked at my bandages, and thought, maybe it is not so bad.
Recovery is like a double edged sword, the physical trauma and emotional rollercoaster is challenging. I was strong and dealing with it head first, but the pain was intense at 4:00 AM. The anesthesia was wearing off, my throat was sore, the JP Drains were painful and clearing my lungs hurt. This fight with Cancer is not for the faint of heart. What I miss the most right now, is not being able to shower and wash the grime away. I love a good warm shower to clean not only my body, but my mind. For me, showering is like being baptized, it a true clean, I feel reborn. Right then I felt like I was in purgatory, not quite hell, but it’s not heaven either.
Time to start being mobile, going to the bathroom with an I.V., JP Drains attached and half of your chest missing is just so much fun; Not! I am a private person and I don’t like to be fussed over, so having to have someone assist me with going to the toilet does not make me happy.
After two days in the hospital, I am recovering from the effects of the anesthesia and surgery. I am being rewarded by urinating and passing flatulence, yes this is one of the milestones I had to pass to be ready for discharge. As my Daddy would always espouse, their isn’t any excuse required for regular habits. (Farting is a part of the body’s natural process, own it.) This flatulence was quite odoriferous and rather loud, I had to ask myself, is this really me stinking up the joint? Ungraciously, yes it is me, I felt embarrassed and sorry for the Nurses and Techs that had to endure the odors.
Later that day two awesome ladies from the Pink Ribbon Team came to visit me.
Discharge Day, my wonderful Doctor burst into my room at 06:30 AM with the tactics of an old Army Drill Sargent. I was awaken with harsh lights and he was greeted with a WTH, before I realized it was him and I would be granted my freedom. He informed me that all the, Nurses commented that I was a good patient and I had passed my initial milestones. I could go home, I was quite excited.
I was so excited, that I dressed myself early, gathered all my belonging and texted my sweetie with the news. I was really ready to go home, I just had to wait for my formal discharge papers in order to be officially released from the hospital.
Now I am performing the work my life was spared for. I am publishing Children’s Books I have created and written. My goal is to use the funds collected for philanthropic giving and community service.