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My Journey to cancer or Maybe Not... Oh... It is cancer...

June 29, 2018

Before I start, I want to point out that the little "c" in cancer is not a typo.  I didn't give it a capital "c" because I refuse to give it any power.


Let's start at the very beginning... A very good place to start...


On a windy, snowy, Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. on a -15 degrees Celcius day in January, a beautiful (well, maybe I looked like a tire cause they named me Micheline) blond, baby girl was born to Henri and Cecile Guindon.  Man!  What a lucky couple!  Ok. Ok.  Maybe we don't need to start that far back. 



On Tuesday, May 15, 2018, I had a massage with (insert shameless plug here) the lovely Becca at Divine Health in St. Albert.  As always, we had an amazing chat and I thoroughly enjoyed the torture, I mean, massage treatment given.  When dressing, my breasts had a tingling and burning sensation so I rubbed them to relieve that feeling when I felt a lump in my left breast.  When I returned home, I asked my Hun Bun (a.k.a. B-Rad) if he thought it felt like a lump as well.  He did concur with my diagnosis and so I decided it was time to use the mammogram requisition that my doctor's office kindly sent me 2 weeks after my 50th birthday in January.  It's on the 16th if you want to add me to your birthday card mailing list.  I do accept gift cards as well.


I called for an appointment on Wednesday expecting it to take a while, however, they had an appointment the next day, Thursday, at 3 p.m.  Cool I thought.  Let's get in there and find out what's going on.  Now, I had heard many stories about how mammograms sucked and they hurt and they squished your boobs between two cold plates.  Well, I wouldn't want to do it every day but it really wasn't so bad.  When she was done, the boob squisher advised that many women are recalled for more pictures but not to panic, it didn't necessarily mean anything bad.  Surprise. Surprise.  I received a call the next day which unsettle me somewhat and another appointment was made for the following Friday.


To tell or not to tell my immediate family.  On the one hand, I didn't want to unduly worry them.  On the other hand, a heads up might be nice.  Truthfully, I can't remember if I told them or not.  I may have told Nic (my younger sister for those of you who do not know her).  Or, I may have decided to wait until the results from the second mammogram.  Regardless, I spent the weekend not "going there" in my mind.  Any time my thoughts would wander, I would remind myself that it could still be nothing.


Fast forward a week and I'm back for the second mammogram.  This one was not as much fun.  They needed pictures of specific spots which, lucky me, happened to be close to the nipple.  I don't think I have to go into much detail.  I'll just let your imagination do the work there.  When the boob squisher was done, she advised that she might need one more picture because she thought she had only gotten the edge of what she was trying to capture.  She sent me to the little room to sit and wait.  She came back a little while later and said, yup, I have to take another picture.  Woo Hoo!  I get to do this again?  Lucky me!!  When she was done, she sent me back to the little room saying that the radiologist would have a look at the images and would likely want an ultrasound. 


They needed an ultrasound.  Into the ultrasound room I went.  Much clicking and beeping later, the radiologist came in telling me that I had masses in both breasts and both left and right armpit lymph nodes and I would have to go for a guided needle core biopsy.  At that  point, my world dimmed a little.  Back to the little room to change and wait for the ultrasound tech to come back with an appointment date for the biopsy.  She came back with an appointment for the following Tuesday morning.  I can't remember her name but she was lovely.  She walked me back up the hallway and said "take care of yourself".  My first thought was she knows that it's cancer.  I stopped that thought quickly as, again, I didn't want to "go there".


If I hadn't told my family before (I really can't remember), I told them this time.  Not really sure how it went.  I imagine there was shock and disbelief.  I likely kept saying not to "go there" as it could still be nothing.  The weekend and then Monday passed.  Pretty sure I told some people at work cause that's just how I am - pretty open about things. 


Tuesday came and I was pretty calm as we headed to the biopsy appointment.  We were among the first people there.  I didn't wait very long and was called up by Nurse Melissa which immediately made me feel comfortable because well, I work with a Melissa and I kind of like her.  Shout Out!  She led me to the change room and then came back shortly after and brought me to the procedure room.  I can't stress enough how super nice she was to me.  She explained everything that was going to happen (see below) and I asked some questions. 


Ultrasound tech comes in.  Finds and marks the masses.  Doc comes in, freezes breast with a stinkin' needle which I really don't like I might add, slice and dice, no really, it was just a little cut, insert biopsy tool four separate times for four samples from different parts of each mass.  It sounds like a loud stapler when they take the sample.  The first one stung a little and I asked how much I was supposed to feel it?  The doc said "You felt that?" to which I responded "It wasn't horrendous or anything.  More like a pinch and a radiating burning feeling."  That seemed to satisfy her and she continued.  I didn't really feel anything after that.  Apparently, doing four biopsies in one appointment is very unusual.  In hindsight, I suppose this was sign #1 that I wasn't normal.


The docs said we would do two and then see how I was doing.   I did have two doctors - one of which did the breast biopsies and the other did the lymph nodes.  Turned out that the doc didn't see anything abnormal under the right arm so no biopsy there.  The left side was really deep and complicated (Sign #2...)  but not impossible (his words).  He is the senior doc at MIC and had done 25 biopsies at the hospital the day before, so I knew I was in good hands. 


In between biopsies, Melissa had to do new setups so we chatted, we joked, we laughed and we discovered that she likes massages as well and understands the term "good pain" in relation to a massage.  Anyone who enjoys a good massage understands that it's not really good if there aren't a few teeth clenching moments.


Anyhoo, I digress...  When all was said and done, Melissa told me that the left breast mass was of concern.  She also said several times throughout the morning, that the masses were very small leading me to believe that we were at an early stage if in fact they found cancer.  I really appreciated leaving that appointment with some idea of what they had found.  Of course, they couldn't tell me for sure until the lab looked at the samples.  Melissa advised that she took all biopsies to the lab herself every day after work and would see if they could have results by Friday.  She couldn't guarantee it but would try which I was grateful for.


Poor Brad was wondering if something went wrong because we had been told it would take 2 hours and it was going on 3 maybe 3 1/2 hours I believe.  All the set ups in between took time.  We went home and I just rested for the remainder of the day.  The bruises had already started to form.  Melissa said they would be spectacular and she was right!


The Diagnosis - invasive ductal carcinoma


On Friday, June 1st, I called my doctor's office around 10 am just to find out the procedure with respect to them receiving my results.  Did they get results via e-mail or fax all day?  Would I get to see the doctor the same day?  I was really hoping that I wouldn't have to wait another weekend to find out if it was positive or if it was still nothing. 


My doc's office called back around lunch time and advised they had gotten my results off of Netcare and that the doc wanted to see me that day at 2:15 pm.  To say it threw me a bit would be accurate.  I went to the washroom to compose myself and called Brad to let him know.  He had a super busy day and weekend with rentals (insert shameless plug here - Bounceroo! Party Rentals and Elite Laser Tag - check them out) so I knew he wouldn't be able to come with me to hear the results.  At first I thought I could go it alone, however, knew that perhaps that wouldn't be wise so asked Nic to come with me.  We met at the doc's office and waited.  At that point, I was really happy that I hadn't called Nic off which I was going to do earlier.  I'd feel silly if the results were negative.  In the end, I was truly grateful not to be alone.  Thanks seester! 


When Dr. Moshurchak came into the room, I knew I was going to hear some not so good news.  She sat down and said something like "I'm sorry.  All three biopsies came back positive for cancer."  I was shocked that it was positive in all three locations.  I had prepared myself for the left breast to be positive but not all three.  I remained relatively calm throughout the meeting.  It was the shock I suppose.  I knew that I couldn't look at Nic at that point or I may have lost it.  Dr. M. kept apologizing.  She did a quick exam but couldn't find the lump.  Weird.  Do they hide?  Move?  Who knows.  She wasn't able to tell me what stage it was which I thought was a little weird but what are you going to do.


I left the office with an appointment with a surgeon, Dr. Dabbs, for June 11th.  Ten more days to wait and two more weekends of "not going there".  "There" being a place that I was really trying to avoid.  Mountains out of molehills kinda deal.  And now I had to tell my people!  Oh!  How was I going to do that?!


Out to the parking lot we went.  Numbness.  Shock.  Tears. The world dimmed a little more that day.  It pretty much matched the weather.  I guess finding out on a gray, rainy day is better than a beautiful sunshiny day.  Standing in the light rain, all I could think was this is stupid, this is so stupid.  How could this be happening?  This happens to other people and you are sad for them and their families.  This doesn't happen to me.  But, it IS happening to me and now I have to tell my husband, my family, my friends.  


As I mentioned, Brad was super busy and on the road that day.  I knew he was driving out of town at the moment.  I really didn't want to tell him over the phone but he wouldn't be home until 11 pm that night and I couldn't wait that long to tell him or others who knew about the appointment.  He had to be the first to know.  Pretty sure I debated with myself for 10 minutes before I made the call.  It's not good news I said and proceeded to tell him about it.  All the while tears rolling down my face and barely able to choke the words out.  I can't even begin to imagine how he felt hearing those words over the phone and not being able to see me for hours. 


I think I cried more over the thought of having to tell my people than I did about the actual diagnosis.  I dialed up my parents and all I could get out was "It's not good news." before I had to hand the phone over to Nic.  Then I just had her call my older sister Sue because the words just wouldn't pass through my lips.  Next I phoned work and told Susan.  Silence.  Shock.  What do I need from them?  I don't know.  Guess I'll be busy for a while.  We've got your back.  Anything you need.  Don't worry about anything here.  I have an awesome boss and I work for an amazing company!


Nic followed me home and spent the rest of the day and evening with me until Brad got home.  I made some more calls to family and friends.  This wasn't really news that should be delivered by text where possible.  As the calls went on, the words came out easier.  Maybe it was the shock or maybe I just subconsciously decided that I was moving on to "it is what it is mode" and let's just deal with it.


I went to visit my friend Diane who had had surgery that day at the Misericordia.  I came home and my parents came for a visit.  We just sat and talked which was nice. Brad came home much later and took me in his arms.  No words were necessary.
















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