My defenses were up as I sat waiting in the radiologist’s office. This is the piece I don’t feel good about. I have a list of questions and am prepared for the doctor to be shocked that I haven’t had surgery. I was determined to be stronger this time than I was when the oncologist questioned me.
It had been 3 weeks since I was diagnosed with breast cancer and some people were shocked that I was taking my time deciding on a course of action. If I had bought into the energy of fear and urgency I would have already have had surgery and radiation by now.
But I didn’t feel that same sense of urgency.
Ever since I got over the initial shock of my diagnosis I have known that I am supposed to walk this path.
Yet I refuse to fit the mold. I will not be rushed through invasive medical procedures and expected to make decisions in a heightened state of stress.
I want to meet all the doctors that will make up the team guiding me through this part of my journey….before I make a decision.
I like early morning appointments because most of the time the nurses are still in a good mood and today was no exception. She showed me through the door and guided me to a scale. I made my husband stand so he couldn’t see the number as I stepped up. In 33 years together I have never let him know my weight.
We are shown into an exam room and go through the same routine as all the other visits. Take my vitals, go over my paperwork. One of her routine questions causes me to get a little emotional, “Is there a history of breast cancer in your family?”
There is no history in my family….until now. My heart hurts as I think of my sisters and my niece having to live with the shadow of my diagnosis. I imagine the anxiety as they check the box that says that a close relative has had breast cancer.
As she leaves and we wait for the doctor I hold my notebook tightly as if it can give me courage. I feel comforted by my knowledge and my notes.
The defenses that I had firmly in place were completely melted by the woman that entered the room. Her energy was so open and her smile made her eyes light up in a way that made me feel completely at ease. She was tall but sat on a stool that had her looking me straight in the eye.
When I told her I hadn’t had surgery she was both surprised and delighted. She commended my good judgment and we both relaxed as we talked. We talked about DCIS, radiation, HOAs and chickens. She lives close and is interested in Labyrinth walks when the weather is cooler. I like her.
But we are far apart on one issue…radiation. She recommends a treatment of radiation twice a day for 5 days after surgery.
I can feel my whole body reject this idea.
There are lots of statistics. Rational thinking people have done studies. They have gathered the data. She makes a compelling case without being pushy. I’m grateful for that.
I can’t refute her science but I can trust my intuition.
And my logic. If what I have is precancer, hasn’t spread and the surgeon gets clear margins then we should be good. I don’t feel like I should get radiation just because I can. I know that if I get radiation on my breast I can never get it there again. Shouldn’t we just hold on to that big gun in case we need it later?
I haven’t even scheduled surgery yet.
As my resistance to the radiation becomes more obvious she tells me that we would be able to make a more informed decision after the pathology comes back from surgery. “It could come back a stage 1 and then it would no longer be classified as DCIS and then I would highly recommend radiation”, she said.
I could feel all the color drain out of my face. I hadn’t heard that before. Didn’t she know that I was only a stage 0 and that was all I was prepared for? How could she say that? I had a binder in my lap with papers that would confirm my stage 0. I don’t want to hear this.
She asked if I had thought about when I would have surgery. Of course. I can hardly think about anything else. I had picked out a date that “worked” for me but I hadn’t shared it with anyone because I was afraid if I said it out loud then it would be real.
I told her the date.
It was just before she was going on vacation for a couple weeks so she scheduled me for 3 days after surgery hoping the pathology would be complete in time. I just wanted to get out of there so I accepted the appointment. She wished me luck and set off down the hall to help another woman navigate her journey. I still liked her.
Later that day I found myself sitting at my desk staring at my phone. I had to call the surgeon’s office to set the date. My brain couldn’t make sense of it. I don’t feel bad yet I am going to call someone and ask them to cut into my body and remove a part of me.
But I know in my heart that this is the right course for me.
I’ve gone through a roller coaster of emotions. I’ve worried about what others will think. I’ve felt like a failure for not staying healthy. Like I shouldn’t make a big deal about this or that I have to go it alone and not ask for help. I’ve felt blessed by the outpouring of love. I’ve been scared and I’ve cried a lot.
And yet there has been a place of solidness as well. I have known from the beginning that my journey includes surgery. I know that I am supposed to be fully present for this experience. I know this is a pivotal moment.
And I am at peace with that.