Dear cancer, you were not invited. Now please fuck off. Cheers, Moira
I’ve been talking about getting back to blogging. This isn’t what I wanted to write about.
It has been a rocky few weeks for me. Starting with the hugely annoying undertaking of finding a place somewhat locally to get a routine mammogram. I had a place I went to every year with my aunt but she moved away and the facility closed. I found another place eventually and had a bit of a scare. A follow-up sonogram, a stressful few weeks and then a needle biopsy returned the results of “just a cyst”. When I called to go back a year later I found they no longer took my insurance and a few more calls turned up nothing. I put it on the back burner. For another year.
I’ve been systematically cleaning out some hidden corners, drawers and piles around my house and while sorting out a stack of papers I had been avoiding I found my old mammography prescription. I literally spent two and a half days on the phone with my insurance company and calling radiology facilities and finally found a community health facility in Lakewood that accepted my insurance. I called my ob/gyn’s office to get a new prescription and also scheduled a regular checkup with him.
My routine mammography was scheduled for Thursday, March 2nd. A very nice facility with a lovely technician who informed me that if there was a need for anything beyond routine I’d need to follow up at another facility. Oh, great!
Dr. Kaufman called me a week later, on Thursday, March 9th. I needed to go for a sonogram. This time I didn’t even make any more calls to local facilities. My next option was expanding the search to New York — first Staten Island and then Brooklyn. Staten Island facilities gave me appointments over a week later. I found a place in Brooklyn, right over the Verrazano Bridge that had an appointment available on Monday, March 13. Not wanting to delay and torture myself mentally I grabbed that appointment, went to Chemed in Lakewood to pick up my images, told Bryan what was going on and that I needed him to take me to Brooklyn on Monday. Anyone familiar with the 5 boroughs knows that parking is challenging at best. I was at Bay Ridge Medical Imaging from 9:30 AM till 1:30 PM and guess what, Bryan never found a parking spot.
I was starting to feel a bit uneasy and explained to the office staff why I came almost 60 miles from New Jersey and received a lot of insurance related sympathy. They couldn’t have been nicer and they were in constant communication with Dr. Kaufman to get the necessary prescriptions for first a sonogram and then a needle biopsy. I asked the doctor at the facility what the chances of it being a cyst again was and she very matter of factly informed me that it was not a cyst and that it would need to come out. This was a much more painful and lengthy needle biopsy than the last one, and the technician informed me that there were now “titanic” clips inserted to guide what needed to be removed. I kind of figured she actually meant “titanium” (and thought about my titanium Litespeed Saber) and it almost made me laugh but I actually started to feel even more uneasy. The office promised me that the samples would get out to the lab that same day, but it could be Friday before I heard anything.
Since I knew I would have to have some sort of surgery I called a friend who has battled with breast cancer and found out she had recommendations from her own personal experience at Memorial Sloan Kettering in NYC. I called the offices, checked their website and found the best possible information — they are preferred providers for our insurances and any doctor connected with the facility also accepts the same insurances. I wrote down the information for when I had something to call about.
I still hadn’t heard anything by Thursday and I finally just couldn’t stand the waiting and called Dr. Kaufman’s office. Nope, they had nothing and suggested I check the radiology facility. I called them — they had nothing and it said it could be the following week before I heard. Oh great!
I was home on Friday afternoon, hoping for a call from someone but also dreading a call. I sent Bryan off to the Shillelagh Club St. Patrick’s Day party while I finished up making some Irish Soda Bread I promised to bring. At 2:15 I saw a Red Bank number calling on my cell phone. It was Dr. Kaufman. I grabbed a pen and paper. He said I’m sorry to make this call but I know you are anxious. “It is cancer. You have invasive ductal carcinoma. You will need a surgeon and most likely an MRI.”
Okay, it’s now 2:30 in the afternoon on Friday, St. Patrick’s Day. If I’m going to get anything put in place I better get moving. I literally used both phones to make calls between Sloan Kettering, Dr. Kaufman’s office, and the radiology lab. The surgeon’s office said they could probably get everything in place for me to come in on Thursday. I said what do you need to get me in on Monday? She told me, I wrote it down and got it done within the hour. I’m good at taking action. I have an appointment with the surgeon on Monday, March 20th at 1 PM. Okay, now off to the Shillelagh Club where I proceeded to drink heavily.
I’ve personally spoken to my family, and some friends — mostly those who have been through this. I’ve done some searching on the internet — big mistake. I sat at lunch yesterday discussing the possibility of chemotherapy and radiation with my husband. Then I stopped myself and thought wow, did I really just say that? Yea, not what I ever thought would be part of a discussion about me. A little over a week ago I was discussing my training, our family trip to St. John’s and my upcoming race schedule — which included the Boston Marathon, Eagleman 70.3 and Ironman Lake Placid 140.6. I had also been hoping to get back to the start line in Kona again this year.
Thanks to my friend Hailey for the blog title, by the way.
If I haven’t spoken to you personally please don’t be offended. I’m overwhelmed. I’m angry. I’m scared. I’d like to be in denial but that isn’t working out real well. I’ve asked some friends and family to reach out to other friends tomorrow to let you know personally what is going on. I’ve decided to handle this openly. I’m hoping it will help me, that it will help avoid rumors and maybe help someone else in the process. If you get nothing else from this, please go get that routine annual mammogram. I had absolutely no sign that anything was going on. Even now that I know where it is I still can’t find it myself (or the “titanic” clips!). I feel great and am as fit as ever. I don’t know if I need anything right now. If I do, I’ll be sure to ask. I’m not really sure I want many phone calls at the moment. It’s a bit easier to write about what’s going on than to talk about it. If you call me and I don’t answer please don’t be offended.
I’m going to leave this here for tonight, and publish it before my appointment on Monday. I’ll get back to everyone with an update once I’ve caught my breath (I’m not expecting this to be easy) and once I have some more details to share. I’m thinking I’m going to need a lot of heart and courage in the upcoming weeks.