Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How it all began

I went to bed on Sunday night thinking that my great day would let me have a good night's rest.  SO wrong.  It was a terrible night, my body was exhausted but my mind was racing.  Which led to a really shitty Monday and Tuesday.  Good news is that I am feeling much better now, thanks to some great ears (and eyes.. via bbm/text) and great company.  Love, love, love you all.  Now that I'm feeling better, I'm ready to blog away again.

I've had a lot of people ask me how I found out.  Well, it's kinda funny actually, because I never do self-exams.  But one night at the end of November, for one reason or another, I decided to check.  And there it was.  I wasn't sure if what I felt was a lump or not, so checked the rest of that side, moved on to the right side, and checked the left side again.  It was bigger than a pea in size, but smaller than a grape.  So the following week, I went to get it checked out.  The doctor at first thought that it might have been a cyst.  He did an exam and said that it was harder than a cyst, but because of my age he thought it could just be due to fibrocystic changes, a lump or lumps that come and go depending on what time of my cycle that I am in.  Common in women my age, he says.  But just to be sure, he sent me for a mammogram.

A week after my mammogram, the doctor called me and said that I should go for an ultrasound and biopsy.  At that appointment, I pretty much already knew that it was cancer from the way they were talking.  I asked the doctor what exactly the mammogram showed.  He told me that there were calcifications, and a mass that "looked pretty nasty."  His exact words.  When he placed the wand on me for the ultrasound, he looked at his nurse (I think she was a nurse?) and said, "Well.. look at that!"  There was a cyst, which apparently was good news.  But, the mass that showed on the mammogram was directly beneath the cyst, so he proceeded to take 3 biopsy samples, including one from the cyst.  After he left, I confirmed with the nurse that his reaction from finding the cyst was a good thing, and as I spoke with her, I suddenly started to cry tears of relief.  She also reminded me, though, that the mass was still there, BUT that it is small, so if it is cancer, it's still early.

I went home and I have to say, that biopsy site hurt like a bitch after the freezing wore off.  I had to ask Jon to go out to buy some Tylenol, and I had to leave the ice on it continually instead of just the 15-20 minutes every hour like they told me to, it was so bad.  Anyway, I remember having conversations with Jon in the days leading up to my biopsy, and even on the way home that day, about how I wasn't all that afraid of the results coming back with cancer.  It's not a death sentence, I would say... they'll take it out and  I'll be fine!  The only difference with that conversation we had on the way home was that I had a hard time saying it.  It was strange how I started the sentence off so confidently and then literally out of no where, and mid-sentence, the words couldn't come out.

Anyway, a week later I got the results.  I posted previously about that, you can see that here.  

So what's next?  A mastectomy with immediate reconstruction and chemo.  Radiation is still up in the air, it depends on what they find in surgery.  I have had a lot of people ask me what stage of cancer I'm in, but that I won't know until after surgery.

And that is my looooong, detailed story on how it all began.  I've had a friend tell me that I often throw in a lot of irrelevant detail when I tell stories, lol, so I tried to cut some stuff out before actually posting this.  Hope it wasn't too boring of a read. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mom! ♥

It's close to 1:30 am, but I didn't want to go to bed without saying Happy Birthday to my Mom!  Spending time with my family was the best way to end a really shitty weekend.

Tomorrow is a new day and I will face it with all the strength and positivity that I have.  Strength really can come in numbers, and you've all helped me believe that I am that strong woman that everybody says I am.  I will not let anyone or anything bring me down anymore.  I loved playing catch up with friends over the past few days (Lori, Ger, Mary Ann and Vernis), seeing more good friends over the weekend, and then spending my Sunday, my mom's birthday, with my entire family: mom and dad, Joel and Len, Kuya, Sheila and B, my cousin Sheila who just moved here from the Philippines a week ago today, and Kuya Emon, Ate Len, Honey and Hannes, who also moved here from the Phils just 2 weeks ago.  I should also mention that I received my first call today from my peer supporter, Bev.  Many good things today.  Many things and people to be thankful for.


Interesting Read

Another good read on young women and breast cancer.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

It's not just me

I spent the morning reading a blog that I found on the Young Survivor's site that Cheryl had posted a link to on my Facebook wall.  Her name is Angi and she was also diagnosed with breast cancer at 31.  I wanted to see what her experiences were like in terms of coping with a mastectomy, going through chemo, etc, etc.

What she also writes about in her blog is the emotional roller-coaster that she's on.  FINALLY someone I can relate to.  I have always been super sensitive, and it's been that much worse since I went for my mammogram in December, and even moreso since my diagnosis.  The stupidest things will make me feel incredibly hurt.  Other things will make me so angry that I feel like my head will pop off from my chest exploding.  This will be followed by tears of frustration, and then by even more tears of guilt.  As much as I never wanted to use cancer as an excuse for these feelings, how can I not?  A year ago, I thought I would be planning for the beaches of Jamaica.  But now with this, I had and still have serious, serious decisions to make.  Some decisions that I didn't think I would have to think about for years, or EVER for that matter, because of it.  And now I've gotta figure all these things out within a couple of months?! Lumpectomy or mastectomy?  Single mastectomy or double?  To freeze or not to freeze some eggs?  And then the little things, like how am I going to rearrange my apartment so I can live independently after my surgery?  How am I going to get to and from chemo without putting anyone out of their way?  Or the stupid things that I never should have had to worry about in the first place, like when the St. Boniface Hospital sent my letters informing me of my CT and Bone Scan appointments to my parents house.  WTF?  The last thing I need is for my mom to see a letter addressed to me from the hospital, a lovely little reminder that her that her baby has cancer.  On top of that, Victoria Hospital sent me a letter informing me of my MUGA scan appointment, which was scheduled for the same day as my CT Scan.  Is nobody keeping track of this out there for me??  Why am I left to sort this out on top of the thousands of other things I need to do, and where the hell did they get my parents address from???  So here I am, trying to get this sorted out while I am at work which is almost impossible to do, with my work hours being 8-5, and their hours being 8:30 - 4:30.  And then playing phone tag with them.  I know this sounds like such a minor thing to have been stressing about, but really... just let me vent.  Please don't judge.  To say that there were and are a million things on my mind doesn't even justify it.  And the need to justify why I'm so stressed and frustrated all the time, I'm a ticking time-bomb really, pisses me off.

So anyway, the gist of this post was to say that I'm glad I found at least one person I can relate to with the emotional roller-coaster that I'm going through.  I have friends and family who constantly remind me that it's ok and they can understand where I might be coming from, and for that I am grateful for, but it's even more comforting to read about and know of someone else who actually went though it.


Ok, time to lighten up the mood.  As a little thank you for the overwhelming amount of text messages, phone calls, Facebook messages and comments, here I present to you the funniest video that I have seen in a loooooong time!

Enjoy!  Love you guys!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"I'm sorry to have to tell you this..."

It was Friday, January 20th, just before 2:30 pm.  I was at work, had just finished my shift and looked at my phone as I was putting my coat on.  Missed call from the doctor's office.  Voicemail.

"Hi Vanessa, this is Dr. Clark from the St James Medical Clinic.  We have received the results from your biopsy, you need to come and see us as soon as possible.  If you would like to talk on the phone, you can call me here.  I'll be here until 3:00 today..."

I remember the voice message so clearly, I can hear her voice.  The conversation when I called her back, however, is very much a blur.  I remember bits and pieces: "I'm really sorry to have to tell you this over the phone, especially because you have never met me before..." "Cancer cells..." "Ductal Carcinoma..." "Breast Cancer Centre of Hope..." "I'm very sorry..." "Come see me if you like..."

"It's ok," I said. "I was expecting it.  I already had a feeling that it was."

"Make sure you have someone with you tonight.  Take care, Vanessa.  Just call if you would like to come and see me."

I left work that day stunned.  I said good-bye to everybody like I usually do, wished them all a good weekend.  Called my boyfriend before I left the parking lot to tell him about the news.  Then I made my way home.  My boyfriend was already there, and we talked about what we should bring to his friend's party that night.  I think back and I am still unsure of whether or not I was in denial or if I was still in shock, or if I was just that prepared for my diagnosis that it didn't even phase me.  But as we sat there silently on the couch, watching TV waiting for time to pass until it was time to get ready for the party, I decided that I no longer wanted to go.

I spent that Friday night feeling more hurt, anger and confusion than I had ever felt in my entire life.  I had what would be the first of many of my psychotic episodes to date.  It was an evening full of emotions that I would never wish upon anyone, EVER.  I never left my bed that night.  I had never felt so alone.

As alone as I had felt that night, and as alone as I still sometimes feel, I know that I am not... THANK YOU.  THANK YOU to each and every one of you for the well wishes and thoughts.   It is amazing how kind words can truly lift one's spirits, and you have all taught me that this should not be underestimated.  To say that I am grateful for you, my support system, would be an understatement.  Thank you.

With that said, I still feel hesitant to be around people when I'm feeling down.  I get frustrated very often for different reasons.  I lose control of my emotions and it can really take a toll on the people who love me and only mean well.  As strong as everybody keeps saying I am, I feel that I am anything but.  I mean, if I were so strong, then why can't I control how I express my frustrations?  If I were so strong, then why do I make the people who try to be there for me feel so shitty?  If I were so strong, then why do I take everything out on the people I love?  I am not strong, not in the way I should  be.  I am weak.  At times, I feel like a selfish bitch who doesn't deserve any support from anyone and I deserve everything that is coming my way.  And I hate myself for it.  I'm the one who needs the big fucking kick in the ass.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Good Read

Found this today in a forum on the Young Survivor website.  I was just telling a friend today that I wish there was more information available for women within my age group who are diagnosed with breast cancer.  A lot of the info that is found online and even through the resources provided by the Breast Health Centre and the Breast Cancer Centre of Hope consider "young women" to be under the age of 45.  No offense to these women, (yes, I know that 45 is still "young") but what I am looking for are resources aimed at women aged 35 and under.


Fertility risks.

Yah... I have a lot to think about.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"By the way, did you hear...?"

On December 30th, 2011, I had announced to my entire Facebook world how much I was looking forward to my 31st year of existence.  Thirty was such a great year and I couldn’t wait to see what thirty-one would bring into my life.  Little did I know was that I would start my 31st year with what possibly could be the greatest challenge of my life.

I am 31 years old, and I have breast cancer.

I am an extremely emotional person.  I am most definitely one who needs to talk things out, and my writings over the course of this journey shall serve as my emotional outlet.  Sure, there are many people I can turn to… and yes, I know that I would not be considered a bother or burden if I were to call my boyfriend or any one of my most loving and caring friends or family members for a shoulder to cry on.  However, this is what I feel the most comfortable with at this time, and therefore will be my go-to for emotional therapy. 

I apologize to any friends or relatives who feel offended for finding out this way, through the internet.  I am asking for forgiveness and understanding.  It’s hard.  My diagnosis is not a secret, I am actually quite open about it when it comes up.  I just don’t always know how to approach it.  I don’t even know who knows!  What I want is for everyone to know.  Not for attention, and certainly not for pity.  But because I don’t want my cancer to be something that people need to tip toe around me about.  To make it taboo makes me feel like there is something to be afraid of.  And I want to stop being afraid.

So when you see me, please don’t pretend that you don’t know.  Don’t be scared to ask me how I am.  It’s ok if you don’t know what to say, but please try not to pull away.  And please, please do not treat me any differently.  I am still me, still Vanessa.  Maybe a little more emotional (ok, much more emotional) and definitely more scatterbrained (it takes a toll sometimes, so much to think about, too much to do), but I’m still me.  

Here I will take you along with me on my emotional journey, my progress and eventually through my recovery.  In the meantime, I am off to meet with my counselor.  Thanks for reading, and thank you to all in advance for your support.