On December 21, 2012, some lunatics were convinced that, due to some old Mayan calendar charter who ran out of room on a scroll, the world was doomed to end in an earthquake of rage and hellfire. But December 21 came and went, and for most people, not a thing changed.
I wasn’t one of them.
For me, the Mayans were right: December 21 was the end of my world. That day, what I thought was a routine gynecological appointment to drain a lingering breast cyst became something more when I was shuttled into a dark ultrasound room, probed and prodded for over an hour, forced to undergo an immensely painful and invasive biopsy, then confronted by a kind yet frank radiologist who said, “Unfortunately, it does look like a cancerous growth.”
On December 26, 2012, she called to tell me what I already knew: the biopsy results were back, and the lump in my breast was cancerous.
“Breast cancer?” I said incredulously, looking down at my 30As. “Me? But I don’t even have breasts!”
Invasive mammary carcinoma, she said. Invasive. As though it wasn’t even part of me, even though it was nothing but my own cells mutated into the horrible Mr. Hyde versions of themselves. Merry Christmas to me.
There’s something about the C-word that makes your brain shut down. I didn’t hear anything she said after that. All I could think about was how nothing would ever be the same. How I’d die young, which so wasn’t fair, because I ran every day and ate kale and did a 5AM workout boot camp and always wore sunscreen and avoided GMO foods and even wore a dorky looking bike helmet.
I went through a lot of emotions over the next few hours. Hell, I went through a lot of emotions over the next few minutes. Anger, frustration, fear, terror, depression, hopelessness…and some less expected ones, like relief (at least we had an answer), hope, galvanization, readiness and the desire to kick this disease right in the nutsack. Just…right there, right in the balls.
It’ll be a few weeks before we have the details. There’s a whole breast cancer lexicon, and here’s what I know so far. There’s a grading system – 1 to 3, with 3 being the most aggressive. There’s a staging system – I to IV, with IV being manageable over a few years but eventually, invariably terminal. There are also all kinds of receptors you can be positive or negative for, like estrogen, progesterone and a protein called HER2/neu. There’s a gene – the BRCA 1 and 2 mutations – that predispose young women to breast cancer and ovarian cancer. I’ll be getting tested for all of that, which sounds like a real barrel o’ monkeys. Once the deets are all settled, we can start on a treatment plan that most likely involves some combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
I already asked my brother to get his hair clippers ready. Bald is beautiful, baby.