Deb's Prequel to the Email Diary
"I'm afraid we need more films."
With those words from the mammography technician, my world changed forever. At that moment, I knew I had breast cancer. She'd been so bubbly a few minutes before; now she was sternly serious.
The ultrasound which followed shortly confirmed for me my diagnosis. Not a spherical white shadow like the cysts I'd had before, but a misshapen black mass. The radiologist knew it, too. Carefully, she pointed it out on the mammogram and the ultrasound screen. The clincher?
"You need to see your doctor as soon as possible. We'll call her today."
Walking out of the Center, my mind raced of its own accord, ticking off the steps in the process: doctor, biopsy, mastectomy, chemo. Before I even got home, my cell phone rang.
"Deborah, this is Dr. Judy. I need to see you tomorrow. Come in at 3 PM.
December 14th I was in her office at the appointed time...and waited...and waited...and waited. Finally around 5:00, she called me into her office, apologizing for keeping me waiting. She showed me the mammogram and ultrasound films, explaining what the pictures showed. Finally she asked,
"I don't know how other to say this. How attached are you to your breasts?"
I looked down, looking at my breasts, looked up at her, away at the films, back to my breasts, then straight at Dr. Judy with a twinkle in my eye.
"Well, as far as I know, they're not fastened on with Velcro!"
Thus began my walk through the valley of breast cancer, a journey I share with thousands of other women, their family, and friends.
At the very beginning, it seemed a lonely journey - I didn't want to tell anyone except my husband and close friends. I was angry - at the treatment I was going to endure, how debilitating and disfiguring it would be - there should be a cure by now! I felt ashamed - my body had betrayed me, was there something I'd done wrong with food or stress? I felt very fragile - the fact that I could die from this hit me like a bombshell shattering the myth of invulnerability I'd secretly harbored.
I told my husband that I was certain it was cancer and what the next steps would be: seeing a surgeon, biopsy, probably mastectomy, and chemo. A few days later, he lovingly said to me, "It's okay with me if you get a mastectomy."
"Thanks for saying that, but it's not your choice. I am going to do it anyway."
At the time, I had no idea how cruel that was, but I shut him out of the decision process at this point in the journey...for some reason, I felt I had to do it by myself. I told my closest friend, Eva. She was devastated and relayed that she'd had a premonition about this check-up. I asked her not to tell anyone, but she, being wiser than I, told a few of our other close friends. Linda asked the NSA prayer chain to add my needs to their list. Sharon wrote an email scolding me.
"Don't you know we're your friends in the bad times as well as the good?"
And so the email journal began as a way to keep them informed of what was happening in the breast cancer process. My tiny list of six friends grew to one of over 300 along the way. I was to receive hundreds of cards and email over then next couple of years. What a blessing!
Communicating with people who care about you can be one of the hardest things about having breast cancer. The Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization has many excellent resources on their site, and one of the most helpful is an article called, "Talking with Family and Friends."
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