The Back Story
Let's go back to the beginning. There are a lot of questions people ask when you tell them you have cancer. I get that, its one of those things you just want to ask how it happened, its the same with anything. Like when we see a car crash and you just want to look. Well here is the story of my car crash of how my cancer was found and diagnosed.
It took me a year to get pregnant with Clara. Which I know is not that long in the grand scheme of things, people have gone through longer periods and dealt with worse infertility than we did. Getting pregnant was still hard and we went through a lot to get to having our beautiful girl. If cancer isn't enough I also have a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Basically, it causes difficulties in having a regular cycle and therefore you don't ovulate regularly. So we went through lots of tests and I started on a medication that can help your cycle return. Luckily, this medication worked and two days before our first appointment at the fertility clinic I got that plus sign on a pregnancy test.
Pregnancy was fine I didn't love it but it got me my girl. I was sick a lot and complained about my back and feet all the time but I made it through (Ryan may have a different version of events). Clara was born 16 days early but she was perfectly healthy. I struggled to get her to feed, she couldn't latch. We stayed an extra night in the hospital because she hadn't eaten. Looking back I don't know why I didn't just ask for formula then but you know how it is "breast is best". That's great in theory but for those of us who can't easily breastfeed its a lot of pressure on a new mom. The newborn phase was really hard, no one can actually explain to you how hard it is until you're in it. I struggled to breastfeed her. This went on for almost two months, we started to supplement with formula because I was emotionally a complete wreck trying to feed her. She was always crying and so was I. Breastfeeding hurt and took over an hour for each feeding. I saw other moms easily feed their babies in 20 minutes and it eventually got to the point that I gave up on breastfeeding for both of our well beings. Some of you will judge me for that and that's fine. I've accepted it but it was my choice to safely feed my baby in a different way and in the end it made me a far better mother.
So now for the cancer part of this story. Near the end of breastfeeding, I had a few lumps. I asked at Clara's six week check up and the doctor said they were just clogged ducts, use hot water and massage (hilarious now, no amount of hot water was getting rid of a tumour). Some of these lumps went away after I stopped breastfeeding but one stayed. It was larger but I just kept checking it. Fast-forward a few months and it hadn't gone away and I kept saying that I needed to book a doctors appointment but we were still getting into our new normal and I was exhausted. I finally did book an appointment. She was close to five months old by this time. My doctor also didn't seem that concerned, she thought it sounded like a galactocele which is a clogged duct that won't unclog essentially (I work in HR not the medical field remember). She sent me for an ultrasound and mammogram.
About a week later was my appointment for that, I went alone, I really wasn't concerned. I get the ultrasound and the tech says they will only do the mammogram if the radiologist thinks it is necessary. So she does the ultrasound, I wait for her to check with the radiologist and when she comes back she says that they will do the mammogram. I was a little concerned at that point but not overly. They do the mammogram. After, they tell me the radiologist wants to talk to me. They put me in one of the changing rooms. It had like bathroom stall sized walls and a curtain for a door. I sit there and wait, a little freaked out at this point but still it seemed so obvious it was related to breastfeeding. The radiologist comes in and says, "do you want me to just tell you what's going on?" I said yes, getting more stressed by the second. She then says, "The lump looks to be cancer and we also see a small abnormality in the underarm which also looks to be cancer." She tells me she is 95% sure of this. I'm in a state of total shock. THIS IS NOT HAPPENING. They want to book a biopsy so I wait to do that. I tried calling my husband but he was with the baby and didn't answer. I don't know what I would have said anyways. I schedule the biopsy for three days later.
I called my Mom on my way home. She cried, this was her worst fear; that one of her daughters would go through cancer too. When I got home I could hardly get out of my car. I had to go inside and tell Ryan, tell him our whole lives were about to change, tell him this horrible thing. I got inside and went upstairs, he was laughing and talking to Clara in her nursery. I stood in the hallway for a minute listening to the last happy moment he had with her before he knew I had cancer. I walked into the room and instantly started crying, hysteric crying. He knew then, I didn't have to say it. He held me and then we held Clara. My family came later that day. I was grateful to not be alone.
Given the odds Ryan and I decided we would assume that it was cancer and we would not hold on to the 5% chance that it wasn't, I'm so glad we did that it made it easier when I was diagnosed. The next few days were torture waiting for the biopsy. I had it done on a Thursday. By the next Monday I was officially diagnosed.
That's the story, that answers all the questions. That's my fucking cancer car crash.