There is 4-5cm malignant tumor in my right breast and the tests I have done so far tell me that it is aggressive.
I still have a bunch more tests before I know exactly what my treatment options will be but, because of my age, the size of the tumor and what they know about my cancer, there will definitely be chemo and a few surgeries. I'm still waiting on test results to see if it's spread to my lymph nodes and if I will need radiation.
Despite all of that the last two weeks for me have really crystallized one idea in my mind. I am lucky.
Yes, this situation is nothing if not absurd. I just turned 29 two weeks ago. I work out like a loon. I eat fresh, organic farmers market vegetables. Things like this are not supposed to happen to people like me.
My mom keeps telling me over and over again that she wishes it was her instead of me. I don't. I am young, strong and otherwise healthy. I am going to come out of this just fine.
I am also so so thoroughly and completely surrounded by love, support and offers of help from the most amazing group of friends, coworkers and family that it just blows me away. Every time I get a text message from someone telling me they are thinking about me and sending good vibes and asking to help, I feel stronger. When I get scared about what the coming months are going to hold, I just think about how I have easy access to all the hugs, company, good vibes, home-cooked meals, rides to procedures, help walking the dog, personal yoga lessons, hand holding, hair holding, jokes, back rubs and snuggles that a person in recovery could possibly need. I know my friends are just a text message away and I know that I can get through whatever is barreling my way because of that.
I have made the choice to go through all of this cracking jokes and gushing about my puppy and laughing through painful procedures and it is all because of you guys. I am going to get the hottest wig and learn to tie a smoking hot scarf and probably wear a lot of shorts because I've still got my killer legs, right?
And I know for a fact that all this good energy is already helping me on the road to recovery. This outpouring of love and good energy literally drips off of me wherever I go. People can see it. I have seen approximately 1,547 doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and surgeons in the last two weeks. Each and everyone of them has either complimented me on my awesomeness as a patient or marveled at my attitude. They tell me over and over again that I am amazing and inspiring and that this, above all else, is why I am going to come out on the other end of this just fine.
Where does this attitude come from? Duh, didn't you read the earlier paragraph? It comes from you guys. I am taking all your love and support and text messages and phone calls and I am using them to prop me up when I want to be dark and defeatist, and wallow in self pity. I feel your thoughts and your love and I know I am truly blessed in so many ways. You guys are getting me through the pain and the needles and the dizziness and fear with an attitude that amazes the people who see other people going through this all the time.
Basically you guys are saving my life.
Now I want to save yours.
I want you to promise me you are going to start doing monthly exams. I want it in writing in the comment section below. I want you to share this with your friends and make them promise you (or me) that they are going to do exams too. Send me a text message or an email that says, "Dena, I promise to start doing monthly boob exams."I want all this crap I am going through to count for something. I need to know that it's not all for nothing and that while you guys are taking care of me, I can also take care of you.
The good news is that nobody is saying I am gonna die. In fact, my doctor told me flat out, "Nobody dies of breast cancer." It's probably going to be a yucky couple of months but I'm not going anywhere.
However, while the last two weeks have been physically and emotionally painful in more private ways than even I want to share on the internet, at the end of the day the scariest thing I've learned so far is that none of you guys are regularly doing breast exams. (Yes, that's a link on how to do it and you can also see it below.)
The very first thing I hear from people when I tell them I have cancer is "How did you find it?" This is usually followed by some variation of "Wait, you do that? I have never even thought about doing that."
I love you guys but this response makes me want to simultaneously hug you/feel you up/smack you in the face.
Not to be a fear monger, but the reason breast cancer is so fatal in young women is that we just aren't catching it in time.
So while regular mammograms are how they usually find cancer in older women, unfortunately the test just doesn't work well for young women. We young women have these perky breasts because our breasts are made up of mostly breast tissue. As we age this tissue is replaced by fat, which looks black in a mammogram.Thick, dense breast tissue looks white in a mammogram. So does cancerous tissue. When you get older, the white cancer spots shows up loud and clear. When you're young they don't show up as well. So young women don't get mammograms, but they do get breast cancer.
OUR BEST & ONLY OPTION IS BREAST SELF EXAMS.
I'm gonna say that again, our best and only option is breast self exams.
They take about 5 minutes. You can even get a monthly email reminder set up. They are easy.
In fact is is really easy to fing volunteers to help. ;)
Trust me - when I found this thing and felt the change in my breast I knew something was wrong and I got in to see my doctor the next day. This probably saved my life.
I hate to throw out trope like "it's important to know your body" but when you have a stomach ache you know something is off and you fix it. Why should your chest be any different?
Don't wait, don't be scared, just do it. I am asking you, begging you really, to promise me that you will start doing monthly checks. The odds are in your favor that you are not going to find anything, but it will make ME feel so much better. And I know you guys all just want to make me feel better, right?
Thank you for all of your love and support, and for taking care of yourself.
Lots of love,