Updated: May 4, 2020
As I said earlier, my husband was flying in on Friday morning. My appointment with the breast surgeon was for 1:00 that day. I actually slept well that night and woke up to watch the Royal Wedding. (Come on, who doesn't like a great wedding?) I was lying in bed glued to the television when my husband came home. Since the kids were at school, it was just the two of us. Sharing that alone time together was what we needed. We talked, cried, held each other and gathered our strength to start this journey together.
Armed with my day timer to take notes, we went to see Dr. Ruark. I will admit I was feeling low when we arrived at the office. While in the waiting room, we see a family who had just found out their loved one had an advanced stage of breast cancer. Seeing their fear and pain, I turned to my husband and said we have nothing to complain about. Knowing I'm in the early stages, we are blessed. The one thing I’ve realized throughout this journey is there are so many other people who are fighting a much harder fight than I was. I was inconvenienced, they were fighting for their lives.
The first thing that Dr. Ruark said to us was “I have the best possible news to give you today”. What a wonderful gift that was! Her words washed a new calm over me. I will be forever grateful to her for that. I had Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS), cancer of the ducts, non-invasive, low grade, slow growing with a 1% chance of spreading. Wowee Wow Wow!!! I was at stage 0! Didn’t even know there was such a thing. Treatment options were lumpectomy followed by radiation or a mastectomy. During the lumpectomy Dr. Ruark would remove 5 cm or 2 inches from my breast (trust me it wouldn’t make a dent). At stage 0 a mastectomy wasn’t even an option in my mind. Though to be honest, removing these gargantuan breasts and starting over did pass through my mind. Think: I could see my feet, I wouldn’t worry about them smothering me while I slept, clothes would fit nicer . . . Decision made I opted for a lumpectomy followed by 6 weeks of radiation. We left feeling somewhat relieved and ready to tackle the next step.
Even though I was stage 0, I kept thinking, I have cancer in my body. How did that happen? What did I do to cause this? Was it diet, hereditary, stress? Was it somewhere else in my body? What if she operates and doesn’t get it all? Will my breast look different after the surgery? Will radiation hurt? My mind was reeling. Once again I had caved in to the “What If” syndrome. Would I ever learn?
As I said earlier, during this journey I found the mental battle to be as difficult as the physical battle; even tougher at times to be honest. I knew I needed the tools to help me navigate this. Sometimes it felt too overwhelming. I wasn’t the only one going through this cancer journey, my family was too. I wanted to insure when I spoke with my children I did it in a way that didn’t overwhelm them. I called my friend Natalie and therapist. The first thing Natalie said to me was “Stay in the present moment. Don’t think any farther than now”. Letting my mind wander to the What Ifs wouldn’t serve me. This is one of the most important lessons cancer taught me. It ties in with Enjoy your Nows. Every moment is precious – thinking about the What Ifs would not help me.
Natalie also reminded me to remember to Breathe. Yes, I know you are all saying Duh? We all breathe. But do you really breathe? Most of us don’t really take a breath we shallow breathe. She reminded that a deep cleansing breath helps calm and center you. I put this into practice throughout my journey. When I started to panic I would stop and take three deep cleansing breaths. It truly helped me stay calm and centered.
Staying in the now and remembering to breathe – two important components to my healing journey.