“Cancer may have started the fight, but I will finish it.”
It all started when…
Almost two weeks ago, I was up late and just happened to run my hand across my chest. I felt this mass that I hadn't felt before. Immediately I was freaked out and got into the doctor first thing that Monday morning. She was concerned and ordered the ultrasound. Yikes! Friday, I went in for the ultrasound at Huntsman and they ordered a mammogram and also wanted to do a biopsy. I was scared. I'm not gonna lie. It's unsettling to go into a facility knowing that they are going to take a piece of you to try and find cancer. Cancer. The big C word that everyone hates. I hate cancer. I think of several people that have died that I loved dearly. Bill Cudd and Deborah Marrs are two that pop into my mind. What the....? I put on my brave face for the biopsy. I smiled and took a picture in my gown, even though in reality I was scared. I hate hospitals. I got a blessing. It was specific. It said to listen to the council of my doctors and nurses. That wasn't very comforting when I went in for the ultrasound. Afterwards, I was given another blessing by a group of extended family and friends. This one specifically said I would be healed in the Lord's time and to have patience. Well....that was also not as comforting as one would hope. But I felt it was a way to get me to prepare my heart and mind for what was coming. After the biopsy, I had to wait 3-5 business days. That's it. Just 3-5 BUSINESS days. I tried to be patient on Tuesday and Wednesday but by Thursday I was going crazy. I'll never forget looking down at the phone and realizing that this was the call I have been waiting for these few days.
There's so many thoughts and feelings right now. There's also a bunch of emptiness. Today, October 11, 2018, I got the news no one ever wants to hear. The nurse called me on the phone and said, "I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but it came back positive for cancer." What? There was a moment of silence and I immediately put on a brave face and asked a few follow up questions before hanging up. I remember where I was when I got the call. I needed to use the restroom at work and as I walked in, my phone started ringing so I walked back out to go outside. She asked if this was a good time. No. No it's not a good time. I'm in the middle of the school day and you're calling to possibly alter the rest of my life. But when is a good time to call someone and tell them they have cancer. When's the best time to do that? After hanging up with her, I walked to my principal and asked for them to cover my classes for a moment so I could take a minute to compose myself. My principal was great. He let me go home after I came back in. It was the worst. I cried. I hate crying. There were lots of tears though. I called a friend and then I had to hang up due to several phone calls from the hospital for the followup care. My mind was still spinning from the news but I had decisions that needed to be made. Where do you want to be treated for this? I'm in Utah. I've been here since February but this is still a foreign land to me. I made the decision to stick it out with Huntsman Cancer Institute. I will be treated by the team of doctors there. They have a reputation for being great at what they do, so why mess with that.
I called a former teacher, now friend of mine. She had cancer when she was 27. I knew that she would understand completely what I was dealing with at that time. She helped me keep from losing it in the parking lot of my job. I was grateful to just hear her calming voice. She's been that support since she met me in 2005 and I'm forever grateful for her. She convinced me to actually go home instead of staying at work for the rest of the day. I knew that I didn't have it in me but sometimes I'm stubborn and like to pretend I'm SuperWoman. No Wonder Woman. Wonder Whitby.
I called a friend and instead of going home and crying on my own couch all day long, I went to her couch and cried. I cried for the uncertainty of the future. I cried because I was scared. I cried because I felt alone. I cried because I already knew that I'd have to face this in Utah instead of being home with my family. I cried because I wanted my mommy. I cried because I was tired. I cried because this meant having to take more time off work. I cried because I knew that the Lord's timing for my healing wasn't gonna be something I liked! I cried because I honestly didn't know what else to do. I cried because I could.
Next came the task of telling my village. I use the term village because it takes a village to raise a child and a village is needed to keep us all on track. We can't do life alone. I have some amazing prayer warriors and I needed them. Well, there was my mom. I don't know that I can truly talk about that experience until I'm free and clear, or until she's dead. I went from crying to this chipper happy person in 1.5 secs flat. I needed my mom to believe I was ok. She tried to read me something about it later and I wouldn't let her. I just encouraged her to trust my doctors like I planned to do. It took some work but she held it together. At least for me. My dad, he asked a few questions, but in his defense, he didn't even know about the lump until I called him to tell him I had cancer. He was completely blindsided, but I needed to save him from as much worry as possible. Everyone else got a text. That may seem heartless but we're in the day and age of texting important things. I had a village to reach and that would have been too many more phone calls. I wanted to rip the band-aid off of owning it. Cancer is battle to fight now.
The next thing I remember is extreme exhaustion. So much so that I actually managed to fall asleep for a few hours. I honestly didn't mean to fall asleep. One minute I was up and the next there was a knock on the door and dinner was being served by an angel. It was great to be in a home where I knew I was loved. But when I woke up I realized that my chest still hurt from the biopsy and that it was all in fact, very real. I have breast cancer.
Am I surprised? No. The Lord prepared me for that. Am I still overwhelmed...absolutely. I had this moment where I wanted to pray to the Lord and tell Him what was going on, but I know He already knows I have cancer. It's not some big revelation to him. I've shed MORE THAN A TEAR today. Crazy. So crazy. I don't want to go to work tomorrow but I know that a routine will save me. I need to thank my co-workers for helping me with my classes yesterday. It's been insane. The tears come and go. Reality is a beast. I should be sleeping but all I can think about is how I'm going to get things done. I'm going to survive cancer.
This is my journey. My road to breast cancer survival. My desire always has been and always will be to become and do what the Lord would have me be and do. I'm going to learn that lesson one way or the other. The funny thing is, people commend me for dealing with this head on and not avoiding it. And I know people will look to see how I deal with this in the future. My only response is just a simple question of what else am I suppose to do? Was I suppose to ignore this giant lump in my chest? Was I suppose to pretend like the doctor didn't call me today and forever change my life? To me, there was no other option but to deal with it. I want to live. And I know that even when times get really hard, I want to live and that's gonna have to trump anything else I might be feeling. Do I want to have surgery? No. Do I want to live? Yes. So surgery I must. Do I want chemo or radiation? No. Do I want to live? Yes. So treatment is a must. I guess when you take giving up off the board, getting through truly becomes your only option. From then on, the battle is just figuring out the how. How do I get through?
I joined groups for people with breast cancer today. What? Me. Yes me. I have breast cancer. That's my new normal. I'll not be able to get away from this disease for a minute, but I will control the narrative. Even now, I pause to find more groups to join. I don't want to read too much about cancer online because I know not all of it will apply to me and that would be borrowing trouble. Something I've been advised not to do. But these groups just bring tears to my eyes. I have to choose to believe that I will be healed and that I don't have to expect the worse. Otherwise, I am about to have a shift in paradigm. A major one. I'm not ready to look death in the face yet.
I wish I were closer to home. I wish I could just go and be surrounded by those I love. I wish I didn't have to put on a brave face. I wish that I could just accept my weakness and move on but I can't. I have to be brave because people need it. I need it. Gosh, this is just so weird. I will go into work tomorrow and I'm not sure how the day will go, but I will give it my best shot. I love my kids. They drive me crazy, but I love them. I need to sleep, but my brain won't turn off. It's all so crazy. Crazy crazy crazy.