On Friday, the day after the diagnosis, I woke up sad and scared. The weather in Honolulu had been dismal for a few days and the rain only added to my dread. I decided I would try to take Katie shopping in the morning, since our earlier outing had been cancelled. I wasn’t looking forward to it. I dreaded my meeting with Dr. Yee, the surgeon in charge of my case, but I feared being late for it. I knew things needed to be done in a hurry.
I left with Katie around nine, and even though things stayed damp, I slowly realized that I was glad we went. We window-shopped and bought chocolates and cocoa and sat under an umbrella in the rain. We had a serious, sometimes uncomfortable heart-to-heart discussion about what was to come and some of her concerns. In her teen years, Katie has been a joy to me. We’ve been very close. She jealously guards her time with me. I’m not sure if anything I said comforted her in any way, but I knew I had to be honest with her.
I was almost late to the appointment anyway. I thought I left at a reasonable time, but traffic was at a standstill on the freeway, I still had errands to run and I had to get home to pick up Ryan. Then, I was nearly home when I noticed my gas gauge was on “empty.”
I was stressed now; I had been monitoring the time so closely. What happened? I’m never late. I am compulsively early for every appointment. And here I was, about to be late to the most important meeting of my whole life.
Fortunately, Ryan and I managed to get there with a few minutes to spare. I was led into a room with a nurse and she told me that I was scheduled for two more tests on Tuesday; a CT scan and a bone scan. She told me a few things about Dr. Yee, and then she showed me a PowerPoint presentation about breast surgery and post-operative care.
Nothing could prepare me for the pictures I saw during the PowerPoint. It started off with a lot of hopeful, encouraging information. I learned what I would need to do after the operation, about statistics, and about treatment. I was convinced for a few minutes that it might even be easy. But then the pictures reminded me of why I was there. I was probably going to lose a breast.
Dr. Yee came in. She came in with a lot of paperwork, all describing my condition. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Possibly at stage two, since there were signs that the cancer had invaded my lymph nodes. I would, indeed, need a mastectomy. I would be able, at some point well after my recovery, to opt for reconstruction, involving another surgical procedure. In the meantime, I would be provided with padded garments. All was covered under Kaiser insurance. (Ryan was impressed that there was such a thing as a prescription for Neiman Marcus.) I was also scheduled for genetic testing to determine if I have the BRCA gene, which would be one of the few reasons to fear the cancer spreading to the other side.
After all that, oddly, things felt better. I had information. Things were scheduled. I knew what needed to be done.
Dr. Yee is wonderful. Ryan especially appreciated the time she took to answer every question. And to me, she seemed confident and knowledgeable. I feel I’m in good hands.
That doesn’t stop the fear, though.
Sometimes I feel like this will be just another story to tell. This is no big deal, I say to myself. You’ll be out of the hospital the day after the surgery. But then the fear creeps in, quietly, and I’m paralyzed.
I feel so many emotions over the course of a day that it scares me. This weekend was full of those moments. It otherwise felt like a normal weekend. We had the typical weekend things to do. And I realized that life is not going to stop. I have no time to be afraid, or to curl into a ball and cry, because I still have things to do.
I was especially afraid of Tuesday’s tests.