On August 12, 2011, I heard these six words while sitting half-naked in an exam room at St. Barnabas Hospital - "We are dealing with Breast Cancer." Just like that, my doctor didn't beat around the bush or try to avoid the inevitable. She knew from one look at my ultrasound that it was cancer. Speechless, my mother and I stared at each other for a few seconds and then all I could come up with to console her was, "Don't worry, mom, you are going to die before me." I'm not sure if she found comfort in that, but we both laughed and I knew that finding humor was the only way to get through this.
It's funny how differently people take the "It's Breast Cancer" news. The first call I made was to Steve - my boyfriend, domestic partner, soul mate. My voice cracked when I shared the news and in his calmest voice he says, "OK, what's the next move." I gained strength right then in there because I knew he was the perfect person to take this journey with me. He is a rock. My rock. Quite differently, my dad cried uncontrollably and rushed to the hospital. They say girls marry men like their father, but that's not true in my case. Steve and my dad are polar opposites, but both personalities create balance in my life. What one doesn't give me, the other does.
When I was diagnosed with Stage IIb Breast Cancer, I knew from minute one that I would have a bilateral mastectomy. Sign me up for the most conservative approach and nice new fake boobs. At 34 years old, my plan was to go with the odds and choose the surgery that would give me the best chance of survival.
On the morning of September 15, 2011, I went into surgery, but not without drama first! Steve and I are in pre-op and in comes this blond Austrian anesthesiologist. She starts asking the standard questions, but then they started to appear strange, almost alarming. I ask, "Is there something wrong?" Her response, "Well, yes, it appears from your EKG that you've had a heart attack." That was it, I lost it. Long story short, Steve gets stern with the doctors, my dad almost has a heart attack when he finds out, and I get wheeled in for an Echocardiogram. My doctors have a "conference" and I get wheeled into the Operating Room. Turns out, my heart is completely fine according to the head of Cardiology at St. Barnabas Hospital.
I woke up in the recovery room about 5 hours later and the pain wasn't as bad as I expected. Definitely not as bad as my ACL knee surgery in '95 from a gymnastics injury. The first person I saw was Steve and the news wasn't great. The cancer spread to my lymph nodes and we'd have to wait a week to find out how many nodes were cancerous (all were removed in surgery and 8 ended up being cancerous). Within 24 hours I was released. Flat chested and a little drugged, I was home again. Round one was over and I was still standing.
Fast forward 3 months and I sit here today with a bald head from chemotherapy and a very different perspective on life. Sure, it hasn't been the best 3 months of my life, but I've seen people go through worse and I refuse to feel sorry for myself.
I developed a blog called Augustinterrupted.com in an effort to share my journey with friends, family and other women in my situation. My goal is to help women gain the same strength I have found through this journey and to find the positive in one of the world's most deadliest cancers.
From young executive to cancer patient, this is my journey about strength, humor and the fight to come out stronger on the other side.