Normally I try to keep my author page and blog as book related as possible, but I’m going to break that for this post. I've been going back and forth on whether or not I wanted to say this, and a conversation I had with somebody recently solidified that I should, so here I go.
Breast cancer to be exact.
Last month while I was in the shower, complaining about how I forgot to put a new loofa in, I found a lump on my left breast. I immediately called my doctor to see if they would give me a prescription for a mammogram, they said no. “No, Claire, you’re only thirty, you have at least ten years before you start getting those done, but come to our office so we can have a look.”
They were concerned enough to send me in for a sonogram. The sonogram warranted enough worry for the mammogram. The mammogram results came back and they said they needed a biopsy. The biopsy came back and they had me go in for an MRI. The MRI came back and confirmed that I, indeed, have Stage 2a Breast Cancer (which, in my specific case means that it's a little bigger than what a stage 1 looks like, and "a" means I have no genetic family history of it--this is a very good thing for me).
I’m not telling you this because I want you to feel sorry for me (please don’t). I’m not telling you this because I want outpouring love and attention (if you know me, you know that’s not my style). Before this happened I never thought of cancer as such a personal thing. I saw it as “cancer, the disease that has taken some of my loved ones. The disease that has taken some of my friends’ loved ones and given them grief over their family members.” I didn’t see it as “cancer, a disease I would feel weird telling people I had, if I had it.”
But then I was diagnosed, and I kind of wanted to keep it to myself. I kept thinking, “My God, these are my boobs. I fed my children with these. This feels so… personal.”
But I feel that as a woman, I should speak out about it because this could be you.
I’m telling you this because I was lucky (because I am lucky).
I’m telling you this because I listened to my body and didn't take any chances. I didn't say, “It’s just a lump, it’ll go away.” I didn't think, “Nobody in my family has cancer, why would I?”
I’m telling you this because I have always been a healthy person. Because every single doctor and nurse I've encountered in the past couple of weeks has looked at me and said, “This isn't supposed to be happening to you. You’re so young.”
But guess what? It is happening to me.
I’m telling you this because cancer has no age. It doesn't care if you’re healthy or young. It doesn't care how strong you think you are or about whether or not your toddlers depend on you. It doesn't care about your spouse, job or financial status. It doesn't care what car you drive, how many designer purses you own, or how many degrees you've earned.
Cancer doesn't care about your well being. She thrives on making her grand entrance when you’re least expecting her, because you never are.
I’m telling you this because I want you to listen to your body, whether you’re old enough for a mammogram or not. Pay attention. The doctor I was speaking to about this (the conversation that finally convinced me that I needed to come out with it), said that breast cancer in younger women is on the rise. She said that ninety percent of young women that are diagnosed don’t even have history of cancer in their families (I fall into that category). A lot of you are young, the majority of you are women, and IF (God forbid) you go through this, I don’t want it to be too late. I was fortunate enough to catch it and act on it when it was in the early stages.
I'm having double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery this week, just a few days after my son's 5th birthday (he's been planning his birthday trip to Disney World for months and I refuse to let this get in the way of it). After the surgery I will most likely be undergoing some rounds of chemotherapy. I know I have a long road ahead of me, but I have a great team of people beside me, behind me, and in front of me, leading the way and cheering me on. Aside from the million doctor’s appointments I've been going to lately, I've been working and writing and doing everything I normally do. I’m sure my schedule will slow down a bit while I’m recovering, but I know I’ll bounce right back.
PLEASE don’t take this as a “woe is me” post, because it’s not meant to be one. I’m strong, resilient, and I will get through this (and I really don’t like feelings of pity, so please don’t waste them on me). This is an awareness post; one I hope you can learn from. Hopefully it will make you pay close attention to your body.
If you see that I don’t respond to your messages or emails know that it’s not because I’m ignoring you. I just need to jump over a few hurdles before I come back… with new boobs (and books ;)).
Love you all to the moon and back.
Ps. Fuck cancer.
***Update on this: My surgery was successful (YAY!!). I've been in pain and discomfort, but am much, much better now. Yesterday I went to my medical oncologist and we spoke about chemotherapy. I found out that I will have to undergo chemo treatments. So for the next 4 months, I will be doing that, but once those are done I can officially (Lord willing) kiss this ENTIRE thing goodbye and turn the page on this chapter of my life. That's all for now. And cancer can still go fuck itself, that part hasn't changed :).