Friday, July 25, 2014

I have cancer.

It's so weird to say that.  Today I was telling my friend Megs that I have "a little bit of cancer."  But it's like being pregnant - you're not "a little bit pregnant."  You're pregnant, or you're not.  You have cancer, or you don't.

I actually had a premonition about this.  Years ago, in fact.  I was pregnant with Gage and deathly ill.  And I remember thinking, "This is what it must feel like to have a really horrible illness.   Like cancer.  I wonder if this is what it feels like to be doing chemotherapy."  And something in my brain whispered to myself, "You are going to have cancer one day, you know."

I shoved that thought deep down into my brain and said, "Stop being overdramatic, brain.  Honestly.  How macabre can you BE?"

Then, when I found the lump in Lefty, I just...knew.  I knew I probably had it.  So I wasn't surprised when my doc ordered a mammo, and when my mammo was scary, and when I had to have a biopsy.  And I wasn't surprised when she called me from her cell phone on her day off today to break the news to me.

Also, I had another strong premonition last night, when I was doing my janitorial job.  I just knew what the results were going to be.  And I cried and cried while I vacuumed.

So, my cancer is called Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.  It started out (who knows when) in my duct.  And if we had found it at that time and done a lumpectomy, that would have been the end of it.  They might have done precautionary radiation.  But my cancer has now spread into the other tissue of my breast.  The lump I felt actually is a fibroid.  The cancer is a bunch of teeny dots nowhere near the fibroid.  Like the milky way. Everything else in the x-rays looks mooshy and smooth.  It's the dots that you can't feel that are the bad guys, in this case.

What is so cool is that we even found it at all.  If I hadn't had this lump, we would never have investigated it. We wouldn't have caught it until more damage had been done and had spread more.  Because they're not lumps.  They're teeny little dots.  Hundreds of teeny little dots.

We have a consultation with a general surgeon on Monday, and we'll discuss treatment options.  Obviously, we've been doing a lot of online research, and it sounds like, in most cases, women with IDC (I am an initials queen, but they actually call it that on all these medical websites) usually get a lumpectomy, and then radiation.  And then they'll usually take out a couple of lymph nodes in your armpit and test them to make sure it hasn't spread.  I guess the lymph nodes are where the cancer goes next, after it has conquered the boob.

And radiation - it's not the stuff that makes your hair fall out.  That's chemo.  Radiation is the laser thing.  They say the worst side effect is that you feel like you have a sunburn - red, itchy, sometimes the skin in the area peels a little...

I don't know how much they'll have to remove in the lumpectomy, but if it's a huge chunk, I really don't want to be...lopsided.  Or if they had to do a mastectomy just on one side and put in a fakie, I think that would also look really weird.  One fakie and one normal?  That would just look really bad as I grow older.  One perky and one hanging low, you know what I mean?  So I don't know.  We'll have to discuss that.  I don't know when he'll get me in for surgery.  Hopefully soon.  I don't know how many times I have to do radiation.  I don't know if it's months or weeks.

All I know is that our insurance runs out at the end of August and I have to make preparations.  Ben's new job doesn't have group coverage, so we'll have to go onto Obamacare.  Or do COBRA.  I might have reached my deductible by the end of August, so it might be cheaper to do COBRA than to start over with the deductible on Obamacare.

How am I doing emotionally?  Surprisingly, really well.  I swear it's times like these that the Spirit kind of pours you out a double dose of peace.  I cried a little.  And then I told my family and cried a little more.  And then I went out and raked our back yard.  I needed to do something physical and aggressive.  It felt good.  I had three cokes, which was a dumb decision, but right now, dieting is the last thing on my mind.  And coke makes me happy.  I'm not mad at Heavenly Father.  For now.  I'm sure I'll run the gamut of feelings with this thing.  It won't be pleasant.  But it is what it is.  I'll get through it with Heavenly Father's help.  I truly believe that everything we go through is for a reason.

We did tell the ninos.  I wanted to be as honest, yet comforting, as I could.  I think it's important to give your kids as much information as possible.  I let them know that most women do really well when they get treatment for this, and that I'll be just fine.  I told them that cancer is a very scary thing, and you don't mess around with it.  You get treated for it.  But that I was going to be treated and that I needed their help to be really nice to each other and to do their chores to help me.

I actually went to the temple with my mom and sestrah (have you seen Orphan Black?  There's a Ukrainian girl on there that says "sestrah" for "sister") this morning, and Nat and I got endowments done for two of our ancestors that are sisters!  So, so cool.  But when I was inside the temple, I had some new insights.  Even though I hadn't gotten THE PHONE CALL yet, it's fair to say that we've been going through some stuff, and I really was able to internalize the importance of going through trials so that you can appreciate the blessings. The good times.  The beautiful things.

So my goal is to take mental snapshots of things that are beautiful.  Things that make me happy.  Because they're all around me.  They're in Gage's infectious giggle.  They're in the bright flowers my mom brought me (and the two cokes she brought me).  They're in my dad doing as much research as he could about insurance on my behalf.  They're in Ben's warm, strong hug.  They're in Dylan's gangly 11-year-old awkwardness.  Or Sadie's constant smile.  Or Micah's love of snuggling.  Even in Pepper's nasty dog breath in my face as we napped together on the couch this afternoon.  There is beauty in the ashes of life.  And I'm choosing to focus on the beauty.

I'll let you know what goes on and when I'm going under the knife, as they say.  I really feel like I'll be okay.  If it was brain cancer or pancreatic cancer, I would probably be reacting differently.  I actually feel like I'm in this cool club now - I can be all, "It's October!  Cancer awareness month!  Let's do the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure!  Let's buy me a shirt that says, 'Breast Cancer Survivor!'  I survived CANCER!"  Even if I lost my hair, I'd be like, "Sweet.  I don't have to do my hair."  And I could wear those cool decorative head scarves.  Or, if I'm like, "Bennn, I want to buy some ice cream," and he's all, "We can't afford it," I can be like, "Fine.  Don't give the girl with cancer ice cream..." All passive-aggressive-like.  Or if my kids don't do their chores, I can lay on the guilt trip pretty thick.  "I have cancer and can't do all the chores, you guys.  You promised you'd help me..."  Ben bought one of my new favorite songs on iTunes today.  Pretty sure he did that because I'm the poor girl with cancer, and he knew it would give me a pick-me-up to have this song on my playlist.

Am I evil or what?  Forgive me.  I'm not trying to make light of it.  I'm just trying to make it seem less heavy. Which actually makes light of it.  Hm.  Humor is how I cope.  So, sorry/not sorry.  I'm going to find the humor in all of this as well as the beauty.  Because I have cancer, dammit.  I'm allowed to deal with it in the way that works for me.


Mindy H. said...

You are my hero. Really. Truly.
I love that you react with faith and humor. It reminds me of how President and Sister Hinckley responded to hard things. Amazing.
I am doubling down on my prayers for you and your family, and when I roll into town in the next week or two I will attempt to be physically helpful too. Please don't be shy about making needs known. So many people will want to help. You will need to come up with a to do list for us so nobody in the "we love Kar and her rouge boob club" will be left out. Please let us know what we can do. I love your guts!

Brooke Stephens said...

You are an amazing example of strength. My Aunt and Great Grandma both passed from cancer. I know its going to be tough, but your a fighter. And if you get least you will not have sagging boobies that NO amount of push up bras can help. I love you so much! I will help anyway I can. ��

Brooke Stephens said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nyline said...

If i was close to you, i would give you a great big hug...I love you my friend! I am sorry you have a little bit of cancer. It sucks...royally. You are one amazing person and you are a bit of a feisty one. If anyone can kick cancer's booty it will be you. I know that asking for help can be difficult but, i have several friends that have used something called "fund me" where people can donate money for someone's expenses, medical bills, other bills while you are undergoing treatment. think about it. so many people want to help. I can't do much for you except pray for you. Not that it won't help tremendously but, i can donate on a monetary basis and would like to. it can help ease some stress of financial burden. Love you Kar. I am so glad you found the lump that wasn't cancer so that you could find the ACTUAL cancer.

Pam L said...

I don't know you and I have never met you. I only read your wonderful blog when I need help coming up with ideas for a lesson. But, when I read your blog today, it brought tears to my eyes. You are an amazing person with an amazing testimony... I can tell, not because I have been your friend for years, or because you are part of my family, but from what you write in your blog. Crazy, huh? I have never met you, but I am so inspired by you! My prayers are with you and your family. Thank you for uplifting us all with your wonderful sense of being "you". May God give you and your family strength to endure and to overcome this awful thing called cancer!

Aryn Willhite said...

You are an amazing example. I have LOVED and used your blog so many times for SS I can't even count. Thank you for your selfless service for those that have no imagination (me). Good luck for all that is to come! Keep your wonderful sense of humor and faith. It will be a blessing to you as you go through this. Thank you again for all you do! My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family! You can beat this!

crmccaffree said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your diagnosis. I recently went through the same process up to the biopsy and waiting to hear the results. Even though mine came back benign this time, I also feel like it's just a matter of time for me. I'll pray for your options and decisions to be clear. You have a great attitude about it all!

I love and use your ideas for my SS class as often as I can. Thank you for your inspiration in those lessons and in your life.

Megan said...

Oh kar, you are so amazing! I'm so glad you have felt peace in this! And I love the way you are coping by being funny. Mark is the same way when bad stuff happens and it does help me feel better. I was laughing and crying as I read this. You are so strong! I love you so much!

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