Sunday, January 29, 2012

From The Beginning

On Saturday December 3rd, 2011 I found a lump in my left boob when I was showering. I think it was the new slippery soap I was using that made me really notice it.  Finding it alarmed me. I knew it wasn't normal breast tissue so I made my way to see my GP first thing on Monday. She seemed to think it would be a cyst because of my age but she sent me for an ultra sound to check it out.

Up to the date of the ultra sound I was completely calm and care-free... I really was not worried at all and thought for sure they would tell me it is a simple cyst that I didn't need to remove it because it would eventually go away. But the date of the ultra sound everything changed for me. I knew when the tech called the radiologist in that something wasn't right. A series of questions about family breast health history and whether I had someone with me waiting for me at the hospital made me panic inside. Next I was being ushered in for a mammogram. I sat in that room with what felt like a wrench lodged in my throat. I felt sick to my stomach. I knew that the way the ultra sound tech and doctor reacted that this was not normal. The initial thought of cancer made me go into a state of anxiety and I asked the mammogram tech for water. She didn't bring me any... but I somehow made it through without needing to throw up in the nearest receptacle.

Waiting for any kind of test result is brutal. Bottom line. But when it is 10 days before Christmas and you are waiting to find out if you have cancer, it seems even worse. I got through those days but not without a lot of tears and fear. Deep down I knew that this was going to be a difficult next few months. To eliminate some stress, Mike and I decided to cancel our trip to Bali that had been planned in case the news was bad. We couldn't even bring ourselves to tell anyone at Christmas that we were no longer going because we wanted to wait until the results were in. It was all just too depressing to have to explain.

At Christmas time I started thinking about the 'what ifs' and found myself going down some dark little alley-ways in my mind. I was somewhat distracted though by some Christmas family get-togethers and a night with friends on New Year's Eve.

December 30th I was called to see my doctor for Tuesday, January 3rd. The amount of anxiety bottled up before this appointment was a lot to deal with... I struggled very much during this time. I was getting used to the not knowing... it was almost comfortable in that place... knowing the day that I was going to find out after the weekend made me wish 2012 would just not come at all.

Mike met me at work the morning of January 3rd (One full month from when I first discovered the lump) and we drove to my appointment. Being told it was not good news by my doctor was like a kick to the stomach. I didn't cry. I just tensed up and took it. I asked a lot of questions and somehow managed to remember everything that was said afterwards. Poor Mike was devastated. He had really been so sure that it was going to be good news. I think when it is happening to you though, your intuition kinda kicks in and gives you a little preview in your mind on what is in store for you.

So it was breast cancer. The aggressive kind but treatable. I didn't learn more until my appointment with my surgeon later that week. She laid it all out for me... the treatment options down the road, the surgery risks, reconstructive options, the fertility preservation, the upcoming appointments. I felt very taken care of.

After the initial consult with my surgeon every day blended into another. Sometimes I don't even know what day of the week it is. It has been such a blur. And yet I am magically retaining most of the information thrown at me. But rather me go into great detail about every single appointment I'm going to sum it up right here with all the facts that I now have about my type of cancer.

  • I have stage II Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma (80% of breast cancers are ductal meaning they start in the milk ducts)
  • Estrogen + and Progesterone + (meaning the tumour is fed by these hormones and thus will respond to hormone suppressive therapy as treatment)
  • Initially I had been told I had the HER2 Protein which is an aggressive and more unpredictable difficult type of gene to beat. But on January 25 I found out I am NEGATIVE for the HER2 protein. Hallelujah!! This saves me 13 months of treatment that would have followed after chemo. Praise the Lord!!
  • I will be getting a mastectomy on my left breast and will undergo immediate reconstructive surgery. I will wake up with a new boobie after surgery! (And a reduction on my right know, so I am balanced out and not lop-sided) 
  • My oncologist thinks I will need 8 rounds of chemo. A total of 6 months. 
  • All of my bloodwork has been normal. Yay!
  • My Xray showed no sign of other problems with my lungs or heart. Double Yay!
  • My MRI showed 2 tumours in my left breast. Sizes are estimated to be 3 cm and 1.3 cm (this could change as I have been told they are usually smaller than what the MRI or ultra sound pathology reports say) 
  • The MRI also showed a suspect lymph node in my armpit. I had a biopsy Jan 26 and will know in a few days if it is positive or negative for cancer. If it is positive my stage will change to stage III.
  • If my lymph node tests positive I will need radiation.
  • Mikey and I are freezing embryos! That's right... I said it. After surgery we will have an intensive period of time at the PCRM fertility clinic where we will be preserving some future babies in case the chemo gives me hard time and makes me infertile. BUT! I hear most women under 35 who have had chemo end up being able to conceive naturally. So, there is hope! But at least with the embryo preservation we will have our in-vitro B Plan. 
  • After chemo and radiation I am told I will be on an hormone suppressive drug called Tamoxifen. For FIVE years! Yes, I am not too thrilled about this. It means I will be putting quite a bit on hold for a while since Tamoxifen and child-bearing doesn't mix. 

So... How am I really doing?
It is emotional at times, definitely...mainly at night time when I lay in bed with all of the spinning thoughts in my mind. I have found peace in meditation, breathing exercises, having Mike by my side and the idea of taking everything one step at a time. Day by day. Moment by moment. It is tough not to let our minds get too far ahead of where we are at in this present time. But remembering that seems to be the key to how I am coping.

I have had incredible support from family, friends, co-workers and people I have never even met before. My Mum has come back from Ontario to help me out during this time and I could not be more grateful for this. Having cancer makes you worthy of a Mama around to help take care of you! I have had phone calls from old friends, emails galore and cards from past co-workers. I am feeling the LOVE people! Thank you!

And my Mikey... he has been absolutely amazing through all of this. The guy is seriously the dream. The amount of love and support this man gives me is unreal. He puts up with my moods, holds me when I need to have a good cry session, makes me green smoothies and is shaving his head with me before the chemo gets it. He's just great! I think I will keep him :)

As a whole I am feeling positive and lifted up by so much of the support that has been sent my way. I have found a strength within me that I had no clue was even there. Facing something like cancer is a total wake up call... it makes changes your life completely and about so much. For me, I went into full on survival mode... what could I do to make this better faster? What foods should I avoid? What will promote more oxygen in my body to help kill the cancer?

The way I see it is I have two choices...or two roads to choose from... 
1. I could take the shitty road and let this cancer get to me, do nothing, worry, stress and depress me down into a 'feel sorry for myself' mope fest
2. I could kick some serious cancer ass, make healthy choices, eat an insane amount of greens, fight it by keeping faith and a positive attitude and not allow cancer to define who I am.

Someone recently said to me in an email "I may have had cancer, but cancer didn't have me."
Thanks for that. 

I'll be taking the kicking ass and winning high road on this journey! :)


  1. Hi Ashley - I am sending you a great big hug and kiss from Edmonton - I was so happy to hear from your Dad today and the surgery went well - now it is time for that healing process - We are all thinking of you and can't wait for you to feel better so we can come and see you
    Love you lots Aunt Karen

  2. I found you on Instagram and am starting to read your blog. I found my lump Jan 2010, two days before moving. Like you, the GP figured it was a cyst so I didn't worry. Stage 2, grade 2, progesterone and oestrogen positive, not HER positive. Am in year two of Tamoxifen.