The Dream Team - Part 1.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017. I walk into UCLA Breast Center Santa Monica and the word Oncology is on the door. Where 'other' people used to go... I now go. They tell me to bring my husband and anyone else who I think will be helpful during this intake meeting. I will meet every person who will be involved in my treatment, and having at least one other person in the room can be helpful to make sure good notes are taken and all questions are asked and answered. 

One thing I learn very quickly, Oncology waiting rooms are actually very nice. They offer water, coffee and tea, and they have peaceful videos playing and the chairs are comfortable. I appreciate it. 

Love this sign!

Love this sign!

A woman shows up to take a group of us upstairs (it's like we're all in a club and getting initiated, but none of want to be members!) and on the way up I see a comforting sign about UCLA. I snap a picture and send it to my Mom to tell her, "I'm in good hands."

My husband is the only person with me. We sit in the room and wait for the first member of my new team to arrive. 

We look around, at each other, and at the binder sitting on the counter. This is all really happening. I'm officially a breast cancer patient, and the plan is about to get put into motion. I'm strangely more excited than nervous in this moment. Mostly because I'm ready to get this show on the road! 

 

 

 

The surgeon walks in and opens with, "Let's get you healthy!"

I'm in!

The magic binder!

The magic binder!

Week 2.

The MRI results come in and I'm alerted on my EPIC App. An app access medical info that I'd never considered downloading, until now. I open up the results, and this will be the first lesson in navigating the early days of diagnosis. Do NOT open a test result unless you know how to read it. I see words like high velocity, Lymph 1cm+, multiple masses, etc. I read it right before I head into a meeting, and I... Should. Not. Have.

I read it as... "Cancer. Cancer, everywhere." 

I get a call from my primary, while I'm in my meeting, and call her back afterwards. She is calling to go through the MRI results and she is pleased. What!? She says it confirms one cancerous mass (the others were actually cysts, but the terms were so technical, I didn't read it like that) and that the lymph nodes basically look good, one is questionable, but MRI's, it turns out, do miscalculate when it gets into sizing. It can see a lot, but depending on the angles, it may get the size wrong (as I will find out after surgery!). 

Relieved, I vow to never open another result unless I know what I'm looking at! 

After the meeting at work, I have set-up time to meet with the team I work with. I have decided to tell them so there are no surprises. I am met with the most amazing support! They immediately spring into action. Over the next week we all work on a plan so that I can work while I go through this, but also have the flexibility I need. What an amazing gift. 

The second week is easier than the first, but I still know almost nothing. I do A LOT of hiking and knitting. I also ask a friend, whose sister just went through this and works in oncology, if he can ask her if it is okay to drink alcohol. I didn't know if I should limit it and what the protocol was in this situation.

He texts back, "She says, 'I drank a fuck ton of booze after I was diagnosed.'"

I immediately open a bottle of wine and enjoy a nice glass (or 2, or 3) that night. I am just days away from meeting my team at UCLA, and then, we will have a plan, and things will move fast. So, I drink my wine, and actually enjoy the remaining days of 'calm' and no appointments.

I know everything is about to change.

 

All. The. Wine.

All. The. Wine.

April 24, 2017.

Just another Monday. Get up, make coffee, go to work and do everything I can to keep my brain from worrying about the test results. I won't even know anything until Tuesday or Wednesday, so I'll just keep doing what I do, and wait. Turns out the word wait will become a frequent word in my life. Hurry up... and... wait.

My day is done, I'm driving home and then, there it is... my Dr.'s phone number on my phone. Shocked at how fast UCLA had processed my biopsy, I answer. She can hear that I'm driving, so she says she'll call me back in twenty minutes. I know... If it were good news, she would have told me.

I get home and wait. Wait for the phone to ring. Finally, 45 minutes later, it rings. I'm sitting at the dining room table. She starts by asking me not to search Google for any words she is about to use. That it will not be helpful right now. She tells me it is Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Invasive, what? It's Estrogen positive, unclear on progesterone and she'll know more about HER2 by Wednesday. I have no idea what half of it really means, I only know it adds up to one word... cancer.

She continues... it's the most common type, treatable, caught early... and on she goes. I keep taking notes. If I just keep writing what she is saying, then everything will be okay. We set-up an appointment for Wednesday the 26th so she can go through the rest of the report with me when she gets more information. I'll have an MRI on Thursday and will figure out where I'll get treatment when I see her. 

This is the moment. The switch is officially flipped. I simultaneously freak the fuck out and see my life flash by and realize that I really like my life, and I want more of it. It was an interesting moment, for sure! Then I cry, scream and make myself nauseous. I can't even think about trying to eat dinner. My husband finally gets me to eat half a sandwich. Then I decide to call my friend who went through this twenty years ago and who is pragmatic and all about taking action. 

My friend answers, I'm bawling (I will learn later that she thought I was about to tell her that my husband an I were splitting up. Well, thank goodness that wasn't the topic!). I tell her, and she says, "Okay, now you know, and now you can take care of it." She goes on to say that this moment will be one of the hardest. The next two weeks, when I don't know much but am getting lots of tests, will require patience and waiting and knowing it will get better. 

My friend helped set the tone as I moved forward. I felt so much better knowing I was not alone, that I'd joined a club full of survivors and people who also had to get it done and move forward. 

I hung up the phone and went to bed. I awoke in the morning and for a few minutes I'd forgotten everything. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks and I cried. Then I got dressed, made coffee and on the way into work I called to confirm my MRI appointment. 

Then I walked through the world looking at people while thinking... they have no idea. I have breast cancer and everything seems normal, but it's anything but. 

 

One week before the call, I saw the most amazing flower display at Carrizo Plain National Monument

One week before the call, I saw the most amazing flower display at Carrizo Plain National Monument