The Cancerous Gumball

I’ve had my share of life’s problems, lessons learned, relationship heartaches but by the time it all hit me it was in February of 2009. I went to see a new PCP.  She prescribed anti anxiety pills along with antidepressants and wanted me to take time off of work. I was on medical leave for about a week when I happened to feel a gumball size lump on the right side of my breast near my armpit. What the hell was that? It was movable and hurt to the touch. I immediately called my mom into inspect. The next day we called my PCP and they fit me in. The Doctor was more concerned with the depression and how the meds were working. I seemed okay but now my focus was on this alien sitting on the right side of my chest. She performed an exam and said it seemed as if it could be fibrodenoma which is common and nothing to worry about. She gave me a script for an MRI. As we left the PCP’s office I got on the phone to schedule the MRI but the nurse told me that I had to be menstruating to get an MRI on my breast. Well needless to say…I wasn’t on my period. Okay so now what? Just sit here and let this thing hang out in my chest? We called the Doctor back and she then scheduled me to have a bilateral breast ultrasound. What was found was a complex mass in the upper right breast at 10 o’clock. The letter I received stated “Your exam revealed the presence of findings which need further workup.” No freaking duh it does!!! Having movable gumballs in your body isn’t normal! Anyone can tell you that! I happened to have an appointment with my Gyn for a pre-op appt due to me having severe back pains and lower pelvic pains. We wanted to rule out endometriosis. As I was at the visit I mentioned the gumball and the ultrasound I had recently done. She felt and agreed something was there but it was most likely fibrodenoma. As I was walking out of her office she handed me a paper with a Breast Surgeon’s name on it and said that if I was concerned then I should make an appointment to see him. I took her advice and scheduled the appointment. It was originally set for an in office biopsy. I showed up to the office and was amazed at how friendly the staff was and their decorations of butterflies everywhere. I felt at ease even when I should have been nervous. They call my name and my mom comes in the room with me. We wait a few minutes and then we are greeted with a nice looking “just want to grab and hug you teddy bear “doctor. He introduces himself and his staff and I’m overwhelmed at the love and compassion I’m already feeling. This office is full of positive energy. My mom explains the state of depression that I have sunk myself into and the Doctor actually took the time to talk to me and he let me know that he went through depression as well. After our heart to heart he whips out my sonogram films. “Whoa!” he says…not the words I was expecting. He explained the lump was most likely a cyst /fibrodenoma but instead of biopsying it in his office he decided it best to schedule surgery to have the mass removed. We scheduled the surgery for 3/4/09.

I went to the hospital for my pre-op and was welcomed by sweet caring pre-op nurses. Oh, I haven’t mentioned that I’m deathly afraid of needles and blood draws. I worked at a Cancer Center in FL and we had monthly blood drives. I tried it once and was the laughing stock of the hour on that darn bus. I was such a wimp and kept complaining that I was going to pass out. Anyways, back to the pre-op appointment, of course they had to do blood work but I’m getting better at the chit chatting while the needle is going in my vein and sucking my blood out like a thirsty leech. Okay so far so good, needle out, bandage on, surgery is scheduled. Piece of cake! Let’s get this annoying gumball out of my boob.

The morning of the surgery I wasn’t too scared, just anxious and of course hungry from fasting. I signed in and waited. My mom and I had a seat in the waiting room. A few minutes later my name is called and a nurse leads us to the preop area. My Mom helps me get undressed.  A big sarcastic,“Yeeahhhh” for the thin non-flattering, ass showing robe, and blue smurf feet slippers. I’m taken to the pre-operative holding area and lay in my not so relax able bed. My mom is going a million miles a minute. Her nerves have got the best of her. My vitals are taken. The nurses inject the IV…woo…another needle, still creeping me out especially since it’s now taped to my arm. As I’m trying to be calm my nurse comes over to talk to me. They were so sweet and nourishing. My Dad couldn’t make it before I went in for surgery since he works in Lakeland but he promised to be there the moment I woke up.  I’m feeling drowsy and pretty much in a happy state. I’m wheeled into the surgical room. It’s a lot like the movies and TV shows…bright lights, metal objects, cold. Almost like an alien abduction, people wearing masks and scrubs and moving you around poking at you. “Okay Angela, 1, 2, 3 lift” as I slide off the bed and onto the cold metal table. Brrrrr… can someone turn the heat on? Shouldn’t I be comfortable in this setting? Before I realize it, I’m out. I wake up comfortably yet very silly according to my Mom and Dad. The biopsy/surgery went well so we go home to rest and wait for results.

 

On 3/6/09 we get a call to come immediately to the Breast Surgeon’s office. No words are needed during the car drive as I’m now aware of the situation… this gumball is bad news. As I sat in the office, he said the lump he biopsied was cancer. He diagnosed with stage 2 triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma (breast cancer) at the age of 29. He told me that I needed to have a lumpectomy, chemo, and radiation. He also said that since I was going to have chemo that he thought it was important for me to harvest and freeze my eggs since they might not survive the chemo.

On 4/25/09 I had my eggs harvested at Tampa General and then drove to UCH for the lumpectomy. I started chemotherapy at Moffitt Cancer Center which was followed with radiation. The journey itself was a struggle but I fought it and Im a better person for going through it. In October of 2009 I was told I was clear. I have to get an MRI this month to check if Im still clear. Its ironic how something so evil, can turn your life around instantly to make you appreciate every aspect of life. I went from being sad, insecure, and scared to someone who is ready for whatever life has in store.

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