The latest from Heather Jose:
I can remember almost everything about the doctor's visit that set the ball rolling. My husband, daughter and I went to it on a Tuesday evening. We thought it would be a nice chance to catch up with Meredith, seeing as we hadn’t talked to her in over a year. Meredith went to med school with my brother. That coupled with the fact that she delivered my baby, made us a little more than the typical doctor/patient.
It started with the niceties and went downhill from there. I wanted to talk about the recurring pain in my sternum. It wasn’t terrible or anything, a couple of ibuprofen could knock it out, but still it was there. She, however, wanted to talk about my left breast.
“Has the nipple always been retracted?” she asked.
It hadn’t, it all started while I was pregnant. Both of my breasts were changing like never before. I had inquired about it, but everyone said that things change when you are pregnant.
So here I was fourteen months after delivering my daughter being told that this was not normal. Meredith even asked if I minded having another colleague come in and take a look.
Starting to freak out a bit I began pressing for information wanting to know what she thought it was.
“It could be a cyst, or a benign tumor. Or,” hesitating, “it could be cancer.”
I didn’t know anything about cancer at that point except that I didn’t want to have it.
Meredith worked fast and the very next day the testing began. I had a mammogram and an ultrasound all the while being told that I was too young to have breast cancer.
My day ended by lying on a table crying silent tears with Meredith at my feet. What had started as a procedure to try to extract liquid ended up as a core needle biopsy. Liquid would have been good, meaning that it was not solid and therefore not a tumor. The resident doing everything was a newbie. His supervisor looked on. I have since learned that things are always more painful when the process is being talked about in depth as it happens. He was finally able to get a good sample that was sent to the lab to determine my fate.
We went home and back to work the next day. I spent the day convincing myself that it would be fine. I even told a colleague about it saying that it was probably nothing. My delusions were shattered that afternoon when Meredith called.
I answered and she asked if my husband was home. When I told her yes she asked if he could get on a phone too. I knew then that it wasn’t good.
“It’s cancer,” she told us. “I knew yesterday, but I thought I would give you one more normal day.”
Ugh… the end of normal. I sat on my bed calmly asking what would happen next all the while shaking uncontrollably. Cancer? Are you kidding me? I was twenty-six years old. I had a 14 month-old daughter. I had just resigned from my job just to accept a new position closer to home.
Evidently I wasn’t too young to have breast cancer…
This was the beginning for me. No one ever wants to hear that they have cancer. I certainly never thought it would happen. Though we cannot change the facts, we can determine how we will deal with it. That really can make all the difference.
I felt as though I was thrown head first down a dark tunnel. All I could do was hang on at first, and even that was hard. But somewhere deep inside me I made one decision. I decided to fight. Hard.
If you are a survivor you know what day normal went away. The question is what did you do next?
ABOUT HEATHER JOSE:
Diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer at 26, Heather Jose, chose to fight the cancer head on putting together a plan to battle cancer on a daily basis. Nine years later Heather is healthy and using her experiences to reach healthcare providers and patients about how much their actions and words can impact success.
Heather is the author of “Letters to Sydney: Every Day I am Killing Cancer” and a contributing writer for the Breast Cancer Wellness Magazine. Heather also blogs at www.GoBeyondTreatment.com and www.Mlive.com/health. Jose lives in Michigan with her husband, children, and pets.
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