This post has been a long time coming. I mean, months. Since April I have been mulling this idea over in my head, trying to make the words come, to describe my life and everything that has happened in it, but everything I tried ended up being exhausting and too much. I am not even sure that I will succeed now, but I will do my best. So, in honor of Breast Cancer awareness month, I give you: Summer 2017.
Let’s just start with the facts.
- April 2017: My mama found a volleyball sized tumor on her right ovary during a CT scan. On the 11th she had surgery to remove that tumor, do a complete hysterectomy, along with her ovaries and Fallopian tubes and repair her umbilical hernia. During this surgery, a second tumor, roughly the size of a baseball, was found on the left ovary, and there was evidence that it had metastasized to her bladder. Overall though, her surgeon was very optimistic that they had gotten everything, and that despite the size of these tumors, this cancer was still early stage. But it was a few weeks later, when my mom returned for a follow up that we found out her cancer wasn’t early stage, but was in fact Stage 3. After a LOT of prayer she decided to go ahead and move forward with treatment.
- May 2017: Then, while all of the crazy was happening in April with my mom and her illness, I happened to find a lump in the shower. Since I already had an appointment with my doctor about something else entirely, I decided to mention it and have her take a look. Initially she wasn’t worried. You see, I am Caucasian, young, I had breastfed my kids, I got pregnant before the age of 30, AND most importantly, I didn’t have a family history of breast cancer, but to be safe she ordered an ultrasound. (Actually she ordered a mammogram, but because of my low risk factors and age they wouldn’t do one!) The ultrasound showed more of the same: a lump, about 3 cm. But because of, well everything I already mentioned, they weren’t concerned, but ordered a biopsy, just to be safe. So it was the Tuesday morning after Mother’s Day that my doctor called. “Hey Kate, I have the results of your biopsy here, I was wondering if you could come in today.” Well, no, actually, I couldn’t. My husband had taken my car that day, with my car seats, and I was at home with the kids. Plus, I am a firm believer that if my results had been normal: 1. The DOCTOR wouldn’t have called me personally, and 2. She wouldn’t be asking me to come in. And that friends, is how I learned that I had breast cancer. A mere 3 weeks after my mom’s official diagnosis.
The end! Just kidding, that would be the world’s worst story, and I ain’t about that. This story, albeit long (sorry!) is one of faith, hope and victory. The very first thing that I learned during this process was that no matter the outcome, things would work out for my good (because it says so here), and to God’s glory.
In June, I started chemo. My treatment was effectively backwards from most others, because of my official diagnosis: Stage 2 Triple Negative Breast Cancer. To make that string of words make sense, let me explain it this way. When you look at a breast cancer tumor, you are looking for three things: estrogen or progesterone receptors, and/or the HER-2 protein. If any of these, in any combination are present then that helps determine the course of treatment, when they are all absent, the cancer is called triple negative. This was me. Triple negative is also known for being fast growing, and aggressive, which helps explain why it is treated with chemotherapy before surgery. They want to zap it before it gets a chance to go anywhere and make friends.
When I first learned that my summer would be spent in chemo, I had no idea what we would do with the boys, or if I would be able to care for them. I won’t say that I wasn’t a little panicked over it. After all, my mom was also in chemo, my sister was there helping her, and has three kids of her own to worry about. But, God is good. It was at this time that Jordan got the opportunity to start working four 10’s, and have Fridays off. His co-worker worked the opposite shift with Mondays off, and with my infusions being every other Friday, they alternated shifts. Suddenly, Jordan was able to have a four day weekend every time I had an infusion, and was most sick, and between he, my mother-in-law, and my sister, we never once had to worry about child care. And, I was never alone at chemo. My friends took turns coming to sit with me, and keep me company. Also, food. I do all the cooking, and grocery shopping for our family. I can honestly tell you I didn’t truly grocery shop until September. A meal train was set up for us, with the majority of the meals being brought on the Friday to Tuesday I was most sick. AND my MOPS friends put together a Wild Tree workshop and gave my family 20 freezer meals. We couldn’t have been more blessed.
Now to say that this process was overwhelming wouldn’t even scratch the surface, but probably not in the ways that you might be expecting. Of course, being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 27 is overwhelming, add in 3 toddlers (Bug is 3.5 and the twins are now *almost* 2.5) and another family member undergoing cancer and chemo simultaneously, and it honestly starts to sound like a too sad story line. That isn’t what I mean though. When I was diagnosed, I first told a group of women I only know online, who share nothing more in common with me than the fact that we were all pregnant at the same time. These women have become my tribe, my confidants, my friends, and of the 68 in this group, I have only ever met ONE in real life. But, suddenly, my mail box was filled, every single day, with a gift or a card, or a letter. Something to let me know that I wasn’t fighting this alone. My friends here, that I do life with, fed us, cleaned my house, watched my kids, and just showed up. And my kids noticed. How could they not? And I was able to say “look at how kind Miss ______ is, she sent Mama a special gift so that I know she is praying for me.” or “Yes baby, someone is bringing our family dinner tonight, because Mama is sick, and this is a way they can help us”. We found ourselves overwhelmed by generosity. We found ourselves with tangible examples of what loving like Christ looked like. We were able to teach our boys to walk by faith. To trust that no matter what, it would be okay. While, I won’t say that this has been the most fun summer I have ever had, I can’t say that I am sorry for it, because God came through on His promises.
Now, I am officially done with chemo. I had my last infusion last week. I am cancer free, and preparing to meet with my surgeon so that I can have a double mastectomy. (We found out that my mom and I are both BRCA-1 positive, which makes perfect sense!) I am enjoying this calm and the fact that I am starting to feel normal again. My mom is also done with chemo, and while her next steps aren’t as certain, we can all rest assured that whatever happens will be for our good, and to His glory.