Christmas around our house is usually pretty chaotic. Planning usually starts around Nov 1 (Linda has been known to buy Christmas decorations in July). I have 8 huge rubbermaid tubs of 'stuff' to unload from the attic every Christmas, and every Christmas there is a new tub. Lights, reindeer, inflatable snowmen, spotlights...you get the picture. I think Linda makes up for the lack of snow in Texas by trying to cover the lawn with decorations. It is absolutely Linda's & my favorite time of the year. To be honest, we really don't need lights around the house because the glow from Linda could light the world at Christmas.
So the week of Dec 10 was shaping up to be a standard pre-Christmas week. Aside from the gifts that Santa brings, Linda races back and forth between Target, Kohls, JCPenny making sure the kids, and the pets, all have an equal amount of presents (she is really crazy that way). This week, she was finally going to get that mammogram. You see, back in September, Linda had noticed a lump in her left breast, but it would come and go. She saw her doctor who assured her that it was probably some hormone related fibroid mass. She said that when she had a chance, to go get a mammogram so they would have a baseline to measure against. Linda was 38 at the time so within a couple years she would start having yearly mammograms as the literature suggests. The visit to the lab was uneventful (if you can call having your boob squished to the size of a pancake uneventful).
Tuesday the 11th, Linda called me at the office and said her doctor saw something to be concerned about on the mammogram. They asked her to come in so they could do a biopsy on the mass. They call it a fine needle core biopsy. They stick a needle into the mass and with a little 'pop', they suck out a bit of it. They do this a couple times around the area. It is done right in the doctors office.
At this point, I was concerned, but not overly so. There is a history of these masses in Linda's family so this was just going to be one of those. She's 38 years old for Christ's sake. Linda called me after her doctor visit to see where I was on my way home from work. Turns out I was only 3 blocks or so ahead of her so I would beat her home. I met her at the door as she got out of her car and she started to cry.
I actually thought she may have hit a dog or cat on her way home and was upset about it. I really must be a moron because the 'c' word hadn't even entered my mind before this point. Not at all. This was just going to be one of those women-doctor-female-
voodoo things that some pill will take care of. It had always been that way in the past and this would be no different. Well, as you may have guessed, this was different. The surgeon who did the biopsy confided in her that, even before the results of the biopsy (which were due back on Thursday), he was pretty sure this was cancer. Fucking cancer ... and I wasn't even there for her when she first heard the 'c' word. Nice husband eh? Linda drove all the way home from the doctor's office, even called me to make sure I was okay, and never let on. It was only when she got home did she start crying...and my tears weren't far behind. This really sucked. This really, really sucked.
The next 2 days, waiting for the official biopsy, were by far the longest 2 days of my life. There had to be a mistake. I was convinced of it. This was Linda after all. She was training for a 1/2 marathon and was regularly running 10 miles on Sunday mornings. She was in the best shape that I had ever known. Eating well and exercising 5 times/week. For those 2 days, I was a mess. My eyes would well-up in my office, in my car on the way to/from work, pretty much everywhere. I prayed to God to make this better. I prayed to God to give me the cancer instead of Linda. I told God I would go to church every Sunday for the rest of my life if He made Linda better. I talked to God more in those 2 days than I have ever in my life. This may seem like a normal reaction to most people, but you see, I don't have a God. I'd done fine for 38 years without a one, but I can tell you I was looking for one desperately in those 2 days. If He was there, he wasn't listening. We got the lab results that Thursday.
I've probably been called useless several times in my life, but I don't think I've ever 'been' useless...that is until Dec 13, 2007. I'm not quite sure what the right thing to do when the love of your life, the center of your universe, your source of strength breaks down and sobs "I don't want to die". That moment is etched in my mind for eternity. I'm not sure what I said, probably something stupid like "Don't worry, we'll be fine". I do know what I thought though. "I don't want you to die either". This really, really, really sucked.
The initial clinical diagnosis. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. 2.5cm mass in the left breast. 2-3 lymph nodes involved. Stage IIB. Moderately aggressive histological grade 7. ER-, PR+, Her2-, non-metastasized. In layman's terms, at least to me, a middle-of-the-road breast cancer. It will take some work (chemotherapy, surgery, radiation) to get rid this, but the battle is winnable. (more on the treatment in a later post)
We decided to tell the kids later that same night. I think we did it the the right way. Right for us. All huddled up on our bed, like we've done many times watching movies at night. We all cried. As much as it sucked, I will forever cherish that moment of bonding we all had.
Our journey had been set. We came to accept this was the hand we were dealt and we would get through this as a family. We still had Christmas to celebrate, it is afterall, our favorite time of year. And how did Linda cope...she planned and hosted a Christmas party for all our friends and neighbors...she is a superstar!