Today is YACC's Brave Day. Today is a day to talk about everything YACC is about and why Shave For the Brave is so important. I'm going to write something here to help get my feelings across.
There's a lot that can go wrong in pregnancy, even when you're 40 weeks along. There's a lot that still has a mother on edge other than feeling like a mobile bowling ball. One thing I was not expecting was the surprise I got that morning. I was slowly getting up to get my daughter ready for daycare. I didn't have to rush because my son had stayed the night at my father's so I didn't need to run out the door to get him to school. I started for her room and did something I had been doing a lot lately: rub the sore spot on my chest. This time I froze. There was a bump on my bone. Not a small dot, this felt about the size of a tangerine cut in half. Survival mode kicked in as I heard my daughter calling me, I got her dressed and set up some breakfast for her. After I had her distracted I frantically grabbed the pregnancy paperwork for the hospital and savagely dialed the cell phone at the top, it was my GP's (general practitioner) number in case I went into labour. I knew he was going away on vacation so I didn't know what to expect. Doing my best to not cry and blubber on the phone I tell him there's a lump coming out of my sternum, I don't know what to do. He says he'll call right back, he's calling the local emergency centre to see about getting me in for some form of scan right away. I took that moment to break down. My daughter was blissfully munching and watching a movie, I hid out of sight and fell apart - I know what this is, I'm scared, I know the only thing this can be, there's no way around it - the cancer came back.
This was in May, in September it would have been five years since my breast cancer diagnosis. I would be called "cured" by a lot of standards, then. I would have been "cancer-free". Would have. Back to that day, May 15th:
My doctor was actually pretty quick getting back to me, he told me to head in to the emergency centre, he had talked it out with the head of radiology at that location and had figured out that an ultrasound would give us a good idea of what what happening. I agreed and hung up. I called my husband's ship to tell him what was going on, one problem, no one has seen him and he's not answering pipes. Enter panicked Julie. I remembered his ship that he had been posted to had returned early so I took a chance and called that ship, luckily he was there. I don't know how much I said clearly because I couldn't stay calm with talking to him, I was terrified and I couldn't do anything about it. He told me he was on his way, I hung up. It was time to kick in survivor mode again, and get my daughter to daycare, faking a smile to everyone I had to face.
When my husband and I got to the centre, they had him wait in the waiting area while they looked at the bone. They let him come in after and showed him exactly what they had explained to me: the lump wasn't on the bone, it was coming out of the bone. Of course, everyone is trying to tell us not to call it the "C" word until testing is done, but if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, flies like a duck, it's not a freaking unicorn. The good news was that the baby was still happy and healthy as could be.
We got to spend the long weekend freaking out and trying to stay calm. We only told two people, I think, what had occurred that morning. I got a call Tuesday telling me to come in to start induction for baby, he was just too comfy and they wanted to do tests to confirm the lump and see if there were any others. He was born Wednesday. Thursday morning I had scans. Thursday afternoon I had a panic attack after seeing the bone scan on the monitor as it was being done. IT was back.
Many say to you when they hear you have cancer, "You'll beat it!", "You just need to fight!", "You'll be fine!", and they mean well. But I was thinking of all the friends I had that had had late stage cancer and didn't live a year after the diagnosis. Not even a year. That's not a lot when you look at your newborn in your arms, your toddler playing around, your school aged child working on homework. The average lifespan after a stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis? 33 months. My son wouldn't even be 3 years old.
I was lucky in a couple ways, and one of them was that I was already connected with YACC. I had late stage friends that I could talk to, find out methods of handling treatments, the questions that are best to ask your oncologist, someone I could say my fears to and they would understand completely. I know it was hard to have the first diagnosis without knowing anyone my age with cancer, but that second time around... If I didn't have that support... That panic attack I had in the hospital had me not breathing, I was terrified and in shock. I don't know how the days would have played out from then on without my YACC friends. I don't want to think about it.
I'm stable, the cancer isn't in my lungs any longer, the cancer in my bones is staying put but not growing or spreading. This is a miracle for now and I'll hold onto it. I get to spend a little longer playing with my kids, hugging my husband, and talking with friends and family. I am so thankful that I have YACC to fall back on when days are rough. My husband supports me every second of the day, but even he needs a break and the support that they have provided for him. YACC helps not just those living with cancer, but their supporters, too. They help us be connected. They help us be weak. They help us be strong. They help us be brave.
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