Yes, I have good news. It was negative!
Wait, maybe I should give you the bad news first so the good news makes sense.
Back at the end of February I called my mom to talk, but Michael was being difficult so I told her I was going to go. Normally, my telephone hating mother would be glad to get off the phone, but this time she told me to call her back once I got Michael to bed.
"Why, are you dying?" I asked sarcastically.
Well, that joke fell a little flat.
When I called my mom back she informed me that she had found a lump in her breast and that she was scheduled for a diagnostic mammogram the next week.
I'm both a linear and a big picture thinker. In my career, having both of these skills are very helpful. It allows me to think of as many possible outcomes that can occur in a situation, and then find ways to mitigate obstacles that pop up to prevent the desired outcome. In my personal life, it means I churn over every possible outcome and then start planning for each one, even if some aren't that likely.
So, when my mom told me she had a lump in her breast, every possible scenario jumped into my mind, and I started planning actions for each and every one. The plus side? I was prepared. The negative side? I freaked myself out. Because you know, as soon as you hear the word lump, one possible outcome that pops right up is horrible, painful death from cancer. And that's just what my mind did. It would swing from, "it's a cyst" to "OMG" and everything in between.
To add to the fun, my mom asked me not to tell my brother or sister until she knew more. That's fun.
The process from learning that my mom had a lump and where she is now was tough. It's not just tough because it's scary. It's tough because there is so much waiting and guessing.
My mom went in for the mammogram and the radiologist informed her that the 1 inch lump looked like a carcinoma. She was referred to a surgeon. Without a biopsy, I was hesitant to give up hope that it might be a cyst, so in my mind, all possible options were still on the table.
My mom saw the surgeon. He told her it looked like a carcinoma, performed a needle biopsy, and sent her for a bunch of tests, including a chest x-ray and bone scan. Without results of the biopsy, I was hesitant to give up hope that it was a cyst. All options were still on the table, and I was trying to limit my thinking to the happy options.
Her doctor is awesome and really gets the urgency of getting results back to his patients as soon as possible. The night before my brother, sister and I were getting together for the annual boyscout pancake breakfast, my mom learned that she does, in fact have breast cancer.
That narrowed down the possible outcomes, but not really in the way I was hoping for. Taking the best option off the table sucked.
I volunteered to share the news with my brother and sister. You know, because I wasn't stressed out enough.
At this point, things were narrowed down to the best case scenario of localized breast cancer that would require lumpectomy, hormone treatment, and radiation. Worst case scenario..."STOP THINKING ABOUT IT!"
The next step was for my mom to get all her tests completed. That took about a week and then a few more days for all the results to make it to her doctor so he could devise a plan of action. That week and a half lasted for what felt like a year and involved many, "STOP THINKING ABOUT IT" moments. I tried to prepare myself for learning the worst while hoping for the best.
All of the tests came back negative. This was awesome news. The cancer had not spread to her chest wall or her bones. But, it still didn't rule out the cancer spreading to her lymph nodes and possible chemotherapy. So, while good news, we still didn't know everything we needed to know.
That allowed my mind to continue churning over things. Oh, and to keep things nice and complicated, don't forget that my mom watches Michael two times a week and that I'm out of sick time. When I suggested putting Michael into daycare full time, my mom's response was, "But Michael is the purpose in my life." Hey, no pressure there.
Last Thursday, my mom had a partial mastectomy and a sentinal node biopsy. When I picked her up from the hospital that night, she told me she'd get the results this Wednesday. Almost another full week of waiting, for a combined total of about 5 weeks of worry and stress. The hurry up and wait thing was driving us all crazy.
The surgery was an amazing success. The doctor was able to remove all of the cancerous tissue and achieve clear margins. He did an awesome job and managed to preserve my mom's shape really well. I don't even think she'll need to buy a new bathing suit to cover any scar tissue! And best of all, my mom had nothing more than I little tenderness at the site of the surgery (because I swear she is a mutant and does not sense pain like the rest of us.) She was up and getting around like normal the very next day. AWESOME!
So, all that was left was to find out the result of the lymph node biopsy. Negative would mean hormone therapy and radiation. Positive would mean chemo, hormone therapy, and radiation and a higher likelihood of recurrence. (I cringe even typing the words.)
On Friday, my mom forgot that the doctor had said to call to make an appointment on Wednesday. She had it in her mind that she needed to go back in 48 hours to get the dressing changed, so she called his office and had them track the doctor down. He called her right back to explain what she needed to do, and he also happened to have gotten the results back from pathology. Her lymph nodes were negative! She shared the news with me that evening when I called to double (or quadruple) check on her.
I was so thrilled to her the news. I was so thrilled to not have to wait until the following Wednesday. This was the best case scenario, and I'm so relieved for my mom.
Right now, my mom is doing great. She is feeling so good that she opted to take Michael today and they headed out to Bounce Town a little while ago. I just wish that Michael could understand just how special this time he has with his grandma is, and that he is so lucky to have her.