Let's Start at the Very Beginning

It was November 6, 2012.  Presidential election day.  My daughter, Elin, her 3rd birthday.

My youngest child, Van, is and always has been a lover.  A snuggler.  Yup.  Dave and I defied every parenting rule we had been taught in child-rearing classes and books.  Van spent the first year of his life sleeping with us in our bed.  So in October 2012 when he was 11 months old, I found myself on a Saturday afternoon doing our usual - lying in bed for a midday nap, Van snuggled up against my chest.  No lie, I dreamt that my breast hurt and woke to find a lump at 11 o'clock on my left (your right) breast, where Van's head had been resting.

I thought nothing of it, and yet, looking back, I must have thought something of it.  It was a large lump, very near the surface.  Something analogous to a clogged duct when breastfeeding.  What it wasn't was a small, pea or marble sized mass that I had to push deep into my tissue to detect.  I was 35 years old.

From October to April (sometimes May in New England), I love my baths.  I grab my book group book and pour in those bubbles and get warm.  That's where I was when I pointed out the lump to Dave, a few days, maybe even a few weeks, after that fateful dream.  Dave's mom passed away from breast cancer in 2009.

Halloween is epic in our area of town.  Houses so close together you have to pull the shades at night or otherwise you're basically at dinner with your neighbors.  Streets lined with sidewalks, perfectly safe and architecturally designed for maximizing your Halloween candy amassment.  Dave's and my best friends live in town but on mass transit roads with heavy car traffic and minimal safety for trick 'o treating.  It had become an annual tradition for all of us to gather at our home on Halloween evening.  We'd eat pizza at 5 pm, take photos with the kids and send the husbands out with the kids for candy while us wives sat on our porch sipping red wine and doling out candy.

On October 31, 2012, before the husbands hit the streets, Dave told me to point out my lump to my best friend, an ob/gyn.  We stepped inside to my living room and she examined the lump.  She cooly told me to make an appointment with my own ob/gyn for a mammogram.  No lie, one of the ob/gyns in my practice (who delivered Elin) lives three houses down the street.  Not ten minutes later, she came walking down the street with her kids in costumes.  I mentioned to her my friend's suggestion and she told me to call her office first thing in the morning and she'd get me right in. I saw her the next day and a mammogram and sonogram were ordered for the following day, Friday, November 2.

Through all of this no red flags had come up for me.  I wasn't worried.  I thought this was just a waste of insurance and time.  I arrived at 2:30 pm on Friday the 2nd for my mammogram.  The technician set me up, felt my lump and assured me that it felt like a cyst.  In my mind, I was thinking, "no shit." I just wanted to get out of the hospital in time for my season's first indoor soccer game.  From the mammogram, I got moved over to the sonogram room.  The sonogram was just like an ultrasound for a baby.  Put the blue goo on the handheld "thingy" and look at the area on the screen.  The technician hadn't been on my breast twenty seconds and she left the room. The next person to enter the room was the breast nurse navigator.  (Yes, the best job title EVER, according to my husband).  She asked if I could stay for an immediate biopsy.  And shit got real.  And I hit shock.

I arrived in the room for the biopsy with a medical resident, the sonographer from earlier (who held my hand the whole time) and the doctor (a wonderful man who is now a friend and someone with whom I have since appeared on radio and TV).  At this point, I had been at the hospital so long that I had texted Dave to ask that he pick up the kids, and he was now home googling medical information and texting me questions to ask the doctor. Dave wanted me to ask the doc what a BI-RAD five score meant.  I remember the physician stepping back, and clear as if it was yesterday, he said to me, "This is bad.  Whatever it is, it needs to come out."  And in ignorant shock I said, "Fine.  Take it out.  As long as it's not cancer."

It was November 6, 2012.  Presidential election day.  My daughter, Elin, her 3rd birthday.  I stood in the mailroom of my place of business as colleagues moved in and out.  And over the phone my nurse confirmed what I already knew.  I had breast cancer.

The beginning.  It's a very good place to start.


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