Today is my one-year anniversary. Not a good, love-filled anniversary, but the anniversary that flipped my world upside. A year ago today, I was diagnosed with invasive, aggressive breast cancer.
I knew this day was coming and I dreaded it. I knew the feelings would come rushing back; I’m just happy that it fell on a long weekend.
I did my best to stay as busy as I could today so I wouldn’t sit around and be sad. I booked a last minute get away to Williamsburg, VA with my son and his friend, and we had a pretty great day. I slept in until about 8 a.m., called the resort spa and was able to get in for a 9 a.m. for a full body Swiss massage, after the massage I went for a jog/walk, completing day 3 of week 2 of my “Couch to 5K” workout, took the boys to the pool and swam a few laps and then relaxed in the hot tub, we went to a Pancake House for lunch, and then went bowling. It was a great day.
But as I sit here at the resort, I can’t help but remember last year.
After my first routine, annual mammogram turned out to be anything other than routine, I began having multiple doctors appointments and tests … And there was a lot of waiting. Everyone, including the doctors, had convinced me it was most likely nothing (benign) because there was no lump or any other indicator that it was cancer, so I was feeling pretty confident (read: cocky) that it was nothing and all this was just a big waste of my money and time.
When I met with a breast surgeon who was supposed to give me the biopsy, she told me she’d have to refer me to the radiology clinic … By then I was done. I asked who would be giving me the results and if I had to waste another vacation day to come for that appointment. She said they could call with the results, but cautioned that it wouldn’t be the best way to learn of the news, if the cyst was breast cancer. I asked, “Can you just call me for an appointment if it’s cancer, but if it’s nothing tell me over the phone?” She told me if she called to set up an appointment, then I’d know it was something, then I’d have to wait to get in. I told her to just give me the results over the phone. Remember, I just knew it was going to be benign, so it was no big deal at all.
Fast forward a week to Thursday, February 18, 2016. I was sitting in my office, swamped and stressed as usual, and my office phone rings and I answer it while still responding to emails, half listening. After verifying I am in fact Dana Clark, the doctor was talking so fast “positive for cancer…Stage 1…breast cancer…” My head was spinning. I couldn’t believe it. All of a sudden that super important email was irrelevant, the job didn’t matter, what was happening? I just stopped her, “Wait. Are you saying that I have … breast cancer?” I asked incredulously. She said, “Yes, Ms. Clark, I’m very sorry to tell you, you have an invasive, aggressive form of breast cancer and you need to schedule an appointment with an oncologist immediately.” I thanked her and hung up.
I shared an office with one other woman, who I knew heard my end of the conversation, but she said nothing as I rushed out of the office, hyperventilating.
I stepped into a vacant office across the hall and after I calmed down called my manager to inform him and find out what to do work wise. He was shocked, but very helpful and after I got off the phone I was going to leave and go home so I could cope with my feelings. I walked out of the office and my project manager and client were standing there, “Dana! Great! We were just looking for you! [Insert Charlie Brown teacher sound here]…I need you to…Blah blah blah…” When the client stopped talking, I looked at my project manager and told him we needed to talk.
They could tell something wasn’t right and he escorted me away. I requested we walk downstairs to my other colleagues office because I had already been confiding in him about all these tests and things so I wanted to break the news to them together.
I remember their faces went pale. They offered any help they could give, I thanked them and left for the day and took the rest of the week off. I was calling my family, but no one was answering, and I had over an hour drive home to just sit and stew. I just wanted to get home and I wanted my family to know first so I didn’t call anyone, even though I just wanted someone to talk to.
I was able to make an appointment with an oncologist first thing the next morning, then, finally, I got ahold of my family and we talked. I can remember thinking “How do I tell Aiden that his mom has cancer?”
I then text a bunch of my close friends … I wanted them to know, but I was mentally exhausted and I couldn’t talk. I got a lot of shocked responses because only about 3 people besides my mom and sister knew I had been dealing with this for almost a month. One friend called me and said, “This isn’t the kind of information you text someone!” I apologized and explained why … An hour later she suprised me by showing up at my house with a bottle of wine. We laughed and talked and after she left I sent a Facebook message to the rest of my family who I don’t speak with on a regular basis because I wanted them to hear it from me and not learn on a status update when everyone else learned.
I remember every detail of the afternoon of Thursday, February 18, 2016, because it was the day that my life forever changed.