Well, I’ve made it through the past 4.5 years since my diagnosis of Stage 2B Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. I thought this would be a good place to start, although the critic in my head screams at me, “DO NOT dwell there!” But you can’t understand where I am without knowing the back story.
Five years ago, I had “become”…the best version of me that I had ever thought possible. I was pulling off the “working full time as a single Mom” role like a champ, and had started dating the sweetest man I’d ever met, who, like me, was also a teacher with a passion for helping students. I felt for the first time in my life like someone actually “got” me & “every little thing is gonna be alright.” About that same time, I noticed that I had discharge coming from one of my nipples (breastfeeding had stopped over 5 years ago and I was definitely not pregnant), I went to the doctor and had no worries when they conducted several tests and told me there was nothing to be concerned about. Life continued to seem like a dream over the next several months. I was on my “A” game in the classroom, my daughter was doing well in school and developing a strong relationship with her Dad, and I was being courted in a way that I’d never experienced before. Yes, it was finally “my time”.
A few months later, my new man & I decided to start working out together. We’d been walking after school every day & thought weight lifting would be a good addition. Like I said, I was looking and feeling great…better than ever! The day after our first session, I was a little sore under my right arm. After feeling around a bit, I noticed a lump that was about the size of a golf ball. I thought, “better safe than sorry…I’m sure it’s nothing”, and made an appointment to go back & get confirmation that, again, this was nothing to worry about.
What happened next literally pulled the rug of joy and peace I’d been floating on out from under me. Breast cancer had been detected in my lymph nodes, and surgery would be scheduled within a couple of weeks. I had to decide in that short period of time whether I wanted to lose one or both breasts. Being thrown into survival mode overnight made the second option seem like the best one at the time.
My boyfriend immediately told me and my family that he’d be moving in and would never leave. This was such a blessing to me & my daughter as we knew he was truly on our team for the long haul. The double mastectomy was performed soon after, and I spent several weeks recovering and anticipating what was to come next. Drain tubes, bandages, and follow-up appointments consumed my days, along with the continued responsibility of planning lessons for my substitute and grading student work. As a teacher, the job never ends…even when a health crisis strikes.