This entry was written by one of our volunteers:
Denial, Anger, Fear, Worry, Guilt, Loss of Control, Depression, Anxiety… Fear… Mind-numbing, paralyzing fear – deep in the pit of my stomach – tail-spinning fear. They say “Hope” is in there somewhere, but that came much later. I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, let myself feel hope because I felt absolutely hopeless.
I’ll start at the beginning. It was a glorious, sunny Friday afternoon. I was spending what was supposed to be a fun-filled day to celebrate my birthday with my best friends. We had lunch in downtown Philadelphia, treated ourselves at the cosmetics counter and decided to make our way west to check out the new Premium Outlets. It didn’t get much better than that. Since it was on the way, we decided to stop at my house to change into our shopping shoes. As I passed my phone, I saw the caller ID flashing with the Main Line Health telephone number. When I saw that the telephone number was different than the Radiology Diagnostic Center’s, I had hoped that it was just the wrong number. No such luck! I couldn’t resist my curiosity and proceeded to call the number on my ID screen. When the operator answered, I said I saw this on my caller ID, but was certain it was just a wrong number. However, since I had had my annual mammogram the day before, I thought I’d just be on the safe side. The operator immediately told me to hold on and they wanted to speak to me right away. My friends said all the color left my face. The woman on the other side of the phone said they found a mass and I had to get back there for an ultrasound. I was sick with overwhelming nausea, but too frozen in fear to move.
I immediately went back for the ultrasound. I was scared to death, but trying to hold on to some hope that it was all just a precaution. My friends were all saying it was probably just a fibro adenoma, but I knew something was wrong. I knew something was wrong when the technician wouldn’t look me in the eyes, when she didn’t laugh at my little stabs of humor and when I pressed for some reassurance, the reply was, “The doctor will see you in a moment.” In those moments alone before I heard the actual words, “You have breast cancer,” my world came crashing down all around me. All I could do was pray for survival. Please, Lord, I’m not finished yet. Please let me stay and see my kids finish school and be settled. They need me still. The doctor then came in and said those dreaded words. At that moment, I lost it… I, who am always in control, always the calm, cool and collected one whenever there’s a catastrophe, completely, totally lost it. I can still see the doctor’s and tech’s faces as I went into a full-blown rant of panic. The doctor was amazing and so compassionate. She sat with me and tried to calm my fears. Once she accomplished that, she said that we needed to get to work and create a treatment plan. At that moment, a shred of control came back, but only for a moment.
The next several days were a complete fog. There was my ‘birthday’ dinner that my family held. I had to attend and try to smile. My husband was the only person who knew about my situation. I thought I could fool everyone. My niece, got me aside at the restaurant and said, “What’s wrong?” I replied, “Nothing. Why?” She said, “I know something’s wrong. Your eyes lost all of their sparkle. They look dead.” Well, I felt dead. I felt like I had a death sentence around my neck (or chest) and all I could think about was how long did I have. The next several months were very busy with treatment. My cancer was early-stage without lymph node involvement and I had a very promising outlook. I kept my exercise program going and kept that positive outlook. Chemo really wasn’t so bad. It really wasn’t. Radiation wasn’t so bad either. Then, I was finished active treatment. I should have been jumping for joy. I wasn’t yet… I was scared out of my mind!
The next several months brought another round of roller-coaster emotions. I couldn’t sleep. I had terrible hot flashes and panic attacks. Could this be my new normal? I wanted my old self back. Grief for my old self then took over for a little while. In between bouts of all of these tumultuous negative emotions, I experienced joy, relief, thankfulness and love. I kept my faith in the Lord and prayed that I could get through this temporary potpourri of emotions and find myself again – hopefully, before my loved ones got too exasperated with me. And, the Lord did answer those prayers. I am enjoying my life and coping with the fear of recurrence in a healthy way. I feel the control coming back, but I know now that I am never in total control. That used to scare me a lot, but not any more. I’m a survivor and I accept that. Now that I’ve come full circle, I feel empowered and would like that to permeate everything I do. I want to help empower others who are going through such a life-changing event.
What emotions did you experience when you were diagnosed? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below or on our Facebook Page. If you ever need to talk with another breast cancer survivor about what you’re going through, call our Survivors’ Helpline at (888) 753-5222.