I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. It legit sucks to suck right now. I want to share how I got here, what I've been doing, and what's next for me , with all of my friends and family from all over the country.
Before I explain how this all went down, I want to start by saying: I currently work at M Health Physicians-Oncology as a clinic coordinator. I found myself applying for positions within the U of M due to my strong belief and support in Breast Cancer research. Judy Erdahl and Team Judy paved the way to explain cancer research so that a non-brainiac, like me, could understand immunotherapies and the value of all different types of research along with the significant role it plays in patients’ treatment today.
It had me at "WTF is this bump?"
It started with what I believed to be a blocked duct. I realized it was not dissipating like others have in the past. Once I started to feel some discomfort, I went into my doctor’s office. He ordered me a mammogram and ultrasound but due to scheduling I was going to have to wait longer than I wanted. I went into work and asked if there were any cancellations. Luck found me when I was able to get in the following afternoon. When I first saw the tumor on the screen it looked like a crab to me. Being nervous and anxious I asked the tech and radiologist,
“Did I eat something and it just went down the wrong way? Are we sure this is a tumor? It looks like a crab?.”
We were keeping our fingers crossed that it did not light up with blood flow on the screen. As Eric and I were in there watching the screen we couldn't really tell if it lit up or not. We sought hope in thinking it could just be a cyst. After those scans, I needed a biopsy and mammogram with contrast. A week later, I went in for my biopsy on 12/22 and results would come in the following 2-3 business days. During this visit my tumor took shape of a rubber duck. I knew I had not digested a rubber duck so that rationale when out the window. At this scan we could see the tumor light up and even without the diagnosis, we knew it was cancer. Three days before Christmas we were trying to figure out what to do next. This was by far the most difficult time to pass. I was a complete puddle and the unknown is truly the worst. We decided to tell Enjoli and Carli what was going on and that we would get results by Monday, December 27th. I didn't share that the tumor lit up or that we believed it to be cancer. The girls wanted to know everything and we wanted to be upfront to deal with it all within reason. With Christmas a couple of days away, it definitely helped pass the time the best it could. On Monday when I got my results, I was not surprised to hear I did in fact have cancer. I was expecting them to tell me I was triple negative and had 6 months to live. So anything different than that was a huge relief. I was diagnosed with Er-/Pr-, HER 2+ grade 3, stage 2A Breast cancer.
Since December 27th I have had appointments with my Oncologist, Surgeon, labs, MRI’s, CT scan, EKG, and meetings with my RNCC and research nurse. Unlike anything I do, it is never easy or without being a little extra. Naturally, after my last MRI I was told the cancer had reached my mammary nodes and would need to be restaged. My treatment changes to only add radiation regardless of my surgery preference. I have been diagnosed with Er-/Pr-, HER 2+ grade 3, with it in my mammary nodes breast cancer stage 2B or 3. This puts me in-between stages because…well I can’t remember exactly how my oncologist explained it but that’s what she said. I am hoping to start treatment on or around January 24. I don't know exactly how my treatment plan will work as of yet pending results of other tests.
My tumor is at a size that qualifies me to be apart of the I-Spy2 study. Although there are a few pieces that are still moving into place, I hope to be put in the second part of the study in the next week. I will get results from a MammaPrint soon and then I will be randomized into the study assuming nothing comes up from other tests or imaging that would take me off study. Once I know where I stand with the study, I will be better prepared to explain that process. In the meantime, we are hoping to keep moving with treatment starting the week of the 17th and getting more results. I will get a port placed in the next week to prevent my arms from getting all banged up.
It's my turn to do hard things
The positives in all of this is that this is TREATABLE. That I am loved, my family is loved, and this will be over soon. The goal is 100% complete response. I must credit Team Judy and the awareness that has been raised that allowed me to trust this process with ease. I have the best care team I could get my hands on. I plan to work as often as I can throughout this whole process. I know that it may not be as easy as I think it will be, that’s my damn opinion, and I can think whatever the hell I want to think.
“I can do hard things.” -Judy Erdahl
One thing people know about me (well a few things people know about me) is that 100% before anything else, I LOVE my Dodgers. I am heard before I am seen. I do things sometimes without thinking them all the way through. and I am not emotional/angry/happy…but PASSIONATE. I will figure this out with the help of my husband and kids, with our friends, and our family. All of the well wishes, good thoughts, prayers, foods that don’t have *refined sugar, and termination of wine and mules,☹ are going to be the reason for my recovery success.
*Something about my kidney in my CT prompted my oncologist to say, “cut refined sugar out.” When my heart fell out of my butt, I realized food and drinks will be very different going forward. I wasn’t comfortable to ask her if vodka or tequila had sugar in it. I am not sure what is scarier, googling what has refined sugar in it or cancer?
We will see the end to this cancer. It will be hard once treatment starts for myself, my family, and my puppies (they can feel our pain too). It will not be easy. I was told this will be a marathon. Which just cemented my reasons for not liking running even more. But it will be something that my husband and kids will constantly have to think about and live with. Please continue to be patient with us. Continue to be kind to our kids. And if I don’t respond to a text, call, or email, it’s because I have cancer and probably don’t feel well. Hahaha If you see Enjoli ditching ceramics again, you better let me know! If you see Carli outside alone, it’s likely because I sent her outside because she was screaming at the top of her lungs to tell me a joke. If you see the twins running in opposite directions it's because they know they done screwed up and I'll get the slower one first.
I am excited for things the kids are involved in like basketball, softball, and other spots. We want the kids to do their usual stuff as much as possible. We just need those that come around to be safe and healthy. I cannot wait to watch my Dodgers while in infusions, that will help with that process. We are grateful that this cancer was caught at time where we have options. We are thankful that I was at the right place and right time to get the necessary appointments. My managers and coworkers are amazing individuals and I am lucky to have found a job with such wonderful people. Lastly, I am overwhelming thankful and blessed to have Eric. We have had our issues and boy have we wanted to kill one another over the past ten years. But we our love is unshakeable. We have been through it all individually and together. We really are meant for one another, we just can’t quit one another. He has already made a huge impact in supporting me with this diagnosis and I can’t wait to get over this so we can go on vacation...without the kids (let's be honest, it will likely be a Dodger game somewhere I haven't been yet. Definitely not a cruise😉). I love you Eric, Enjoli, Carli, Charlotte, and Benjamin, Lucy, and Sky. You are the crazy monkeys in my zoo.
America for Erica?
As I end this first blog entry post about what got me here, how I am dealing with it, and what is next I have to share something that is so bad that is actually kind of good.
Eric, my favorite human and biggest supporter jokingly spoke about what we would call this blog. So what do I name my journey with breast cancer?…Eric without missing a beat says, “We have family all over…California, New Mexico, Texas, Florida, Colorado…the list goes on. Why don’t we call it America for Erica.” I laughed and said no way in hell. That is horrible. Then Enjoli and Carli were all over it. After talking with a few friends, it sounds like it is going to stay. Family and friends, you will hear more on this later. One thing at a time.