On December 23rd, 2014, I received the dreaded phone call. “You have breast cancer.”
How could that be? I eat well, I exercise regularly, I don’t smoke and I rarely drink. Most importantly, I have no family history. I could simply not understand why this was happening.
Last winter I was experiencing extreme tenderness in both of my breasts which was at times downright painful. One day while showering, I felt a lump under my arm. I went to a doctor straight away to get it checked out. The physician said it was nothing to worry about – I just had dense breast tissue and the pain was caused by fluctuating hormone levels during my cycle. Without any testing or exams, he sent me on my way. I should have felt relief from hearing this news, but something just didn’t seem right.
It wasn’t until I went in for my gynecological visit in August that I had a follow-up about the lump under my arm. She told me the same things as the other doctor – “You’re a healthy 27 year old with no family history of breast cancer. You just have dense breasts. Also, cancer doesn’t hurt. You’re fine.” For peace of mind, she referred me to a specialist in the city for an ultrasound and biopsy.
The results of the biopsy and imaging came back inconclusive. They couldn’t tell me what is was or wasn’t. I decided to get yet another opinion on this mystery lump. At another hospital, I had several more biopsies performed, numerous ultrasounds, mammograms and a MRI.
When the results were in, I was at home with family in Iowa for the holidays. When the nurse called me on the phone, I could tell by the tone of her voice it wasn’t good. “Katherine, I’m very sorry for relaying this information to you over the phone. But the labs came in.. they came back positive.”
I was in shock. Deep emotional shock.
Before I even had time to react, I was asking questions. What are my options? Will I need a lumpectomy? What about a mastectomy? Will I need radiation? Chemotherapy? What are the next steps? I wanted all the answers.
My mind was racing with fear, but also confusion. I was told numerous times I had nothing to worry about. It’s nothing. It was too much to take in and I broke down. Crying for the unknown, crying for the amount of strength and courage I would need to get through this.
After getting off the phone, I had the unbearable task of telling my husband. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you… Gavin and I are married! We were married 10 days prior to receiving this unfortunate news. Wanna talk about the worst possible wedding and Christmas present? Yeah, it’s got to be cancer.
If there’s one thing that has kept me strong during this time, besides a solid support system, it has to be humor and seeing the bright side. In the moments of my diagnosis, I knew I had to remain positive. I wanted to be like one of those people on Ellen whose devastating occurrence brought change, life-changing change!! I’m going to make something of this cancer. I’m going to use my voice to spread the message for early detection, but also for prevention. I’m going to be the winner of this battle, because I’m going to be a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and cancer is not invited.*
*Though I haven’t been invited to be on her show (yet), here’s to hoping! And if you’re reading, Ellen, I love you!