In the midst of all this semi-controlled chaos of a cancer diagnosis, I realized one thing: I can and will do this on my own terms.
Getting the news that you have breast cancer is upsetting and life changing, to say the least. I remember the call like it was yesterday. I asked all the appropriate questions, took all the proper notes, and shed only a few immediate tears. I think I needed a while for it to all settle in.
In the following weeks I made phone calls, set up appointments, met with doctors, asked more questions, and took more notes. It all became a whirlwind of appointments and information. In the midst of all this semi-controlled chaos, I realized one thing: I can and will do this on my own terms.
After numerous biopsies, MRIs, ultrasounds, and office visits, we had all the information we were going to have. I met with my breast surgeon and began discussing what my options were. I had one reasonably small lump and the lymph nodes that were biopsied came back clear, therefore he was recommending a lumpectomy followed by 30 daily treatments of radiation. They make you feel good by calling this “breast sparing”. Radiation terrified me and I had lots more questions for my surgeon before I made my final decision. I had more questions and was going to make my decision on my own terms.
While asking my questions, the surgeon pulled up a couple views of one of my MRIs. He was pointing to the tumor and the size and reinforcing why he thought a lumpectomy was a favorable option. I am sure my eyes widened and my jaw dropped like a cartoon character! In looking at my pictures, I had no idea how he could tell the tumor from the rest of my, now identified as very dense, breast tissue. I knew immediately there was more cancer hiding and I began discussing my options for a double mastectomy. These pictures with so many areas for cancer to hide scared me more than the original diagnosis. It was decided, double mastectomy, doing it on my own terms.
Double mastectomy with lymph node dissection surgery was scheduled and we were ready to go. The surgery day arrived, and what should have been a celebration for my “cancer free” day was shattered with the news that they did find cancer in my lymph nodes. Again this meant more appointments, more questions, more research and more decisions. I knew chemotherapy was going to be my best bet for reducing chances of reoccurrence. This meant losing at least my hair and possibly my eyebrows and eyelashes. But I also knew it meant I would do this on my own terms.
My first step in preparing my hair for chemo was to cut it short and donate my long blonde locks. Then I decided to dye my new pixie cut deep dark red! I was having fun and experimenting with looks that I never would have been brave enough to do before. Still on my own terms.
On a Wednesday, 10 days after my first AC chemo treatment, the hair began to fall out. I called up my brothers and planned a pizza and beer head shaving party for that Saturday. They were all in and 2 even agreed to shave their heads with me. That Saturday morning I ran and picked up all the fixings and awaited the arrival of my family. When they arrived, I let them know I went a step further and had posted on Facebook that I would be doing my shaving “Live”. Part of me knew this was so I wouldn’t chicken out when I had potentially 600 friends waiting to watch! But I also wanted to share the fun and laughs with friends and family who could not be there laughing and enjoying it on my own terms.
We started recording and started shaving. I knew we were going to shave it into a Mohawk first, just so I could say I had a red Mohawk. Then with an online pole, it was decided for me to keep the Mohawk! I agreed with the group and would keep the Mohawk until the head hurt too bad. I walked into my second chemo treatment sporting my red Mohawk. Loving life on my own terms.