An Introduction

“Actually, it is a malignancy.” These were the five words that instantly changed my life forever. These were the words of my surgeon who was “pretty sure” two days earlier that the lump I found in my chest a few months before was just a cyst or dense breast tissue. Nothing to be too concerned about. “Of course, there is always the possibility of cancer,” he told me, “but not a large one.” I clung tight to these words and went in for my biopsy ready to just get it over with and head back to New York where I was living and loving my cancer-free life. Two days later I was told I have invasive ductal carcinoma. I have cancer.

I often wondered what it felt like to have cancer. Can you feel it? That may be weird but it is true. As a born and bred hypochondriac, intrigue regarding symptoms of life threatening illnesses was something I all too often felt. I was always sure I would never experience cancer first hand of course, but still I was always curious. I was a healthy girl. Vegetarian. Exercised regularly. Ate all the rights fruits and vegetables. So cancer could never happen to me. I was sure of it. Well, having cancer first feels like a car has run into your body. Seriously. I don’t mean I was just really upset. No, no. I mean I actually felt like I had severe whiplash for the first three to four days after I was given the news. The stress of knowing and not knowing what was ahead of me was taking a severe toll on my body.

After my mom and I wept in the office of my surgeon (which is oddly furnished with guns and whiskey bottles throughout—I’m just hoping he stays away from both during my actual procedure) my surgeon continued, “we are going to be spending a lot of time together this afternoon.” This was his way of telling me he had a plan of action and to listen up. Good. I love plans! Bring it on. Can we get all this done today?! He continued on while I was in some sort of cancer laden cloud floating angrily above him telling me about the different ducts in the breast—in particular the milk duct where my own cancer had originated, concerns about lymph nodes (what in the world does a lymph node even do? Am I spelling it right?! I don’t know! Why should I?!), explaining the cancer may have spread and we need to do more tests, the fact that it most likely is a genetic mutation because I am so young (I felt old before I got cancer, now I feel like the youngest person on the planet to be dealing with this which unfortunately I know I am not), and then there were bigger words that followed like MASTECTOMY and the biggest word of all CHEMOTHERAPY.

“Chemotherapy is definitely something that is happening,” said the surg. Man, this guy was full of wonderful news today. I instantly thought of my hair. Fine dude, take my boobs. I can get new ones. Big enormous ones that defy gravity. Won’t my friends in assisted living be jealous one day. That is all fine and well. But please, dear God, do not take my hair. My hair is my thing. What am I going to do without my hair? One of my first stops after hearing about my cancer was my hairdresser’s who happens to be one of the most fabulous people I know to see how she could help me. She took on the project like she was doing research for a dissertation (ok maybe not that intense, but she was thorough). She called all over town. She was going to figure this all out for me because if anyone understands my hair and its importance to me it is she. It is surprising what they can do with wigs these days. It will all be fine. I was already envisioning Katy Perry pink hair days, and sporting a blond shag at some point. Maybe red for Christmas. How festive.

Two more weeks of tests, one involving injecting a radioactive substance into my bloodstream—not a problem(?!), I am here today two days before getting a double mastectomy at the age of 28. I have come a long way. I don’t have cancer whiplash anymore. I am able to tell people about my diagnosis without crying or hyperventilating. And I am sleeping—only about 4 or 5 hours a night—but I am at least sleeping a bit.

This is a story about my trip down cancer lane—a real upper, I know. The purpose is twofold. First, for me this is therapeutic. It helps me avoid breaking down in the middle of Starbucks and telling random strangers to pray for me, which I have done. It also helps me avoid retail therapy, which has already cost my mother and me a pretty penny and if we keep it up we will be living at your house. I need to find a more fiscally responsible way to cope with cancer. In other words it is the healthy way of coping. I hope. Second, if I can give any young woman some guidance, hope, inspiration, encouragement, or a laugh then bring it. I will laugh, I will cry, but most of all I will get through this and I want to help others get through this too. I don’t think my story is special. I realize thousands of women are going through this every day. All I want is to put my story out there in hopes that it can be of some amount of help. For my friends and family who may read this, I want you all to know that without you I would be lying dead in a Starbucks somewhere. I would not have made it through these past two weeks without you. Thank you for all the calls, cards, flowers, cookies, etc. that you have sent over the last few weeks. Words cannot express my gratitude. I love each and every one of you. This is only the beginning of my fight with breast cancer, but I am going to make the journey as positive as I can and I intend to smile the entire way to the finish line.

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42 thoughts on “An Introduction

  1. I’m loving this already! I love your humor and your strength! You are right, you will get through this and you have countless friends and family members who will be with you along the way.
    Oh, and you can come live with me if the retail therapy continues. 🙂

  2. And you don’t know me – but I’m a good friend of a friend of yours… and I know your story is important to her so it now is to me also. You have a fabulous gift for writing and I pray that your journey brings you close to God who has the best shoulder to lean on.

  3. I used to work with your mom at Kmc ED. If you are anything like her, I know you will get through this. You are so lucky to have such a wonderful role model, loving and caring mom! You are way ahead of the game! Get well soon . Thoughts and prayers are being sent your way!!

  4. You are such an inspiration! I have been praying for you ever since Kayce told me on Sunday. I love how strong you are being and that you are still smiling through it all. Just remember that God can do all things and He will heal you of this! You WILL beat this thing. Please let me know if there is ANYTHING I can do from afar. I love you!

  5. Keep writing…I believe it can be one of the best therapies for you and those who love you.
    You will be in our thoughts and prayers.

  6. You already have a good attitude so my best advice for you is keep writing, keep doing the things you love, keep reaching out to your family and friends…you may have cancer but you don’t need to let cancer have a hold on you! Lot’s of support and resources are available – don’t be afraid to reach out to fellow survivors, they will be a great resource on the new road your traveling down. Keep your eyes on the Finish Line and Live STRONG!

  7. hey Abby I know we haven’t kept in touch as much but I just wanted to let you know we are here for you me and my little family and whatever it is you may need please feel free to ask me. May God be with you and bless you and give you all the strength and courage. I know God doesn’t give us what we can’t handle and He will be with you through every step of this. I can speak from personal experience God does save…he did with me while I had David. So stay faithful and it will be alright. And you are courageous for sharing this with us. Thank you and we love you. stay fabulous….:)

  8. Abby, I am praying praying praying for you! Your hair is gorgeous but YOU are very gorgeous! Love you girl!!! Linda Janetzko

  9. Abby, welcome into the club of those who celebrate two birthdays every year. We are the cancer survivors. First we celebrate our regular birthday and then we celebrate the anniversaries of our diagnosis and those are the best birthdays of all. You have to be a member of the club to fully understand the level of sheer terror that the diagnosis produces but while it does always remain tucked in a corner of your soul it decreases as time goes by.I love the idea of multiple wigs. It is what I always thought I would do- have one good one and then a number of cheap ones in different styles for different moods. I haven’t been on facebook much lately and today was the first that I had heard of your diagnosis. Please know that our love and prayers are with you. You are an incredibly gifted writer. Keep writing, it will be a gift to many people.

  10. A friend of yours told me about your blog and as I’m a breast cancer survivor I fully applaud you for sharing your experience. If you face this with the strength and sense of humor you have shown here, you’ll do great. And being strong doesn’t mean you won’t cry, in fact that’s very good therapy too. I totally understand the hair thing…that’s when I cried the most. But it does grow back. Buy several cute hats and scarves for the times when a wig becomes bothersome. Know that people from near and far are cheering you on. All the best and I’ll be thinking of you when I walk in my local Making Strides event this coming Sunday and wishing you continued courage as you beat this.

  11. Abby, I don’t know you but Jennifer shared your story and your blog with me. As I sit here and read your story, my heart aches and tears are running down my face. I remember so clearly the same feelings just 18 months ago when I was headed into my surgery for a bil-lateral. (I had chemo first). I know your sorrow. I know your concern. I know the uncertaintly you feel about the future. Honey, Just know…There is a future. And time does heal wounds. I promise. Your attitude will carry you through alot of dark days…and of course all those rockin” BUCKEYES surrounding you. (Buckeye myself). The power of prayer and family & friends is the most magical thing I have ever seen or felt. And all of those things will bring you back to health and get you back in the game of Life. Lifting you up in prayer and here if you need an ear. Welcome to the sisterhood, Carmen

  12. Dearest Abby–lost one of my matched pair at age seven when I was severly burned. There is life after loss and with the support of family, friends, and God, you will live it to your fullest. Your gift for “writing therapy” is a blessing to me. You are in my prayers. Love, Trudy Johnson

  13. I am praying for you. Your parents were a big encouragement to me when my husband had heart surgery and I know they prayed for us. In fact they came and sat with me during the surgery. Just know prayers are being offered for you.

    Carol Sherman

  14. Oh, my dear Abby, how quickly one moment changes the rest of our moments!!! I can only say “thank you” for sharing with your world your journey and your gift of commanding the king’s English. No one can honestly share who has not been through it, but I laud your perfect mix of emotion and intellect on your posts, and I also will promise that you’ll make it on to my prayer list. I don’t say that lightly because those words aren’t just an idea for me, and I promise it to very few (lest I forget). Carry on, brave soldier. This world ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, is it!

  15. Abby, just read your blog, (we went to school with your Uncle Ron at OAA) Was so sorry to hear about your breast cancer. We have this in common . . . I got the “C” word back in May and mine was so big and fast growing I had pre-chemo first to shrink the tumor. I just finished my chemo on the 3rd of Oct. Now waiting for surgery. Hopfully Nov. 2, but it is not 100% conformed yet. Know just how you feel and all the things that go through ones mind. But you will get through this phase of your life. Just so sad you have to handle this at such a young age or ANY age for that matter! Just keep in mind that God is in control and He will walk with you through the whole ordeal. Kay Singletary

  16. Keep faith. Keep strong and know god can carry you through anything. A friend of your sister shared your story with me cause last oct at 32 I was diagnosed with cancer. Chemo was brutal but I knew I was paving my way to a better life. And now I’m almost 10 months cancer free. Someday we will be celebrating that news for you. God is good – a lady in my church at 29 was diagnosed the same ad you 22 years later she is cancer free and loving life. Your blog is wonderful and inspiring for this cancer survivor. Hold strong girl – you will get through this.

  17. Abby,

    Thank you for sharing your story. You are quite the writer, girl. I have been praying for you almost non-stop since I found out on Sunday. The faculty at my school here in Walla Walla and my class of 5/6 graders are praying for you, too. The prayers will keep coming. I love you! Cindy Solis

  18. Abby this is Joe from CUC. Our mutual friend Annie led me to this link. I don’t have any words that can possibly bring any comfort or bring you peace, but I wish I did. I’m so proud of you for blogging and using this avenue as a way to cope. I’m praying that things go well for you and you will keep the same beautiful smile that will forever be forged in my mind, the smile I saw every time we were all in that Art class together. You keep being the wonderful person that you are and know that someone is praying for you and wishing you the best.

    Joseph
    joe4christ.blogspot.com

  19. Abby, so many prayers being sent heavenward on your behalf. Thank you for being brave enough to share your journey through “C”. You’re an amazing, beautiful young woman! Yes, your hair is gorgeous, but you dear friend are even more so!!

    What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
    ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

  20. What a beautiful comment on facing a chasm in life’s road! We are so blessed by your grit and determination to use this trial to help others on this difficult journey. You are always in our thoughts & prayers.

  21. Abby!
    It has been so long since I saw your family but think of you often. Reading your blog took me back 24 years when I was 29 and my surgeon who was also certain the cyst was nothing told me I had atypical ductal hyperplasia on it’s way to cancer. After ovarian cancer surgery the next year I had the bilateral mastectomies and reconstruction. (And yes they can make them bigger and other women will be jealous of your perky ones when you’re 55!)
    Having the plan in place was the best thing for me, too. It gives you such focus – your job now is to get stronger every day.
    Know that you and your family are in my prayers throughout the day, hugs (take it easy on those for a while) and prayers, Sue

  22. Abby, I will be faithfully following along as you share your adventure with us. God has give you a gift with your writing, and by opening your heart and your pain and your fear with all of us in this way, you give each of us a great gift! I also will be praying for you daily. Kim and Brittan and Mike all send their love and prayers too.

  23. Good morning Abby, You say it helps you to write this. It is also helping all of us to read it. I have known you most of your life, but I never really knew you were such an articulate person…and such a great writer. I smiled when I read the part about breaking down in Starbucks and talking to a stranger. When one of my family members lost her hair with chemo…I looked at a donation can for cancer in Taco Bell, burst into tears in front of several customers and fled the store….so I think your blogging idea is genius. Praying for you every time I think about you which is often. Richa

  24. Abby,
    I was a few years ahead of you at SVA, but you aren’t easily forgettable, so I remember you well. I read this with tears in my eyes and a prayer in my heart for you – the first of many, I am sure. This world is such a difficult place, and I am so sorry you are facing this challenge. I know you will face this with strength, courage, and all the power and might of Heaven behind you. Know that many prayers are being lifted up for you. Keep the faith.

  25. My dear Abby – You know what a special place you have in my heart, don’t you?! You are so special to me and our family! So many precious memories, of your growing up years!! And I/we’ve so enjoyed seeing all the accomplishments of education and goals that you’ve had and done already in your young life. Now, you’re on a new journey for a bit, which is another type of “education…” One you never wanted, and one we never wanted for you… but here it is nevertheless… The impact of the road you’ve chosen, of sharing your journey and your self with others, is immeasurable. Even more so I realize this, as I now work as an Oncology Social Worker, and lead a breast cancer support group. Our group is one of education and support of one another. I’ve found (and literature supports) that those who are able to share of themselves with others, and give and receive love do so much better in the battle with cancer, and in recovery. Thanks for your outreach and letting us share with you our love and heart-felt prayers. May the Lord continue to hold you in His healing arms of love!! We love you sooooo much!!

  26. Hey there – just wanted you to know that I’ve been thinking about you all day. It started this morning as I drove by the Shott all bright and shiny in pink!! Took a detour on Lane so I could say a prayer for you right there in front of the building. I was doing well until the person behind me honked!! Hope you are doing well today. Hang tough!!

  27. Abby,
    Just got on your blog tonight and your wit, your humor, your intelligence, your transparency, your courage are really incredible. The news was a shock to all of us because I’ve seen you run near our home and know how you take care of yourself. It seems so unfair when you’re young, graduate, pass your bar and get your career going in Manhattan–can’t imagine how it must have been like hearing the words…but you were able to describe the “whiplash,” the ups and downs so articulately without any self-pity and most importantly you had a plan to occupy yourself in those hours before surgery.

    You’ve already won an important part of the battle…faith and hope and optimism are crucial to rapid recovery and long-term outcomes. So many of us are praying for you and your family and for your HAIR, your beautiful, shiny dark mane that frames your lovely face.

    Love & best wishes on your journey, Becky (& Chuck)

    PS you’ll have to see 50/50 if you haven’t already.

  28. You better keep hoping and smiling. I know, without a doubt, that with all the beautiful energy you consistently zap into this world, the sun literally grows a little dimmer when your one of a kind smile falters. So, keep it up, Abigail. I’ll be checkin’ in on you, and don’t think I won’t know when I look up and it starts getting cloudy. 😉

  29. Hi Abby, Thank you for sharing. My oldest daughter Cindy is a breast cancer survivor!!!!
    Chemo/Radiation/Anemia/Taste Buds weird/ and nothing smells good and some smell so awful she had to vomit! Hated losing her hair. Didn’t want her kids to suffer. Had a photo taken of her and the family with a pretty bald head. But that hair grew in again. Nice and curly. But no it isn’t fun. Remember to accept help. Let people go with you to chemo and radiation, Let them help you at home. It makes us that are looking in on your ordeal feel better to help. We will pray and we will cry. But God will be there with you.
    Carol Clegg

  30. Abby, I’m sorry I didn’t know sooner! I am with you, and you are in my thoughts and prayers. You are such an amazing human being! Love you so much. -Melissa Hatch

  31. Dearest Abby – rebecca told me about the life changing news you received, I can’t tell you how sorry I am & simultaneously how impressed I am with your courage. Though writing that sentence seems so clichéd, the so often used phrase of “courage” for those that go through heart ripping circumstances, but courage is a powerful spirit, that moves in & out of us in ways that we could not imagine before it was needed to settled within our bones & transform us into something new. This is your new.

    There are so many people in your life that love you, as much as you have been a blessing you have equally been blessed & that kind of footprint in this world is something I hope will bring you comfort through the wave of days ahead of you. And when it isn’t enough, may God do the rest.

    Sending you love & prayer.

    xx

    Tiffany King

  32. You, Abby, are one spunky and courageous cancer warrior! Your willingness to share your journey gives us an opportunity to learn life-lessons in guts and grit, faith & family, love and laughter! I love your honesty…keep sharing! Prayers, Healing and Hugs to you and your family, JD & Lynn Mutchler

  33. Abby, we have never met but will meet in Nashville at the BOC. Your aunt talks about you and your courage. The gut check called cancer is everything you described–I have been where you are–and the churn you feel emotionally and experience physically–is perhaps the toughest thing I ever faced; especially when you are trying to figure out if you will die. I relate to everything you shared; I went through it too; maybe worse (the emotional reaction part–I was horrible). It only got better when I found a place of spiritual peace and began to believe I would be healed. Now, 3 years later, I am top of my game and still getting stronger–mentally and physically. Anytime you want to talk, kibbutz, cry, scream or pray, I am available. I get it and I am here for you!!
    Margaret Reynolds

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