In last month’s newsletter, I mentioned my breast cancer diagnosis. What I immediately noticed was the sisterhood among survivors. And those I knew reached out to me as soon as they realized the diagnosis. It was very comforting, especially in my overwhelmed state. It helped me grapple with the disease.
I will never forget the moment I heard the words, “you have breast cancer.” Through the second mammogram, the ultrasound, and the biopsy, I kept hoping the outcome would be the same as always — “your mammogram (or ultrasound) is clear.” Except it wasn’t. This time, I hadn’t dodged the bullet.
When I was younger, breast cancer was a devastating diagnosis—and still is, depending on when it’s caught. Because many women fought the disease—including choosing experimental options and taking the hard road treatment offered—a cure is possible. I’m very grateful.
I want to share my journey. My eyes were forced open to this disease and how extraordinary women have persevered in the fight against it. I hope my sharing will benefit others.
The first thing I realized is there is a team of doctors…a literal team! And lots of appointments. And there’s also this…hurry and wait. I’m not a patient person with things like this, so the waiting part is especially difficult for me. But I’m trying.
The day of surgery arrived. Up to this point, I had spent weeks scheduling appointments, meeting doctors, and other ‘team members,’ and trying to quell the ever-mounting anxiety building up within me. While I dreaded surgery, I also welcomed it. Surgery meant release. But it also meant moving into the unknown…and finding out if what they had projected with the biopsy would be what they would find with the surgical pathology. Finally, something would be done about the cancer in my body.
Radiology left a marker in my breast during the biopsy. And just before surgery, a radioactive seed joined it, providing the doctor with a clear path to the tumor. Some people take these invasive procedures with a grain of salt. I’m not one of them. While it wasn’t as slow or traumatic as the biopsy, it wasn’t painless.
Once I got beyond that, I could relax for the surgery. I don’t know about you, but with me, it’s always been those little things that stress me. When I was pregnant, it wasn’t the thought of giving birth to something the size of a pumpkin. Rather, the IV and introducing the epidural terrified me. Ultimately, I had no choice…just as with this.
Surgery is now behind me, and the pathology results show no breach of margins and no spread to the sentinel nodes. This positive outcome is an enormous relief, even though I have no certainty about the path I’m to take. An ONCOTYPE (which we will discuss with my doctor tomorrow) will determine the path of treatment—whether radiation will be next or chemo. It’s the first time I can ever remember hoping for a low test score.
(Originally posted: October 2022)
Anna St. Claire is a USA Today Bestselling Author of Historical and Regency Romance. She is also a breast cancer survivor.