"What do you think this is?"
"I'm hoping it's an abscess."
"But you know it's not, don't you?"
My visit with the OB nurse practitioner had fast tracked me to this point. A next-day appointment with the breast surgeon in the cancer center. Sara had called the surgeon and made the arrangements. She took me to her office to explain. My condition looked serious. I needed to be seen right away. Don't freak out, but also be prepared for tough news. Where was my husband and could he be there with me tomorrow?
My husband. I walked out of the building feeling at once numb and completely shattered. I sat in the car and cried. From the parking lot, I called Jason. I cried some more. I called my mom. More tears. I had a haircut scheduled. Should I go? Is it too frivolous? Will I resent any moments spent away from my children, even those spent in self care? The simplest choice now seemed heavy. In the end, I went.
I remember calling my mother in law that night. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. After that, I stuck to texting the news.
The next day, the breast surgeon gave me a "clinical diagnosis". Meaning she was 95% certain I had Inflammatory Breast Cancer based on the exam alone. The date was January 30th.
We waited the weekend for biopsy results. This is when I hit my lowest point. After the kids were in bed Sunday night, I googled IBC. I started reading about the mortality rate. 25% chance of surviving five years. Average life expectancy is 33 months. In five years, my son will be starting kindergarten. I panicked. My dad found me sobbing, hyper-ventilating. I remember saying, "I don't want to die, Dad."
The thing is, I had already been told, "stay off the internet." Because IBC is rare, the information available isn't kept up to date. The founder of the IBC Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to raising research funds, fought to even have IBC mentioned on prominent breast cancer awareness sites.
Monday: biopsy confirms IBC. My breast cancer is triple positive. Meaning it's fed by estrogen, progesterone, and the Her2 protein. I had no idea what any of this meant. Now I know it is a best-case scenario, it gives us something specific to fight against.
I was assigned an oncologist. There were tests for staging. So many tests. Ultrasounds, PET scan, CT scan, MRI, Mammogram, Pimm scan....I weaned Eli cold turkey. My port was placed Friday. Saturday I threw the baby shower I'd come to town for. Somewhere in there I got a handle on my fear.
I have to keep believing, where there are odds, someone is beating them.