A couple of weeks ago I was told that I have breast cancer. I’ve had some time now to process that diagnosis, to learn more about the type of cancer I have and the course of treatment I’ll pursue, and that’s helpful. Having at least an idea of what to expect is always better than drifting in the abyss of the unknown. Well, unless it’s really bad, I guess. If that’s the case, just knock me out and do what you need to do.
It’s still fresh on my mind, the matter-of-fact way the nurse practitioner gave me the news. She was unbelievably kind – not in a voice that sounded like she was talking to a toddler – and she wasn’t in a hurry, but she didn’t dilly-dally around in telling me what I came there to hear.
“So we have the results of the biopsy and it does show cancer.”
That was the last thing I expected to hear that afternoon. The breast surgeon I’d been referred to by my gynecologist and the radiologist who did the ultrasound both said they didn’t think it was anything to be concerned about. After all, I’d had cysts aspirated before. Nothing to worry about. I so believed that, that when they took my blood pressure upon arrival, it was a mere 100/60. Unbelievable. Funny, no one offered to take it after I heard the news.
The nurse practitioner explained everything thoroughly – as thoroughly as she could because there were still some unknowns that would be determined by the surgeon and oncologist, depending on the results of more tests. I was surprisingly calm and able to ask questions. Things have to be really bad before I don’t have questions.
The medical professional who shared this news struck the perfect balance of information and compassion to enable me to hear what I needed to hear at that point. Sitting down in a chair right in front of me, she wasn’t in a hurry as she went over the results of the biopsy and what they knew thus far. She answered what she could of my questions and told me honestly when she didn’t know. I appreciated that. And when I stood up to leave, she looked me in the eye and asked if she could give me a hug. Of course.
I don’t know if my nurse practitioner learned empathy and compassion in her academic training, or if that’s just part of who she is. Either way, I’m very thankful to have heard this from someone who told me bad news in the most positive way she could – not treating it lightly, but also not in a way that made it sound like I’m dying tomorrow.
I’m probably not dying tomorrow. I could, but probably not. Not from this, anyway.
I won’t talk about having breast cancer lightly, because two dear friends have died in the last two years from the disease. They will be with me on this journey, no doubt. But I have far too many friends who are breast cancer survivors to not have tremendous hope. I will be a good patient and do what I’m told.
And I know I’m not alone.
So if you’d like to come along for my journey through breast cancer, keep reading. I can’t promise that I’ll write a lot, but I might. I promise to be honest. And I’d love to hear from you, too.