I felt so lucky to be alone in the shower! As any mom knows, with a 2-year-old and a 4-month-old, time to yourself is scarce to non-existent. I was rushing through my rinse when I felt it: a lump the size of a gumball in my right breast. I wasn't too alarmed, as I was still breastfeeding. When I ran it by my doctor during a regular check-up, he agreed it was probably just a clogged duct. When the lump was still there a month later, he said, "Probably nothing to worry about"—but scheduled an ultrasound for the following day. What happened next still makes my head spin: three days, two mammograms, one ultrasound and a biopsy later, I was sitting with my husband in a surgeon's office discussing a bilateral mastectomy and stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma, triple-negative breast cancer. I had just turned 32, with no history of breast cancer in my family.
In the weeks that followed, time spun, slowed, raced forward—but eventually, with help, I found my bearings. Surgeries removed the cancer—and my breasts along with it. Then came eight rounds—over 16 weeks—of chemotherapy. But those are just the facts and numbers. Like so many things in life, with cancer, it's not just about what you do, it's how you do it.
So, how did we do it? I sent an email to my closest friends to set the tone. I kept it light and, I hoped, funny, explaining this as a small "lump" in the road. We had a little dance party (pretty common in my household) and—since I was due to lose my hair anyway—my husband gave me a buzz cut (not so common!) on the back deck. I loved it! Somehow, we made cancer feel kinda "cool."
Through the chemo, and beyond, I couldn't help but notice the many positive effects of my diagnosis. I got great new boobs, reminiscent of the ones I had pre-breastfeeding. I got out of all the manual labor that being a co-op preschool parent entails. Delicious meals arrived at our door. And with my newly hairless body, I had no need for deodorant! It became a running joke. I'd glance at my husband—or he'd glance at me—and we'd say, with genuine smiles, "Thanks, cancer."
It's been just 16 months since my diagnosis. My children are happy, well-adjusted 2- and 4-year-olds who probably won't even remember this time in our lives. I feel like whatever dark forces were at work inside my body have been blinded by the light and love that have surrounded me. But I have to admit, I secretly miss being bald.