My Little Bs Have the Big C

A Breast Cancer Blog For Young Women


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My Second Ever Mammogram

Yesterday I had my second mammogram.  We all know how the first one turned out so going into this experience I was understandably nervous.  The process of actually getting a mammogram is not bad.  It doesn’t hurt (I know a lot of women fear that it will).  It’s just unpleasant.  No one wants their boobies panini pressed.  But it’s just one of those things you have to do to maintain your health as a woman.  Here is a bit of the process.

1. After you check in and give all of your info, you go into a changing room and take off everything from the waist up.  They give you a pretty robe to put on, you take a selfie in said robe and then go into a waiting room with other women in the same robe and wait for them to call your name.

image12. They call your name and you go into the room with the imaging machine.  I don’t know if all mammogram machines are like this but the ones at NYU change color.  To keep you occupied?  Distracted?  Optimistic?  I don’t know.  But it’s a slow, psychedelic show.  Then a nurse gives you a wipe to remove your deodorant.  She is also the one who will position you and take all of the images.

image2 image3 3.  The images are then sent to the radiologist for examination.  You go back into the waiting room with the other women.  At this point one of two things can happen.  One, you are given the all clear and given a slip to make your next appointment in a year or so.  Or two, you will be called back for more imaging (for various reasons: closer examination, an image was blurry, they see something they don’t like).

I got option #2.  Three images were taken of my left breast and after sitting in the waiting room for 10 minutes, watching women who went in after me leaving with their purple slip and smiles on their faces, I started to panic.  They said that they wanted more images and called me back into the room.  I started to cry.  It was complete deja vu.  In my mind, there was only one reason why they wanted to see more.  Cancer.  Again.

The first time I had a mammogram of my left breast, (which was when my right was diagnosed) they thought they might have seen a cancer there as well.  Further testing showed that what they were seeing were scattered calcifications and not clusters (which would signify a possible tumor) and my MRI showed no signs of cancer, so I was given the all clear.  My fear all along is that these were specks of cancer everywhere, just waiting to grow and spread.  When they called me back into the room yesterday, I was sure that my prediction had come to fruition.

After they took two more images, I waited once again in the waiting room.  Alone.  Everyone else had gone.  I was the last patient.  Probably about 5 minutes later they asked to see more.  “We’re going to take just one more image.”  I began to shake.  I was shaking so badly that they had to repeat the image several times because it was coming out blurry.  Frankly, I’m glad I didn’t pass out or puke.  That’s how frightened I was.

I was sent into the waiting room again.  Five minutes passed and finally the radiologist came out to talk to me.  The same calcifications that they saw six months ago are still there.  They had not changed or grown.  They said because of my history and my family’s history with breast cancer, they wanted to be extra cautious, which is why they kept repeating images.  They are not completely sure what these calcifications are.  It could be signs of dense breast tissue since I’m so young but they are not completely ruling out the beginnings of cancer.  They wouldn’t dare.

The radiologist said that if they were very concerned they would send me for testing but since there has been no change in the last six months and my previous MRI was negative, they were comfortable sending me home.  I have my fears and doubts.  What if they let this go and six months later there is a growth and we could have done something about it now?  What if I get cancer again?  Can I do this whole process over again?  I’m strong now but I don’t think I could be strong again.  Not like this.  And if it is all over my breast, will it be all over my body?

Ultimately, she did not think this was the case but wants to keep a close eye on me.  I have already scheduled my next mammogram for six months from now.  Around that time I will also get another MRI, which will tell us more.

I just don’t know why every step of this process has to be constant torture and trauma.  I don’t know why I have to live my life in constant fear.  I will be living the rest of my life in fear.  I am so scared.

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3, 2, 1

hqdefaultIt’s the final countdown, everyone!!!!  In just over three weeks, I will finally be done with chemo!!!!  It’s hard to believe.  It’s been such a long road.  I remember when I started.  I knew that there was an end point but it seemed so far away.  You know that part in Poltergeist where the mom is running to get Carrie Ann and the hallway gets longer and longer and no matter how fast and hard the mother runs, she just can’t get to the door?  That’s what my experience has been like.

But somehow, some way, the door is here.  In three more weeks I can walk through it and the close it behind me.  I’m not sure what that looks like yet.  I don’t know what life without chemo is like anymore but I can’t wait to find out!!!!


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Cancer Valentines

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!!!  Today was a lovely day.  My husband works on all holidays, one of the downsides to being married to a pastry chef, but Oliver and I got to spend some quality time together after a long work week.  We began the day by going to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, a favorite place of Oliver’s and he had a great time.  Then we had a quiet evening at home where we played games, made Ken a crafty Valentine, and snuggled a bunch.  Ken and I will probably go out tomorrow night to celebrate his birthday and Valentine’s Day.

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We aren’t big on getting Valentine’s Day gifts around here (although I wouldn’t complain if I did get one) but wanted to write a post about, if I were to receive a lovely gift from my one and only dearest, these are things that I think I or many other young cancer patients would like.  Here are 10 ideas in no particular order.

  1. A beauty treatment like a massage, body scrub or facial.  Chemotherapy wreaks havoc on our bodies.  Doing something nice for it sounds incredible.  I would personally love a nice massage and a facial for my newly dried out skin.bondmassage-e1349316743855
  2. A cozy, soft cashmere sweater.  Like this one.
  3. A beautiful scarf to wear on the head.  I’m going to reach for the stars here and go Hermes.hermes1
  4. These organic soaps are so pretty!!! BWS_large
  5. Organic makeup.  I still have to do research on this but this brand looks pretty good.  Do you recommend any?LSS_Group__20429.1412119629.238.238
  6. Non-toxic nail polishnail
  7. House cleaning.  Because a clean house is a healthy house.
  8. Movie night with favorite movies and snacks.
  9. A lovely card or stationary, like these.  So you can write those thank you notes for all of the wonderful gifts you have gotten.nic
  10. A delicious homemade meal.  Because sometimes going out isn’t an option.


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Happy Birthday, Ken!!!!

IMG_4600When you are going through cancer, sometimes you are only as strong as the support that is holding you up.  I can only imagine that hearing on August 1st, that his wife had cancer was one of the scariest, most awful days of his life.

Anyone who has experienced cancer either personally, through a friend or family member knows that it effects everyone.  Sometimes I don’t know how it effects Ken.  He doesn’t talk about it on an emotional level but only what needs to be accomplished.  “We only have 7 more chemo’s to go!”  “We have to wipe down all of the surfaces with Clorox wipes.”  That’s the sort of thing I hear.  But I know he is worried about so much more.

So, I want to take a moment to acknowledge, thank and honor my husband, Ken Larsen for all of the things he has done for me, in our lives together, our 7 1/2 years of marriage and in this most awful six months.  I would be nothing…NOTHING without him.  I would be nothing without his optimism, his organization and his sacrifice (mostly of sleep!).

This is the man who gets up most mornings before me to get Oliver out of bed so I can at least have an extra 5 minutes of sleep.  This is the man who changed my drains after my surgery and didn’t puke so I wouldn’t puke.  This is the man who makes me dinner and lunches all the time so I have one less thing to do.  This is the man who calls 10 times a day, just to see how I’m doing and asks, “So, what’s up?  What are you doing?” over and over and over and over again.  This is the man who brings humor to all of my chemo related maladies.  This is the man who shaved my head and turned my crying into laughter and despair into fun.

This is the man I am so glad is my husband.  Happy birthday, Ken!

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Breast Cancer In Uganda

Photo by Lynsey Addario, taken from nytimes.com

Photo by Lynsey Addario, taken from nytimes.com

I was listening to WNYC again today (a great source of inspiration these days) and they did an interview with war photographer, Lynsey Addario.  She has worked all over the world in conflict zones, capturing lives of men, women and children in all aspects of war; civilians, soldiers, heroes, victims, survivors, the dead…  Her work is incredible.

Among the stories she tells with her camera lens, she has documented the conflict zone of breast cancer in Uganda.  She followed several women through post surgery, chemotherapy and last weeks and days of life.  The photographs are striking, shocking and incredibly sad.  I can’t say that I’m shocked by the images or the depiction of a medical system that is completely lacking in resources.  I’m not surprised at all.  But I’m saddened and guilty for having so much in regards to my care.  Why is it that I have and they have not?  Why do I get a bed to sleep in when I am ill from chemotherapy and they get a rug on the floor?  Why do I have nurses come to my home and tend to my wounds while these women change their own bandages.

I know the fear they must be feeling but I don’t know the despair.  Not in the same way.

Please take a look at these photos and arm yourself with the knowledge of what healthcare in breast cancer treatment looks like in another part of the world.  What can we do to help change things?  What can we do to ensure that every woman in every area in the world has the same opportunity at care that I do?


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Jealousy

photo taken from WNYC.org

photo taken from WNYC.org

Lately I’ve been looking back at old photos and videos of Oliver.  I go back and relive the day he was born, his first smile, little snuggles, his funny faces…all of it.  I’ve been looking at them and yearning to hold that child again, wishing I could go back in time.  Crying at the fact that I will probably never have that again in my life.

On the way home from work today, I was listening to WNYC on the radio and a new show came on, Living Cancer, a ten-part series on the new science in cancer treatment.  Today’s story was about a young woman with a husband and young son, probably about my age, who was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She had been debating with her husband for a while as to whether or not they wanted to expand their family.  Then, one day she found a lump in her breast and it was diagnosed as breast cancer.  When she had routine blood work done before her lumpectomy, she learned that she was pregnant.

It was risky, but she went ahead with her surgery and the fetus survived.  Under careful watch of her oncologist, she underwent chemotherapy and the fetus survived.  She delivered a healthy baby girl who is doing well.

I think it takes an incredible amount of courage to proceed with a pregnancy knowing that there are possible risks in doing so, to yourself and your unborn baby.  I think it takes an incredible amount of courage to abort.  I don’t know what I would do if I were in her situation.

But this is what I do know.  I wish I was her.  I wish I had an oops and found out that I was pregnant.  I say this not knowing if I really want another child.  Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.  But my body wants another, and badly.  I see newborn babies in carseats, strollers and carriers and I ache; with jealousy, with wanting and longing.  I look at pictures of Oliver and want to do it all over again, even the sleepless nights.  Why does this woman get to bring another child into her life and I do not?  I’ll never know.  I just know that I wish my impossible was possible.  I wish I had a chance.  I wish cancer didn’t kidnap my future daughter or son.  Jealousy.


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Six Month Cancerversary

It was six months ago this week that I was officially diagnosed with breast cancer and my life as I knew it changed forever.  On August 1st, when I heard those words, “Well, it is cancer” (asshole doctor!) I couldn’t imagine my life six months away.  Well, I could.  I imagined pain, puking, dark circles under my eyes, hospital stays, desperation, constant fear, emaciated body…  Some of these things have happened.  Some have not.  But somehow, I’ve managed them and come out the other side.  I have learned that my inner resolve is strong and that I can look pain, fear, regressions and disappointments in the face and rise above.  I have fallen.  I have fallen hard and I will fall again.  But as I try to imagine the next six months, (oh, it’s so hard for my mind to find a way to that point) I promise that I will keep standing and kick this cancer’s ass.  Because I get stronger every day.

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