My Little Bs Have the Big C

A Breast Cancer Blog For Young Women

Nancy’s Blogging Challenge

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Fuck Cancer!  Photo by my friend, Nicole at NicStudio on Etsy.  Buy this card.

I was working on another post for this week but I’ll postpone to do Nancy’s blogging challenge.  Thank you Nancy from Nancy’s Point for organizing this!

1. Share anything you want about your cancer diagnosis (or your loved one’s). Share your age, cancer type, stage, when you were diagnosed, family history (if any), your reaction, how you learned the news, or whatever you’re comfortable sharing.

At the time of diagnosis, I was 37 years old.  I had just finished breast feeding my son  (I did it for 17 months, go me!) when I touched my right breast and felt a large lump.  Breast cancer was common in my family so right away I was very suspicious.  Still, I waited 2  weeks to make sure it wasn’t a blocked duct.  After 2 weeks I felt again.  Not only did I feel the lump still there, I felt a second one as well.  I immediately went to my ob/gyn, who immediately got me an appointment with a breast surgeon.

One week, 1 sonogram, 4 biopsies and one mammogram later, I was officially diagnosed with breast cancer.  My son was just 18 months old and I was so scared I remember thinking I was literally going to explode; that my body couldn’t hold in all the fear.  It was terrible.

My official diagnosis was stage 2B breast cancer with lymph node involvement, ER+, PR-, Her2 low (almost Her2 positive, on the cusp and this qualified me for a clinical trial), grade 3.  My course of treatment was a mastectomy (I chose to do a single), chemotherapy: 4 AC, 12 taxol, Herceptin as part of a clinical trial, 15 sessions of radiation (also a clinical trial), and 10 years of tamoxifen.  I was also briefly on Zoladex but I couldn’t handle the side effects and my oncologist agreed that the loss of quality of life did not justify the small benefit of the drug.

Oh, and how I learned about my cancer…the asshole doctor who did the biopsy on me, after doing the biopsies said to me, “I’ll have the results for you tomorrow, just in time to ruin your weekend.”  True story.

2. What is the most outrageous thing someone has said to you about your (or your loved one’s) cancer?  

I think what the doctor said to me (see above) was pretty outrageous.  I mean, who says that?  The next day when he said matter of factly, “Well, it is cancer” also came out with the winner, “I don’t think this is going to kill you.”  Well, jeez…

3. What is your biggest cancer pet peeve? I know it’s hard to choose, as there are many to pick from, right? But what irks you the most?

I hated it when people would tell me that I was going to be “fine.”  That word, “fine” would send me into a tailspin of anger.  It diminished the severity of the situation as just a nuisance and it was so much more than that.  It was life altering.

4. What is something you want others to know specifically about breast cancer?

I want others to know that you don’t need to be older to get it.  Many young women develop the disease as well.

I want others to know that getting breast cancer doesn’t mean you have to be changed for the better because of it.  You can be changed for the worse.  It’s a terrible thing to have happened.  That doesn’t mean don’t find positivity and beauty in the experience but there’s so much pressure to be better because of it, as if you weren’t pretty fucking great before cancer.

5. If applicable, do you worry about recurrence rarely, from time to time or a lot? What is your biggest worry today, right now, this minute?

I worry about recurrence EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Being young, with an aggressive cancer, I feel like a ticking time bomb.  Especially seeing others develop recurrence, it’s something I fear all the time.  Every head ache, stomach pain, gas pain, bloody nose is my cancer.  It’s a rough way to live.

6. Do you feel cancer has made you a better person? Yes, I know this a loaded question. If you do, specifically in what way?

Nope.  I think I was a pretty good person before cancer and cancer interrupted my flow.

7. What is your favorite cancer book?

I didn’t read many but When Breath Becomes Air was exquisite.

8. Besides your family, where do you turn for emotional support?

An ice cream container.

Other women my age that I met through 5 Under 40.

The bloggesphere.

My friends.

A therapist.

9. How many cancer blogs do you read and why do you read them?

Up until 6 months ago I read dozens but recently I needed to take a step back.  I’ve been so distraught by the current political climate that it has all become too much.  I haven’t been writing as much either.  I just need a break.

10. Do you call yourself an advocate? If so, what drives you?

I think when I was blogging more I did call myself an advocate but I’m not so much right now.  When I’m ready, I’d like to jump back in, help others who are newly diagnosed and finally get to work on my theatre piece (working with survivor’s personal stories to create original theatre).

Thanks again, Nancy!!!!

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8 thoughts on “Nancy’s Blogging Challenge

  1. Carrie, the book When Breath Becomes Air is on my list of books to read. That comment from your doctor was inappropriate, so sorry. As always, it’s nice to know we have things in common. And good for you on taking that break. I am working on finding some balance myself. xo

    • When Breath Becomes Air is really a piece of art. I loved it and I personally didn’t find it re-traumatizing. That doesn’t mean it’s an easy read in the emotional sense but I really did love it.
      Ya, my first doctor (he was only my doctor for a hot minute before I hightailed it out of there) was a real asshole. Just a terrible human being. Getting a cancer diagnosis is never pleasant but there was no empathy or care whatsoever. When I met my current surgeon who was empathic but clear and honest, I didn’t search any further.
      On taking a break, it hasn’t even been a conscious decision. I just stopped and I haven’t pushed myself to read or do more. Sometimes I read a blog post here and there but rarely. And sometimes I feel like writing but it seems to be once a month and it used to be once a week. I have some things I want to write about but I keep getting busy with other things. We’ll see what happens.
      Anyway, Oliver and I might be going to Coney Island on Friday night if you want to meet us. It’s not 100% though.

  2. I so relate to you, Carrie. I also loved “When Breath Becomes Air” and didn’t think to include it in my list. Absolutely love this statement: “I think I was a pretty good person before cancer and cancer interrupted my flow.” Yes!

    • It’s so true!!! I haven’t been able to get back to my flow. It’s like a stream where a log as fallen in and only a little trickle is getting through. I need to move that log!!!!

  3. Pingback: Weekly Round Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  4. Hi Carrie, I’m glad I got to know about you and your cancer experience. Your doctor was a fuck. A real low-life. And you are right: cancer is a major life interrupter. What you said resonated deeply with me; I was diagnosed in my 30s.

  5. Hi 🙂
    I found your blog because I am on Zoladex and I don’t think I can handle it anymore! I’ve been on it for a year, and I haven’t slept a whole night sinse I started 😦 Also I’m tired, grumpy, sweaty, sticky and just sad. My poor daughter (I am a single mother) has lost her cheerful, soicial mother, and I’m not sure this is all worth it. I have an appointment with my OC on 9/26, and every other day I swear I need to come off this medicine. The other days I am to scared to consider it.

    Did you get your period back after stopping? And did the side effects go away? Are you on Tamoxifen still? And what helped you decide?

    Sincerely,
    Anne Merete

    • Hi Anne,

      How are you? I’m so sorry you are having such a difficult time on Zoladex and I’ve been there. I thought Zoladex was really tough to handle. My hot flashes were so intense I thought I would be sick or pass out. It would literally stop me in my tracks. I’m an arts educator and I’d get hot flashes regularly in the classroom and it began interfering with my work. Ultimately, my oncologist and I agreed that the small (still statistically beneficial) benefit did not outweigh the negative side effects. Zoladex is given primarily to women who were ER+ and under 35 years old at diagnosis. I was 37 at diagnosis which we figured was close enough for the benefit but also gave us another excuse to let me off of it.

      I had a lot of guilt around this. On one hand, I promised my family that I would do anything and everything to make sure this cancer wouldn’t come back and by going off Zoladex, was I really doing EVERYTHING? On the other hand, my life on Zoladex, the life I fought hard for, was not sustainable on it. I was always uncomfortable, the hot flashes worsened my lymphedema, I was a bitch on wheels on it and I was gaining a lot of weight.

      I am much happier off of Zoladex. I am still on Tamoxifen. I have not gotten my period back and although my blood showed that I’m still pre-menopausal, we don’t anticipate that it will return. But, you never know. I still get hot flashes but they are tolerable.

      I’m not sure what you should do and I would never tell you what you should do. That’s between you and your doctor. I think you just have to weigh the pros and cons. You did it for a year, which is great so you are definitely getting some benefit. The question is, can you do it for one more (if the recommendation is still 2 years, as it was when I started but I know they were considering 5)?

      I hope this is helpful to you. Let me know if you have any more questions.

      Best,
      Carrie

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