Monday the 13th
5 days A.D.
I have breast cancer.
It’s official now.
In for a check, out with breast cancer
My appointment at the hospital is at the 13th. It’s not a Friday, but clearly that doesn’t matter – it is still an unlucky day.
I entered the building at 3 pm for a check-up – just to be sure – and left three hours later with a rather certain malignant tumor.
Why all this information?
After the biopsy, I find myself seated across the desk of a mamma-nurse. Mostly, she repeats what the doctors have told me so far: we see and feel a lump – the lab results will tell us what it is.
Then, she wants to check my armpits.
Why does she need to feel my armpits? That’s where the lymph nodes are, right? Why is it necessary to check those?
After that, a question: did any family members ever get diagnosed with breast cancer?
Why is this relevant? I’ve heard breast cancer can be hereditary. Why is this important?
Next, a bunch of brochures.
Why all this information? This isn’t meant for me, is it? Why would I need to read about cancer? I already know everything about brain tumors, no need for a section on breast cancer in my mental library – thank you very much.
90% breast cancer
Eventually, my mother is the one to ask it out loud: “What’s the meaning of all this? What do you expect the lab results to be?”
The answer hits me hard.
“We’re 90% sure it’s breast cancer”.
Classic coping skills
The minutes-hours-days between that sentence and the next appointment on Friday are blurry.
What I do remember are the following 10 ways I apparently deal with bad news:
- Calling my brother to casually inform him “by the way, I have breast cancer. Okay-bye” and hang up the phone (I hereby apologize again);
- Definitely not calling my sister, who lives across the sea, in the UK. I just know she will freak out and she’s there all alone and I don’t know what to say and I can’t do it and let’s just wait until Friday mmmkay?;
- Coming home to find my then-husband, one of the most unromantic men in the world, having prepared a candlelight dinner to celebrate us being together for eight years today. I’m talking gifts, chilled wine & a table full of delicious homemade food. Casually informing him about the news too by saying: “hi, yeah, good evening, seems we’re a cancer couple now, oh nice, you prepared dinner, thanks” (best not to beat around the bush);
- Leaving that dinner untouched for three days. Actually, I’m pretty sure I didn’t eat at all that week;
- Planning to just go to work because there’s nothing wrong? Realizing that I can’t do that because then I will see my colleagues and they will ask me how the appointment in the hospital was and then I have to say 90% breast cancer out loud and I don’t want to do that.
- Searching the internet for: “nonmalignant tumors that are not breast cancer”;
- Also googling: “statistic chance of breast cancer at 28”;
- And: “death statistics breast cancer”;
- Playing The Sims and Zelda BOTW with the curtains closed;
- Touching the lump in my right boob and kindly asking it to please, please, please not be breast cancer.
See here: a beautiful list of denial, shock, and negotiating. Classic.
Friday not the 13th, still bad luck
So here I am, five days later, hearing from my doctor that:
“No, unfortunately, this wasn’t a “nonmalignant tumor that isn’t breast cancer“.
“Yes, the chances of breast cancer at 28 are small, but not zero”. And:
“We will try our very best to get you on the right side of the statistics”.
It’s a Friday.
It doesn’t have to be the 13th to be an unlucky day.
Wanna know how I replied to the official results? Continue reading (this post will come up soon – sign up for my newsletter to get an e-mail when I’ve posted it ♡).
When you receive bad news, what is your first coping strategy?