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The 10 stages of my Breast Cancer diagnosis.

Posted in Health, and Women's issues

Turkey Vulture Pair

  1. SHOCK. But not much awe. It’s as if the doctor were talking about someone else entirely. I understand very clearly what he is conveying to me – the change in the mammogram, the size of the lump, the details of the procedure he wants to perform immediately – and I am cataloguing every piece of it very methodically, so I can recall them later.
  2. INVENTORY OF THE PERIPHERAL DETAILS. I have been coming to this radiology lab for many years. I pay for mammograms and ultra-sounds out-of-pocket because I like to get the results immediately but now I am thinking this is going to cost me a whack and that maybe, just maybe, I should get up, take my exams and start the process with my insurance. I calculate that, being Friday, the likelihood of being seeing by someone else for the better part of a week is small. That is what credit cards are for.
  3. ANNOYANCE. I am unfailingly polite. The doctor is describing every step of the biopsy – very nice of him – and I don’t tell him I am extremely familiar with it. I happen to know more than most about breast cancer, and I sat through one of these when it was the turn of a close friend. I know what that massive needle looks like, the loud clicking noise it makes. I am not scared. What I don’t know, and nobody ever told me, including this doctor who couldn’t spare a single detail, is that it hurts like a bitch. Is it because I have small breasts? Is it him, too heavy-handed? I am tempted to get up and leave and just say I am done here. Politeness kicks in again.
  4. DOWN TO BUSINESS. As the nurse bandages me up, I prepare a list of questions: I want the correct terminology, a list of possible outcomes, sizes and names so that I can feel like me and not just a patient.
  5. PANIC. 90 minutes later I am in the street. The sun is shining on the pretty Beverly Hills stores, my right breast aches and I am waiting for the painkillers to kick in. I fumble for the car keys. I call my husband. My adrenaline picks this particular moment to leave, its job done, and as he answers the phone I slip into incoherent babble and a river of tears.
  6. SELF-PITY. This has been a pretty crappy Summer, one of the worst in memory, and Autumn has not started on the right foot. I feel sorry for myself as I drive home, skipping all the fun things I had planned for the day. My mother, sitting next to me, knows better than to keep on say reassuring words.
  7. NEED TO TALK. I need to tell my closest friends. Now. I call my sister. No answer. I type a message. I write an email to Sue. I call Silvia in Bologna. I call Luisa in Los Angeles. They all respond swiftly. They always do to my dramas, real and invented. I need to be told everything will be fine even if I don’t necessarily believe it. The odds are small but I bet that is what they told those people in the single digit percentage too. I don’t know it’s nothing. I will not know until Tuesday. If the news is not good, at least my friends will be there to map it out with me.
  8. WAITING. Memo to self: do not plan any diagnostics on a Friday. Now I have to wait until Tuesday. I think of random things: the pathology work is done at the hospital where I volunteer, I know exactly where; good thing I washed the dogs yesterday, as today I can’t exert my right pec. too much; I am glad I didn’t skip a year, as most doctors now tend to recommend; I am still going to New York, come what may.
  9. EXHAUSTION. The by-product of shock is a deep exhaustion. I feel the same as the day I had my only serious car accident. It’s four o’clock in the afternoon and my body is as battered as if I ran a marathon. I still sit down to write this in the hope of getting it out of me.
  10. READING THE SIGNS. We take the dogs for a walk later in the afternoon and we spot, not one, but four turkey vultures circling over us. They are probably considering whether Ottie and Portia could make a delectable dinner but, as their sighting is extremely rare, I take it as a good omen. I will have to invent more of these good luck signs in the next three days.  I am not quite sure why I would think a vulture, rare or otherwise, would be a good sign. It isn’t.
A biopsy needle looks something like this
A biopsy needle looks something like this

When my cell phone finally rings on Tuesday, after a three-hour wait from the original time I was given, as soon as I hear the doctor starting the sentence with “unfortunately”, I am not surprised. It’s as if I knew all along. When my mother found me in a ball of tears on my yoga mat, on Sunday night, mumbling “I can’t do this now. I am not strong enough”, it’s as if I had processed already what was about to come and when it does come, it’s kind of a let down. At least, I know for sure.

Now I have to organize myself to stay afloat and not lose my identity as I become a cancer patient, a statistic, a woman whose life has been upended, who will have to hold on to sanity in the midst of medical appointments, surgery and whatever else. What 20 years of yoga have not perfected, a single cancer diagnosis has: I swiftly learn to live in the moment. I don’t see a lesson to be learnt here, there is no reason for what has happened to me, other than dumb luck or maybe an ancestor gifting me her faulty genes. I don’t quite care.

Surprisingly, I am not that angry – the “why me” moment comes and goes quickly. I am scared hence I plan, to keep control over what is happening, to not let it spiral. If I put it into words, I can make it real.

Whatever grace and sense of humour I possess, I call forth now. It seems I have to do this too.

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36 Comments

  1. I truly am so sorry to read this post. Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you. I think you accurately and perfectly described the stages but please know I’m keeping my fingers crossed that your results will ultimately be positive news. Hugs coming your way. <3

    October 14, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Am trying to stay positive as I undergo more tests. Thank you Monica.

      October 16, 2015
      |Reply
  2. lollok2
    lollok2

    I can’t imagine what you are going through. Thank you for posting your personal journey.. F cancer! Stay strong and courageous and be kind to yourself. I am sending you positive thoughts.

    October 14, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you – kind to myself. Am trying not to get mad at my body.

      October 16, 2015
      |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I will. In my own way I suppose. But I will also try not to bore anyone to tears with my cancer.

      October 16, 2015
      |Reply
  3. So sorry to hear this. It takes a lot of courage to share something like this publicly, and in such an eloquent and thoughtful way. Good luck with everything, stay strong, and know you have the support of your blog followers. Jane x

    October 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      It was not a decision I took lightly, the one to share but one I don’t regret now. Thank you for the support.

      October 16, 2015
      |Reply
  4. Eleonora Toffolo
    Eleonora Toffolo

    I’m with you heart and soul. You will get through this with shining colors !!!

    October 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you Ellie! Will reply to your personal email as soon as I can. Promise.

      October 16, 2015
      |Reply
  5. Isabel Freeman
    Isabel Freeman

    Claudia, I’m so sorry that you’ve gotten this diagnosis and i know that the road ahead will have it’s challenges. I think you are courageous to share this with all of us who read your blog and that you will find the courage and strength to deal with whatever treatment you need. Much love and good wishes to you.
    Isabel

    October 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you Isabe. And yes, I might recruit you for some driving if need be. You will be sorry you offered!

      October 16, 2015
      |Reply
  6. Penni
    Penni

    Dear, even if I alredy knew, you touched me in the deepest because:
    Point 1 – you are my friend;
    Point 2 – your words could have been mine nearly three years ago;
    Point 3 – your feelings could have been mine nearly three years ago;
    Point 4 – you are too far away from Italy and I cannot hug you;
    Point 5 – because I know it’s hard but you can make it;
    Point 6 – because now the women that read your blog will do mammo every year.

    Be positive, always. Remember that it is part of the treatment.
    I made it and so will you.
    Love,
    Penni

    October 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Don’t think I don’t hold the image of how wonderful you looked when I saw you last year. I will be plaguing you with questions. Thank you for your love.

      October 16, 2015
      |Reply
  7. Shit. I can say “shit” in such a situation, can’t I? Because I just have no other words for this. I am so very sorry you have to live this, and I hope you manage to keep your energy up and have good friends around throughout the whole process. Sending you a virtual hug.

    October 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Will take a hug. And yes, you can say shit. I hurled quite a few fucks myself.

      October 16, 2015
      |Reply
  8. Sending good vibes, well wishes and virtual hugs your way xo

    October 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Will take them all!

      October 16, 2015
      |Reply
  9. What a stunning post. Sad, happy, funny, yet stunning. I’m so glad you have good support. At 59, and with people dying prematurely to the right and left of me, this post comes at a significant time to me, especially since I tend to ignore my mammogram notices. It just made me glad that I ate all of those croissants when I was in France recently. Hopefully for you, cancer patient will quickly turn to cancer survivor.

    October 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you Mimi. The dispute on whether to get yearly mammograms will go on. It could be the benefit just is not there but I am glad I found out now and not 12 months from now. So, please, go.

      October 16, 2015
      |Reply
  10. I’ve been sleeping with a heavy heart thinking about you. There’s no rhyme, no reason; and as I type this I hear Foo Fighters in the background on my old CD player, “It’s times like these we learn to live again.” I know you’ve been living, been cognizant of stressors, trying new things, reaching out to others in need–and, yet. This makes everything different. I felt sad to read about your tears, but I also feel confident that all will be well in the end. Easy to write, I know, but you know I’m here for you. I cook a mean Pastichio. Love you, dear friend.

    October 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Tears are good. All the tension and anxiety and fear have to go somewhere. I am a prolific crier. Vegetarian pastichio? The little meat I used to eat is now coming out of my diet altogether. Thank you for your love and support.

      October 16, 2015
      |Reply
  11. I’m so sorry to hear this. My mum has been through cancer a few times and I have often wondered, if I were in her shoes, or should I find myself in your shoes one day – how will I go about it? The initial shock, the fleeting anger and pity and the fear you felt or still feel comes alive with your words. All I can do is hope for what I think I might need should I find myself in your shoes one day…besides healing, miracles, wonder drugs and anything that will kick the cancer in the ars, hard and far! I wish for you support – a handful of friends and family who you can call be it 1 in the morning! I wish for you laughter and happy, feel good experiences become your distraction. I wish for you strength and bravery while on this journey and a good friends shoulder to cry on when you’re not feeling that. And I wish for you to receive some good news soon.

    October 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you so much! I will take the encouragement, the good wishes and the hope for good news. At least I am surrounded by supportive people and lots of shoulders to cry on.

      October 16, 2015
      |Reply
  12. I am sorry to hear about this. Like Susan above said, the “Like” was not regarding this news but to show support.

    My mom went through this 20 years ago. It was caught very early because she, without fail, got a yearly mammogram. I don’t like getting them but know I must. I know my mom would not be here today if she had ignored them like many of my peers.

    Sending you support and positive vibes from Rome.

    October 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you so much Arlene. And yes, if you are over 45 – which I doubt – please go. Hope to be in Rome again soon.

      October 16, 2015
      |Reply
  13. Every time I have had a mammogram, I have had to go back for another. Something didn’t look right — the image wasn’t clear enough — just always something. So I can understand, to a degree, the waiting and worrying part. But, getting that diagnosis is something I have only had fleeting moments of wonder as to how I would deal with hearing the frightening words. I would hope I would not roll into a ball and suck my thumb. I would hope I’d be strong and know that if other women can beat this, I could too. I hope the same for you. Be strong!

    October 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I can tell you that you would deal, you would pick yourself up after a good cry and then you would get on with it. I am dreading every minute but I have also learnt to compartmentalize. It all falls into place. But I truly hope you never have to go through this.

      October 16, 2015
      |Reply
  14. There are, of course, no words. But now isn’t a time for words, is it? I know you only as well as one can know words across a screen, but it would seem as if for you, there is only to do. To act. To move, ever onward. The alternative would be beneath you. So be it. Be well!

    October 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you. And I will keep it in mind when the desire to crumble becomes overwhelming.

      October 16, 2015
      |Reply
  15. That made heartsinking reading. I’m so sorry you have to go through this.

    I have often marveled how some women that I read about manage to be so strong and positive under these circumstances. And I then wonder if I could be that way. Then I reason it’s the only way. And then I vow that if it should happen to me I will try with all my might to be that way. I would drown myself in the positive experiences, the motivational stories, the victorious autobiographies. I’d become diligent, almost student-like in the pursuit of positivity. I’d believe in myself and the power of my own mind and body working together to heal and conquer. I’d bathe in the light and let no dark in (well, only sometimes).

    I’m sending you the same hope for positivity. And I’m keeping positive too.

    XO

    October 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Somehow, it’s all you can do. Keep the positive. Because the alternative of constantly contemplate mortality is helpful only for a fleeting moment. I hope I will get decent news in the weeks to come – in the meantime, I try to stay me.

      October 16, 2015
      |Reply
  16. I’m sorry to hear about your diagnosis and wish you the courage, strength and perseverance to get through the challenges, present and future. I hope that you have a supportive network around you, which it sounds like you do, and that they can provide some level of comfort and reassurance during these trying times.

    October 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      They do and they will. I am very lucky that way. Thank you Jaime.

      October 16, 2015
      |Reply
  17. Somehow it seems wrong to click on the “Like” button today, but it’s to show my support of the writer, not any enjoyment of what you’ve written about. I wish you all the luck and love that you will need to get through this.

    October 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you Susan. Will take luck and good thoughts. Even all the way from Melbourne.

      October 16, 2015
      |Reply

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