Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Diagnosis

So everyone has to talk about how it felt to hear it. How it feels to forever have your life taken, turned upside down, and shaken over and over again. Take every moment you've ever felt worried, nervous, excited, bottle it up and that's the feeling. Your first junior high dance, waking up and noticing you have 30 minutes to get to your final college exam, your first day on your "big girl" job, your dad's surgery, giving your first presentation to a board of directors, walking down the aisle.  It's lose your breath, you shake, your heart goes nuts, you don't think anything for a moment and then death rushes to your mind. I imagine this is the same in every grief-on-set moment. I remember wanting nothing more than to feel safe and in my mind trying to figure out how to run and hide or find someone that could help me at that very moment. I wanted to turn back time and change what I just heard.  I wanted to gain back my control. I wouldn't let the nurse hang up for fear that I would need her to call an ambulance. I remember that the plumber was at our house and I for some crazy reason felt better that at least he was there to resuscitate me if needed!  I hung up and immediately thought about our baby.  I had already done the research. I knew that I could fight the cancer while pregnant and not hurt the baby.  But at this point I was so scared that my current state of pure and utter nuttiness would surely cause harm to the baby in itself.  After I hung up I called my husband.  I felt bad telling him, sad that I was ruining his day, and that I was being insensitive because I didn’t tell him in some fancy way.  I just blurted out “you need to come home because I have cancer!”.

Unfortunately, we had to wait the weekend to hear any more information.  That was pure HELL.  Thank God my family came up to help keep my mind off of it.  I went through many stages of disbelief, anger, sadness, self-pity, and fear.  Ben and I would wake up in the morning look at each other and start crying.  It was a very tough weekend- but we got through it.

The next week I gained what I needed:  information and a PLAN! Having a plan felt like I could take back a little bit of control.  A lot of people I talk to and read about talk about the loss of control from cancer.  It is one of the toughest parts about it.  You did nothing to get this, you can do nothing to change that you were diagnosed with it.    

So here’s what they told me.  I had a bad day in the cell-making business one day.  Turns out many of us do- microscopic cancer cells are created in everyone’s body at some point.  But mine grew for whatever reason.  The stars aligned and at some given point when my immune system was down, it grew.   During pregnancy your immune system lowers and your body tells it to let things grow and cells to multiply…because that’s what’s happening to the baby.  It can’t distinguish between a cancerous tumor and an embryo.  Also, I was one big walking hormone at this point.  My tumor is estrogen positive so it was if the pregnancy was fighting against me…kind of like Bella on Twilight (I know, dumb, but some of my friends will like that reference!).   Being pregnant with cancer means I have a very aggressive cancer.  The worst grade- 3/3, that’s how it read on my pathology report.  This is apparently quite common for Pregnancy Associated Breast Cancer (PABC).  I was given a clinical stage of 2- with one known lymph node infected.  They can’t be certain how much further it has spread because it is too risky to run the other tests while pregnant but he thinks it is "contained in these 2 areas".  

My treatment is 4 cycles of what is known in Cancer World as the “Red Devil” or “AC cocktail”.  A mix of Adriamycin and Cytoxan once every 21 days (I remember the “C” one because it sounds like “toxin”).  Then I start Taxol, another form of chemo, for 12 weeks, administered every week.  My team of doctors will work together to come up with a plan as to when they will induce me.  They'll take the baby somewhat early. We are looking at somewhere around 37-38 weeks.  We need to be careful and have it nicely planned (I like that) making sure the baby is growing as it should and ready.  I will have a very small break from the chemo to make sure Baby K and I are strong and ensure my platelets are high enough before I give birth.  They absolutely want a natural birth so that I can begin chemo treatment right away after.  My surgery will come after that.  We are to discuss my options later.  They are doing chemo first because the surgery would be more risky to the baby and because we want to stop the spreading of cancer dead in its tracks.  We already know that it is as far as one lymph node.  After the surgery and 16 treatments we will hope I'm in, no, no...I WILL be in remission (positive affirmation people!).  Then starts an anti-estrogen pill for 10 years.  This basically puts me into a menopausal state (awesome!) but this will be my best friend.  It helps ward off the recurrence of cancer.  When cancer comes back it usually comes back with a vengeance.   It's probably every cancer survivor's nightmare.  I have an amazing team of doctors and an even better team of Prayer Warriors on my side!  Thank you all so much for the thoughts, gifts, notes of encouragement, and prayers!  So begins the fight….



  1. Beautifully written just like you. You are so strong and the prayers will continue to flow abundantly your way.

  2. Athena my strong minded girl! Yes you will beat this and we are all here holding you, praying for you, and here for whatever you need! Love you tons & tons!

  3. Athena, I am so sorry you are a part of this journey. You have many prayers coming your way and your will survive. You have so much to live for and you will beat this.