Sunday, January 31, 2010

How My Cancer Was Discovered

So much has happened in the two weeks since my diagnosis that I feel like I have about 20 blog posts in my head already. But, I will start at the beginning, with the story about how my cancer was discovered in the first place.

Just after New Year's, I noticed a physical change in my right breast that had come on quite suddenly. (My modesty is preventing me from a full description here, but if you want to know please don't hesitate to ask me and I will gladly tell you.)

I kept my eye on it, but it didn't change. A couple days later, I noticed as I was trying to fall asleep that while lying on my stomach, I could feel a very slight tenderness in the right side, but not in the left.

A couple days after that (Friday, January 8th), I did a self-exam as I was getting ready for work. I did not feel a lump, but overall my right breast felt different - harder and more firm than the left.

Right away, I called my gynecologist's office and made an appointment for the following Tuesday. At the exam, my gynecologist told me that I needed to have a mammogram and sonogram. While she did say that "nothing was jumping out at her," the fact that there was a difference between the right and left sides, and that I had noticed a difference, was reason enough to get it checked out.

Two days later, Thursday, January 14th, I went to have my first mammogram and sonogram. I did not expect to get any results this day because my gynecologist had told me she would probably get the results the following day, so I went to the appointment by myself.

In the mammogram room, there was a calendar on the wall with a photo of Santorini, the Greek island that I visited last year with my Mom during a business trip - one of the prettiest places I've ever been. For some reason, I though this would be a good sign (I've since stopped looking for "signs").

I had the mammogram first, then the sonogram. During both, the technician had to come back and do more tests after the radiologist had seen my scans. I was a bit wary about this - why would he need more tests if he hadn't seen anything? - but I didn't let myself get too worked up about it, since I would not let myself worry about anything until I had a reason to.

After the sonogram, the technician left and came back with two doctors - the radiologist and a breast surgeon. Now I knew it was bad news. The radiologist told me that my scans showed "suspicious tissue" and that they wanted to do a biopsy that afternoon, and could I stay? I immediately started to cry, but I held it together enough to ask if the biopsy came back negative, was there something else that it could be? Both of the doctors shook their heads "no" and told me they were pretty certain that I had cancer.

They gave me a private room that wasn't being used to make some calls. My parents immediately left work and drove up to NYC to be with me (since I had to wait around for the radiology place to squeeze my biopsy in that afternoon). I also called my office to tell them I wasn't coming back to work that day.

This may sound silly, but the rest of the time that I was in the waiting room by myself, I just sat there with my tear-stained face reading celebrity gossip on my BlackBerry. I just needed something mindless to do so that I could keep it together until my parents got there.

My parents arrived shortly before they called me for the biopsy. Obviously, they had been shocked by the news, but I'm lucky in that I have a very close and strong family with a "we will get through this" attitude.

In many ways, January 14th and the days that followed have been the hardest so far because I knew that I had cancer, but I didn't know anything else - how bad it was, what my prognosis was, or what my treatment options were. It's very easy (and dangerous) to let your mind run wild with the possibilities when you don't yet have all the information.

But luckily, even though part of me was scared to find out the details (what if it was bad?), I've since learned that knowing is far, far better than not knowing!


  1. Hi Emily, Your mom fowarded your blog to me. I never expected to be laughing at what you had to say. Despite the complexity and serious nature of cancer, the way in which you shared your experiences thus far was totally uplifting, your words were filled with such positive energy and humor.It so generous of you to share your journey as it unfolds. Needless to say my prayers are constantly with you and your family.
    With love,
    Lynn Michel
    P.S. the snapshot of Sara is adorable

  2. Emily,
    Your attitude about this is so inspiring! I was shocked when I got Sara's invite to "Emily's Entourage" last night. I know it's been years since we've seen each other, but you've always been such a great positive person and good friend. It's so good to see that you've taken a hold of your emotions and funneled them into positive spirits. I will definitely stay tuned to your blog and say prayers as you move through this scary ordeal. Just wanted to let you know you have one more friend behind you supporting your recovery!!!
    Lauren Maguire
    PS I like the new hair- it looks very sophisticated!