The next year and couple months later were some of the best times, coming out of a major illness and getting my life back. I was able to return to work, to a job I love and Meghan and I finished planning and had our dream wedding, where I was not only able to walk down the aisle, but dance and celebrate each and every minute surrounded by all of our wonderful family and dear friends. We continued to explore our amazing city and loved experiencing a Chicago summer together. The marriage we continue to build, the close-knit relationships we have with our and each other’s families, the solid relationships with our friends all combine together to leave us feeling so lucky to have lives filled with so many blessings and love.
Coming back into my life, being my best advocate, my true warrior, never left me. If anything, this only became stronger as I worked my way back into a normal routine of every day life. I constantly paid attention to my body and what it needed and viewed my relationship with food and eating in a completely different way. Eating was fuel and I only wanted to rely on healthy and clean ingredients for energy. I was excited to be able to work out again and go to the gym. I gradually built up my work outs while also listening to my body; when it was time to rest, I took days off and built this into my routine. Each week was different and I really let my body tell me when I needed a day off. My mind-body connection is stronger than it has ever been, and I rely on this connection in order to sustain being my normal, healthy, active self. It also helps my mental balance and stability, as I am able to ground myself quite easily any time I feel any kind of stress or anxiety coming on. Learning all the different ways I can be in tune with my mind and body has really opened up the key to happiness in all aspects of my life.
Weeks turned into months and I honestly got to the point where I had never felt happier, stronger or healthier in my life. Which makes this next phase a harder one to come to terms with, at least for my family it was. I slowly came to view it as a push, a nudge, another experience to gather information in order to get my message and voice out there.
It was the end of January 2018 and, I had just completed a self breast exam not less than a week ago. I became religious with self exams, completing them every month and feeling every area and corner to know exactly what to expect. I was at the gym lying down on a mat, and I felt a pain in my right breast, almost as if I was lying down on a ball of some sort. I looked down to see if there was something on the mat itself and, when there wasn’t, I touched my shirt to feel my breast. There was a lump, clear as day; it felt like there was a golf ball inside of my shirt, just resting there. I couldn’t believe it; I had just completed a self exam and literally nothing was there. It couldn’t have been more than five days ago.
I called my doctor the next morning and scheduled an appointment. During the examination, the lump felt round enough and moved fairly easily to warrant my doctor telling me he really didn’t think it was breast cancer, but he wanted to follow it through with a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. I left the office feeling relieved in his confidence that this was just a benign lump and, the fact this appeared right after my period, was even more of a sign of something he referred to as a fibroadenoma, a very common benign breast tumor.
I went back to work and scheduled my mammogram and ultrasound and, two weeks later, I would have my first mammogram ever. I haven’t turned 40 yet and since there is no family history of cancer of any kind, early mammograms weren’t dictated as part of my medical plan.
The mammogram was really uneventful, not painful at all; it wasn’t until I went into the ultrasound that things took a turn. The radiologist brought the image of my lump up on her screen and told me the irregular borders on partial of the tumor as well as it going into other skin layers were both concerning factors. It was also a mass, so a biopsy was necessary. I didn’t feel as comfortable in this appointment, so my natural coping mechanism to gather as much information as possible took over. I fired off question after question, anything that popped into my mind, about the tumor and with the assumption this was breast cancer. She diligently answered my questions, but also reminded me that this could still be benign and not breast cancer. The confidence I had leaving my doctor appointment two weeks prior was dwindling, but I still tried to remain as positive as possible.
Another two weeks later and I was on a hospital bed, getting prepared for an ultrasound guided biopsy. I found myself instinctively using some of my grounding techniques to ward off the anxiety I could feel coming up my stomach and into my chest. I never thought I would be in a position where I would require multiple appointments in a hospital again so fast after recovery, so I really needed my mind to be completely at peace going into this procedure. First, a couple shots of numbing liquid given by two of the largest needles I have ever seen, and then a series of about five samples taken with an even bigger instrument. The worst part was the horrible clicking sound it made when taking these samples. All in all, it took about an hour for the whole procedure.
The next day I got a call from the radiologist and the news wasn’t great. The samples taken were read as invasive ductal carcinoma or, in other words, breast cancer, and were of a grade 3, which implied this was a more fast growing and aggressive form of breast cancer. This made sense when I thought back to how fast the tumor had formed; in less than a week. I was absolutely certain of this fact.
After the call, I finished the notes I was taking and immediately left work. I called Meghan, my mom and my brother. These weren’t easy calls to make, as I was now the one on the other end of the line giving devastating news. It felt horrible. Once I got home, the last call I made was to Mayo Clinic and, the following week, on March 22, 2018, I was again embarking on another journey to Rochester, Minnesota.