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  • Michelle Katz

"How could this be happening?"

Cancer..... isn’t that either everyone’s worst nightmare or something you never give thought to because hey it’ll never happen to me?? I don’t think I ever even thought about it, wasn’t that something that happened to older people?? Fast forward to April 2020 in the middle of the Corona Virus pandemic, and after my usual morning workout, I feel a pain in my right breast close to my armpit. I feel and there it is, a round lump...stationary. Did I pull a muscle? Bang it? What could it be? I take a ride to my moms that afternoon and show her. She thinks it’s nothing. Cystic breasts run in the family but she says be safe go get it checked. I think to myself ok what’s the harm in going? Better to be safe. I got an appointment right away with my OB who also felt it was a cyst but sent me for a mammogram which also happened quickly. That day I walked into my appointment not really thinking much, but I walked out with my entire world falling apart around me. That day after a mammogram and ultrasound I was told point blank I had breast cancer. They would do a biopsy but that was just procedure, she knew it was cancer and she was so sorry to have to tell me that alone in a hospital with nobody allowed in to be with me. I laid there hysterical as they did 2 different tissue biopsies and tried to hold it together. In my mind, I felt so cheated. How could this be happening? I’m a healthy 38-year-old woman. I exercise daily and eat relatively healthy. I thought to myself haven’t I been through enough in my life already? Didn’t god think I dealt with enough? I thought about my life... my childhood and my children. My father was an alcoholic and my parents divorced when I was 4. I wore hearing aids my whole life and then at 36 I lost my father, both grandmothers, and my godfather. I am also the mother of a child with Down Syndrome and other health issues and my husband had suffered a 1.5 year battle with a Colitis flare that led to a year in and out of the hospital and 3 surgery’s which cost his colon. All those things took a toll on my marriage and myself as a person. I had been through so much why now this?? How much does god think I can handle? After calling my mother and husband and eventually leaving the hospital I went home to literally fall apart. I felt so overwhelmed, cheated, angry, and afraid. What would my children do without me? I don’t want to miss anything. The next week was a blur. I had so many appointments, more biopsy’s, MRIs, and ultrasounds I felt like the world was spinning around me. I was scheduled for a lumpectomy and would begin treatment after. The morning of the surgery my husband dropped me off at the hospital, he couldn’t even come in to wait with me. I was scared but I knew I had no choice. I had to do this and I would. When I woke up I was told the lump was bigger than expected and wrapped around my peck muscle so they did a partial mastectomy. The shock of seeing myself was very difficult. I didn’t allow anyone to look at me after that. I was so uncomfortable in my own body. The physical pain wasn’t close to as bad as the emotional and mental pain I felt. It was consuming me. All I could think about. Would it come back? Be worse? Would I get a different kind too? I couldn’t sleep. O matter what I did. Then days later the results were in. I had stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma. The most common type of cancer and I was lucky, it wasn’t in my lymph nodes. In the world of cancer, I was lucky. I didn’t feel lucky but I knew I was. I started treatment and allowed my body to do what it needed to fight this off. I rested and focused on my kids. I gave myself no other option but to do it and get through it. I had 3 kids to live for and they needed me. I focused on staying positive and finding the silver lining. I knew it could have been a lot worse. I prayed all the time and continue to pray that it never comes back in any way. During my treatment, I lost my cousin to ovarian cancer. Her battle started a few months before mine but was a lot worse than mine. I got the news of her passing as I walked into radiation and I fell to the floor crying. 37 years old! My heart was broken. I shaved her head for the first time when her hair started falling out, I spent evenings in her hospital room just talking about anything and everything but what she was facing. The last time I went to visit her at her home before she died I gave her a gift for her birthday with a beautiful bag of head wraps and hats and we talked for hours about being little kids and all the fun we had. We talked about a trip we wanted to take together when she got better.....I never thought that would be the last time I would be in her apartment. Shortly after she moved in with her brother and was hospitalized. She never left the hospital. Life was so unfair. I felt like I lost most of the important people in my life that year and I never felt so lonely. I lost hope in my own treatment and feared I wouldn’t get through it. After 7 months I got the news that I was cancer-free. I would need 5 years of chemo pills but I was cancer-free. I cried for hours after that call. I cried for my cousin and wished she was with me and celebrating her success to, I cried for my experience and how scared I was, I cried because I knew my life would never be the same again and I would never stop wondering if it would come back. I always appreciated life but I did even more so now. I saw how quickly it could be taken away from you and I knew how lucky I was.

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