A little over two years ago, a few days before my 39th birthday, I was informed that I had breast cancer. My 50-year-old aunt had been diagnosed that summer, so when I had my annual gyno, I demanded my first mammogram, even though I was under the recommended age of 40. Got the mammo a week later, with nearly an immediate result: negative—the all clear. My relief was short lived. About 3 weeks later I noticed my nipple had turned in on itself (the tumor began directly under it, making it difficult to detect). So the mammo was that rare thing: a false negative. Ultimately, after many tests I learn this: Breast Cancer Stage 3, ER and PR negative, HER2 positive (an aggressive form of breast cancer but not as much as being negative in all 3), a very large tumor that had not yet metastasized, incredibly.
From October of 2010 to January 13, 2012, I spent most of my time in and out of medical facilities. Chemo first to shrink the tumor and make surgery less extensive, then surgery, then radiation, and I finished off with infusions of Herceptin (at $13,000+ per session) every 3 weeks until this past January. Oh and throw in quarterly echocardiograms, since Herceptin wants to wreck the heart. It sucked, but I did ok. No matter how nauseous I never barfed. Never needed blood transfusion for low blood count. My hair even started to come back when I was on the less toxic chemo, and the chemo obliterated the tumor—there was nothing discernible to remove in surgery, so they just took surrounding tissue and a few lymph nodes, and that was clear. I seem to do well with poison. Not sure what to do with that, but whatever.
So I reflect today on the suckage—and the good stuff, like my cancer buddies—of the past 2 years. And all cancer patients (or anyone facing mortality) are “obligated” to have “learned something” and share wisdom. I’m not really fond of that crap, but I will say this: I did learn to cut out anything in my life that made me miserable, and learned how easy it is to do that. I re-learned to demand what I want, to the point of being a malcontent (not too insufferable a malcontent I hope). I had lost my way in life before I got sick, but I am back on track…and now I “just gotta keep on livin’, man. L-I-V-I-N.” (Matthew McConaughey as Wooderson in Dazed and Confused)