Yesterday, a culmination of information my girlfriend and I had been collecting and learning about, all came to a head.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is 27, and has no family history of any disease.
A few months ago, I found a small lump that obviously wasn’t supposed to be where it was. She was 26 at the time. It was cause for concern, but given the circumstances, who would ever assume it was harmful?
We went through the usual steps like getting an ultrasound which was passed around to multiple doctors in multiple states – nobody was concerned. It began to grow, but that can be a characteristic of a non-cancerous lump known as a fibroadenoma, which is what she was diagnosed with.
A fibroadenoma is a benign mass of fibrous and glandular tissue. Fibroadenomas are most commonly found in women aged 15 to 35. They increase in size with estrogen stimulation and regress after menopause.
It was likely to grow, but remain benign. It did continue to grow, and this past week she had a biopsy done in order to prepare for surgery to remove it. The results knocked us all back on our heels.
Not a single thing in the past few months pointed to a cancerous growth. There is always the hope in my mind that the .00001% chance of the biopsy being incorrect applies here, but we certainly can’t dwell on that.
This news is the kick off of an unidentified, unknown journey and a very new experience for everyone involved. I am standing strongly by her side and there will be nothing that can emotionally shake us during this time. Please do not pray as neither of us believe in it but any positive messages or thoughts that can be sent her way, would be huge.
She will be working with some of the finest hospitals in the country to ensure this isn’t much of a speedbump in her life and will smooth itself over in time. Her first appointment with Dana Farber is on Monday morning (This is being written on Friday), and we will learn much more then.
In the meantime, there are valuable lessons to be had here.
None of us are invincible, no matter how much we like to think that we are. We are flawed biological animals, with unpredictable bodies that have no concern about our emotions. Paying the closest possible attention to any unexpected changes in your body, no matter how old you are or what your family history is, is a practice that cannot be stressed enough.
Men, check yourselves often. Women, check yourselves often. Do not ignore any abnormality. If your body is talking to you, listen to it.
Secondly, and not to be ignored – the importance of being emotionally bulletproof.
When drastic, unexpected changes happen in life, it is incredibly easy to let your mind spin into a whirlwind and get out of control. This absolutely cannot happen. Your attitude and mindset toward your situation will play an integral role in outcomes and long term success. This does not just go for health issues, but any piece of jarring news we may hear.
It’s important to keep a healthy balance of logical and emotional thinking. Make sure the facts are understood. Become educated on the topic at hand. Often times it’s the unknown that sends us into emotional distress. Creating your own conclusions about what may happen in the future without basis or evidence based reason to think so, can drive you insane. Therefore, minimizing what’s unknown, will add to your comfort level when dealing with it.
Possibly more important than one’s own attitude, is the attitude of those around you. If you are in a situation where a loved one is going through a difficult ordeal, there is no place whatsoever for a “woe is me” attitude on your part. Your entire focus should be your own emotional fortitude and passing this comfort and stability on to anyone who needs it.
Read. Learn. Absorb as much information as possible. Talk to as many people who have experience as possible. The odds are, no matter how life altering or rare your situation is, there are people out there who have gone through the same thing, and come out the other side stronger than before. These are the only people who truly understand how you feel and what you’re going through – and staying in close contact with them can provide invaluable mental comfort.
I am incredibly optimistic in this situation. A young, healthy body is in a great position to respond to treatment and bounce back. Modern medicine and science is amazing, especially here in Boston. We are staying positive, and will be looking back on this someday as an experience that defined, and strengthened, everyone involved.
If you are going through a difficult time in your life, whether health related or otherwise, know that there is someone out there who cares about you and can relate to you. It’s easy to feel lost, alone, and hopeless. We have all been there, especially anyone faced with life-altering news.
It is always now. Hug your friends, hug your family, never miss a chance to do what you want to do or say what you want to say. Don’t waste time when life is ‘normal.’ Don’t let things that don’t matter, cause you to lose sight of things that do.
Do not let a difficulty live your life for you. Your situation is not your identity. It may have to be dealt with and be a part of your life, but it does not have to be all of it.
And most of all – never let anything defeat you, always keep moving forward. I know that’s what we are going to do.