“Questions?” asked the surgeon. “Do you have any questions?”
“No.” I whispered into the phone.
“We will need to schedule another surgery to do the lumpectomy and I will give you a referral to see a radiation oncologist. Martha from my office will call you tomorrow. Don’t worry, everything will be alright.” she said.
I sat in my car on the side of the road with my head against the steering wheel for a long time. My mind was racing and my heart was pounding, I started to shake. I breathed in slowly through my nose and exhaled loudly through my mouth. I had to keep it together so I could drive home. I practiced square breathing techniques to keep from hyperventilating; breathe in for five seconds, hold for five seconds, exhale for five seconds, hold for five seconds, breathe in…I sat on the side of the road trying to digest the fact that I have breast cancer. I closed my eyes and shook my head from side to side; son-of-a-bitch I thought. After a few moments of feeling really sorry for myself, I dug deep and found some strength. I lifted my chin as high up in the air as it would go and took a deep breath in and on the exhale I said out loud “OK.”
”OK” became my personal mantra. As if to say to myself; “OK, you can do this.”
“OK, everything is going to be alright.” “OK, you can get through this.” “OK, you are strong.” “OK, I have faith in you.” “OK, you will beat this.” “OK, I accept this.” Joe says he hears me saying “OK” to myself around the house all of the time, as if I am psyching myself up for something. This mantra has become an unconscious behavior for me now, borne out of my will to be strong and to survive.
I drove home knowing that my family would be waiting for me and waiting for the results from the pathology report. I had to deliver this news. I had to say it out loud. I have breast cancer.
I walked into my house through the garage door and into the kitchen where my mom and Gene sat watching the evening news. They turned to look at me with expectant faces and without saying a word they knew what I was about to tell them. I braced myself on the counter, “Its cancer” I said. “Oh no!”, my mother cried and jumped up to wrap her arms around me. I didn’t feel like crying as I received her hug, instead I again raised my chin as high in the air as it would go and declared that I would beat this thing and everything would be OK.