Disclosure :: our Breast Cancer Awareness series is sponsored by Baton Rouge General.
Disbelief into Determination: A Peek into my Breast Cancer Journey
As I walked outside to find my husband Joe, I think that I was in disbelief that my water was breaking five and 1/2 weeks early. Then again, disbelief had become my new normal, and little did I realize it, but that same feeling was planning to set up shop in my mind for a few more months. However, being the avid planner that I am, everything was ready to get thrown into the car and off we headed to the hospital. A mere 2 hours later she was here, my good luck charm. Yvette Kate was born perfectly healthy weighing a whopping 6 pounds 13 ounces.
I felt like I could finally take a deep breath, or could I?
Soon I was settled into the hospital room, and as I laid her across my bare chest there it was, the bandages from the prior day’s surgery strewn over my left breast. I was elated to finally have some good pain medicine in my system from the C section. Any pregnant woman will tell you that Tylenol really doesn’t do the job for aches and pains, much less ease the immense pains from a lumpectomy. You see, I had found a lump in my left breast while showering the week before. It was hard yet rubbery and seemed to move around pretty easily. It was about the size of a grape, and I felt as if it just showed up overnight. I had an eerie feeling upon its discovery and honestly wanted it out of my body immediately. I assumed that it was some sort of cyst or pregnancy related growth because I have no family history of breast cancer, After all, I was only 34 … as if it would come back malignant.
Waiting for the biopsy results
My husband and I spent the 2 days following Yvette’s birth in sheer bliss during our stay at the hospital. We were sent home on a Monday, and it turns out that will be a day that I will never forget. There really is no better feeling than bringing home your new little one and watching your other child and husband bond with this tiny creature that had called your womb home for the better part of a year. Simply put, it was a magical day. I remember being nervous as the clock struck 4pm that afternoon. I should be hearing back about the biopsy results done during Thursday’s lumpectomy and I couldn’t wait to put this entire scare behind me.
Just as my mind started to race, my husband walked into our bedroom and I remember seeing this particular look on his face. The baby was in her bassinet at my side and Valentina, our 2 year old, was at a relative’s house. He simply sat down at the edge of the bed, took a deep breath and said “Kate sweetheart, the Dr. is on his way over to speak to us. I am afraid he has bad news. Baby, you have breast cancer.” “What? How bad is it?” I was screaming. We knew nothing … just that the tumor tested positive for invasive ductal carcinoma, and that based on its size, the outlook looked pretty good but further testing was required.
I just could not wrap my head around what was a happening. The next few weeks were brutal. As anyone who can been diagnosed with the “BIG C” can tell you, until you know your enemy and your war strategy your mind will take you to the darkest of places. I found it especially difficult to be around my kids. How could I hold this new little baby and not know if I would be around to see her grow up? I had to do something. I woke up every morning reaching for my pregnant belly. Then my heart would sink to my toes. My belly was gone, my baby was already here, and then the realization that I was facing a cancer battle settled in all over again. The disbelief was agonizing.
My turning point
It was March when all this was happening which also meant that it was the Catholic season of lent. Someone who had been through something similar told me that I needed to “find God to get through this journey.” Find Him? Had I lost Him? The advice stuck out to me more than most, and honestly it confused the heck out of me. So I just started praying, in particular to Holy Mother Mary. As a Catholic, I had always prayed to her but never like this. She became my therapist, my Holy Mother, my fourth sister, my everything. I really started just talking to her and felt like if she could watch her son crucified and trusted God’s plan for her life, then I could certainly handle this and learn to trust God’s plan for me too. That was my turning point. It is like I allowed myself a certain time to grieve and then enough was enough, I was determined to make the best of this. I suddenly felt the presence of God with me everyday. The mornings got easier. Waiting for test results and entering PET Scan machines became quiet times where God’s Grace entered my body and left me feeling at peace. I must say that this journey and the treatments are no cake walk, but I have felt like someone has been holding my hand through the fire, and that has changed everything.
As I near the end of my treatment and look forward to moving on after this crazy year, I have to say how grateful I am for this experience. I would never have chosen this journey for myself or for my family and loved ones, but I can’t say that I would change anything about it. I feel lucky that at 34, I have gotten a wake up call for my life and that I can really understand what truly matters. If anyone out there is facing a trial, however big or small, my advice is to talk to God or meditate on your life. There is purpose and beauty in everything, and the situation you are facing might be there to change you for the better … so embrace it, and ask for some guidance from the heavens. Trust me, someone is out there listening.
Kate is finishing treatment from Dr. Zoe Larned MD at Ochsner in New Orleans and credits the amazing doctors and staff at The Center for Restorative Breast Surgery for her successful double mastectomy with reconstruction preformed by Dr. Karl Ordoyne MD, FACS and Dr. Frank DellaCroce MD, FACS. She hopes to help other women facing similar battles and to spread the word about early detection for women under 40. You can follow more of her journey as she documents it on her Instagram page @katestarkstyle.