I've been not writing this particular post for quite some time. More than a month now. I am still not sure I will click Publish, but I'm going to write it, even if it just sits as a draft.
I've been away from blogging due to a completely unforeseen circumstance. I've been diagnosed with breast cancer. I had no notion at all that anything was wrong. I had a regular, it's time for it mammogram, and got a call back the same day that they wanted me to come back in for "better images". I had to wait two full weeks for that second mammogram.
On that day, it turned out to be not just a second mammogram, but also a very thorough ultrasound, followed by a radiologist standing over me saying they saw a 'mass' and want to do a biopsy.
If that doesn't knock the wind out of you, I don't know what does. Things literally close up around your peripheral vision and the world becomes very very small. When, when will the biopsy happen? When you say mass, do you mean cancer? Can I call my husband?
Well, the biopsy happened that very day, within the next 20 minutes, followed by another mammogram. Yes, a biopsy where they took what seemed to me to be four samples, followed by what all women know and understand if they've even had one mammogram in their lives.
I was told the pathology results of the biopsy would take five days. Here's the thing. Absolutely none of the time frames that I've been given have been the truth. Five days turned into two weeks. Yes, cancer confirmed.
The other chapter to all of this is I do not have a family doctor. I am one of thousands and thousands of people in Ontario who do not have a doctor. Mine retired toward the tail end of Covid. He was supposed to be replaced, but that fell through. So basically for all of us Canadians, if something goes amiss, we go to the emergency room at the closest hospital (alas, my closest hospital has had it's emergency room closed at night for a long time, and now that bigger centres are also experiencing this, the media is in a flutter about what will our premier do to solve this problem. The problem has been around for a while.) I digress. When one does not have a family / primary care doctor, it makes things very very difficult when one is diagnosed with something like breast cancer. One feels a great deal of panic, anxiety, fear, mixed in with a huge dose of anger. I have been assigned a "patient navigator", and even that took quite some time to happen. She is lovely, but she's not my doctor. She is, in fact, a nurse practitioner who is wonderful, but unable to take me on as a permanent patient. She will, from my understanding, help me through the cancer process. I am being referred to an excellent centre in a bigger city, but even that has taken weeks and weeks from my official diagnosis date. Don't let anyone tell you that our health care system is perfect because we don't have to pay out of pocket for surgeries or procedures. There's a whole other level of let down.
So, that's my world right now. I advocate for myself continuously, phoning people, asking if they've found me a doctor (no, and likely, I won't get one), phoning for appointments, leaving messages, fixing other people's mistakes, and on and on it goes. It is exhausting to be your own advocate while riding the rollercoaster of emotions that I have read are completely normal to be experiencing right now.
I do not know what my treatment will be, as I still haven't had my appointment for further tests in the bigger centre, but it is coming up. I now know that I will have to wait at least two weeks for results to happen and then more time before those results make their way to my patient navigator. My brother and sister-in-law put me in touch with her cousin who has gone through breast cancer and she told me that the hardest part is the waiting. At this stage, I agree with her.
Again, I am really opening myself up here, feeling quite vulnerable. Of course my immediate family knows, and my closest friends, but the community does not, so I'm not sure why I'm writing about it in a blog post for virtually anyone to read (ha ha, all the thousands upon thousands who read my blog) but I am, and there you have it. We have zero family history of breast cancer. I had no inkling that anything was wrong. I've never been a smoker and never took HRT.
Please, as a favour to me, if you choose to comment, only positive stories of successes, women who beat this and have lived happy, healthy lives afterward. I am in no frame of mind to hear of anyone who did not and I will delete those. I do feel like many of you are "friends", as much as you can be friends with people you've never met, so I don't anticipate any upsetting comments, but I'm advocating for myself here as well. I also have heard that the stats are one in eight women will be told they have breast cancer. That seems pretty unreal, but it's what I've heard, and I know I'm certainly not the only woman to have ever had to deal with this, but when it is you, you suddenly feel very alone in your experience, and the unknown, and the waiting, dear lord, the waiting, and the sh*t show that is our healthcare system, well, it's all a bit much. And so I shall say adieu and decide if I shall click "publish".