Friday, November 13, 2015, I had my follow up appointment to discuss my breast biopsy results. I felt a sense of panic. My mom and I were escorted into a small room and sat at a round table with the physician who had completed my breast biopsy and a Registered Nurse with brochures and a large text book sitting neatly in front of her.
As a registered nurse and a history of working in women’s health, I didn’t mind the stacks of education I was given. After all, diving in to any education and support from other’s personal experiences help give me a sense of control in a situation that I have no control over. Knowledge is power. Reality and objective information brings me clarity. As my mind hit “survival mode,” I had at least some ease in my grief and sadness by considering a few different scenarios of treatment and then focused on feeling that their would be a light at the end of this dark tunnel in the future for me.
Four months later, I met with my oncologist for the first time. Honestly, my biggest fear was the possibility of facing and going through IV chemotherapy and its dreaded side effects. She ordered a full body PET scan to be completed before my next appointment, to rule out the possibility of cancer elsewhere in my body. This was a risk due to lymph node involvement that was identified in February during my Mastectomy.
My previous anxiety about discussing chemotherapy at the next visit became low on my list of top fears. The PET scan results were now at the front of the line to shake up my world and life as I knew it. My diagnosis had changed to Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer. The breast cancer had spread to my liver.
I quickly began to feel confused, isolated and overwhelmed (besides from the news of cancer.) None of the educational information I was given gave any scenarios or guidance if the cancer would spread elsewhere. I picked up the large text book-like resource that I was given upon my initial diagnosis of breast cancer. “The Breast Cancer Treatment Handbook.” The cover with its delicate flowers and pink pretty fonts. I turned to the book’s written summary: “Covers all aspects of breast cancer- from diagnosis to recovery.” Recovery. Something “met-sters” never truly see. Where was my chapter?
I used the energy driven by my fear and anger of my new diagnosis by diving into the internet and social media to uncover something or someone that had or has felt what I was experiencing. And, there it was. My angel, Holley Kitchen. Another young woman with metastatic breast cancer speaking out. Speaking truth. Shifting perspectives of how society typically views breast cancer. I finally felt understood. Raw truth and facts had set my unsettled soul free. I was not the only one feeling isolated and like the elephant in the pink room.