Like it was Yesterday: the Trauma of Diagnosis

Each person, each day, has an average of 70,000 thoughts (https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/10-fun-facts-about-your-brain).

How many do you think you’ve had today (then add one more for thinking about it!)?

If you’ve experienced a breast cancer diagnosis—no matter how far from that diagnosis you are–how many of your daily thoughts are related to this diagnosis?

The trauma of receiving a cancer diagnosis is very real, very raw, and very memorable. The following are the experiences of Firefly participants that show just how much a breast cancer diagnosis impacts lives, memories, and thoughts. Add to your daily thought quota as you read and relate to their stories. Find comfort in the fact that others may feel the same things you do and that you are not alone in your own thoughts and feelings about a similar or very different traumatic experience.

  • When I got the call that changed my life, I was at home with my family. The oncologist told me the results, and I swore out loud. After I hung up, I ran outside to where my husband was and told him I was Stage IV. He burst into tears, and we both couldn’t comprehend this news. I can still hear his reaction in my head. It breaks my heart how much this has affected him.
  • I woke up at about 4:30 a.m. in the morning and my first thought was, “I have cancer. Breast cancer.” This is the first morning that I have known for sure, because yesterday afternoon I got the dreaded phone call. The caller said, “I’m sorry,” and I knew what was coming next, “Your biopsy came back positive for cancer.” So, of course, this is not the first day that I’ve actually had cancer. Who knows which day that might have been? Somewhere along the line, unbeknownst to me, cancer cells started growing in my breast. I try not to have fears, but I do. What will the next few months of surgery and treatment bring? Will I be sick? Will I be disfigured? Will my husband be repulsed by my body? You wonder, at the worst, “Am I going to die?” You read the obits in the Twin Cities paper and so many obituaries say someone died after a courageous battle with cancer, a valiant battle, a long battle, a brief battle, whatever length of battle against cancer. That’s the reality. Then in your better moments, you feel strong and you don’t know where that strength is coming from but it must be coming from inside you, from your friends and family; from your own Higher Power and from their Higher Powers.
  • I seriously remember it like it was yesterday. I was driving home from work, my windows down because the A/C wasn’t working, and it was warm and sunny outside. I was in a turn lane when I felt my phone vibrating. I looked down and noticed it was my clinic calling. My heart sank. I remember the uncertainty and pain in the nurse’s voice when she told me it was cancer. I remember I didn’t say anything at first. I couldn’t say anything. I was in complete shock! About halfway through her “talk” I broke down and the tears starting rolling. I started shaking. I thought about pulling over (I was still driving) but kept on going. I was numb. I remember pulling into my garage and fearing having to tell my husband and (very young children) the news. They were on the deck out back and I remember walking out to them and just collapsing to the ground in sobs! We hugged…all of us…for a long time.
  • I got the call with my biopsy results right as my family, my parents, and my husband’s parents were walking into the building to see a comedy performance. It is a moment that I will forever remember. I went around a corner for some privacy and after a brief cry—more out of shock—I had 20 minutes before the performance started to make my call to my doctor to set up the first surgeon visit. My family had to absorb the news quickly and then we went into the performance in which we all genuinely laughed together—at times through the tears. At the time, I was very grateful for that gift of comedy.
  • I returned the phone call from the radiologist at the end of my work day and was devasted and shocked because, although I had a number of family members who had had cancer, I never imagined that I could have cancer myself! I went from that phone call to a meeting and was a complete mess. The first person I told was a colleague whose mother has Stage IV breast cancer. I was so thankful that I could confide in her.
  • I can remember it like it was yesterday. I unofficiallyfound out I had breast cancer during a biopsy. I was lying on the table and the radiologist told me it was looking like cancer. I was stunned and shocked and completely fell apart. I had left work to go to the biopsy appointment, thinking I would just go right back to work and get results the following day. I felt strong and weak all at the same time. Helplessness and fearlessness collided inside me. I kept saying out loud that I was going to be okay, that I was going to get through this. Inside, I felt something else. I was completely petrified. The next day, while at work, I got the official call from that same radiologist who performed the biopsy, who confirmed I had breast cancer. I ducked into a conference room at work and stayed there for the next hour, processing the news, researching a plan to meet with surgeons and oncologists, and placing calls to my loved ones to share with them. The chilling words still ring in my head to this day. “Hi Dad, I have to tell you something. I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.”
  • July 2nd was the confirmation of what I already knew in my heart: the lump I had felt was cancerous. At the general surgeon’s office, the doctor said he could do a biopsy then or we could schedule one. I said, “Let’s get this done.” Local novacaine did very little as the doctor’s biopsy needle went into the hard lump on my chest. Pain tears snuck out—maybe some swearing—I don’t remember. I thought I’d go home and get results later, but I was told to wait in the doctor’s office. After a fretful hour, a team in white coats came in. My heart sank even more: I didn’t want to find out when I was alone! I heard the words “adjuvant chemo” due to my very young age. . . . It was terrible learning about it when my husband wasn’t around!

A tremendous thank you to Firefly participants who bravely share these personal experiences of receiving a breast cancer diagnosis and for the thoughts (and feelings) that result from reading and connecting with each one.

“When we share our stories, what it does is it opens up our hearts for other people to share their stories. And it gives us the sense that we are not alone on this journey.”

-Janine Shepherd

Written and compiled by Amy Tix, Firefly Staffer and breast cancer survivor, who can remember most everything about her breast cancer experience, despite being over a decade from that trauma!

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>