The Diagnosis

Invasive. Ductal. Carcinoma.

The room was about 9 x 10 feet, and somehow, we managed to squeeze six chairs in there – one for me, my mom, my dad, my brother, my fiance, and my doctor. An MRI image of my chest lit up the room, and I did everything in my power to just breathe. Do not lose control of the mind.

“You have a lump that’s about a quarter of an inch in diameter. My guess is that it’s between stage 1 and stage 2. It’s not hormone receptive, so the best route is going to be for you to do chemotherapy.”

“Will I lose my hair?!” (typical reaction of a newly diagnosed cancer patient, way to go Estee)

“Yes, you will lose your hair, but it will grow back. The type of tumor you have is high grade meaning it’s very aggressive. Since you’re 28 years old, the cause of this tumor is likely to be genetic.”

“Yes, my grandmother died of breast cancer at age 42. She was my paternal grandmother.”

“Okay, yes, anything under 45 is a genetic red flag. I advise you to do some genetic counseling. You have to get a PET scan, we can shut off your ovaries to maximize your fertility, you’ll need to get blood work done, a heart ECHO test to see if your heart is strong, and a port placed in your body for chemo. We can start chemotherapy as early as next week.”

There were a lot more details mixed into this conversation, but that’s the gist of the cancer diagnosis I received. What followed was a whirlwind of completing all of these appointments. In the matter of seven days, we tackled everything the oncologist asked us to do. Some tiny victories began to trickle in and I celebrated each one! My blood work was good, my PET Scan was clean – the only activity is in the tumor – and my heart is good. Somewhere in the middle of this whirlwind, I went to see my students and share the news with them. I am a high school teacher and I oversee approximately 150 students in a dance program. I cried more on the day that I told them than any other day because the day you tell everyone is the day that the cancer becomes real. The energy I received from my students was incredible though, andΒ every tear was met with an abundance of love, support, strength, and light.

Since the diagnosis, I’ve cut my hair and started chemotherapy. I’ve chosen to imagine that I am a caterpillar going into a cocoon, and at the end of this journey, I’m going to be a butterfly. For this reason, I’m not afraid of the physical changes that are going to happen to me. I’ve already pre-ordered a bunch of floral scarves on Amazon plus some pretty badass dangly gold earrings, and I’ve accepted that there is much more to me than what I look like.

I am going to invite anyone who wants to be a part of my journey to follow my blog. I hesitated about making my journey public, and then I laughed. To be anything less than transparent right now would be a shame. I did a project on a choreographer named Anna Halprin once and she had cancer when she was younger. She said, “Cancer is like enlightenment at gunpoint.” For some reason, I am meant to experience breast cancer, and to keep it private isn’t very enlightening. I am meant to use my life in ways I never imagined, and I’ve got to let go. I am meant to share my journey with you, so if you are reading this, you’re here for a reason.

I’m glad you are here.

 

 

60 thoughts on “The Diagnosis”

  1. Estee I am so very proud of your decision. I lost my father to cancer last year. But I must tell you I know far more survivors! I think you have a beautiful spirit and I just wanted you to know I support you, I will pray for you, cry for you and celebrate with you! Be strong , be brave:)

  2. Oh Estee. Just Friday night Lydia and I met for dinner. During dinner she mentioned that you will be getting married next year, really good news. I’ve been pleased to be in your presence a couple of times and found you to be a darling. Friday night around 10 the phone rang, it was Lydia. I said hello and she asked if I were sitting down. She proceeded to tell that she had just found out about your findings. I could hear the anxiety in her voice since she has personally experienced breast cancer. I sent you the friend request just for the purpose of following and praying for you on this journey. You come from strong family stock and just to be one of your cheerleaders along with them is a privilege. You are in my prayers sweetheart

  3. Estee you seem like a very smart young lady and even though I don’t know you personally, I know your family very well and they are a very loving and kind which means you will have lots of love and support throughout your journey. My prayers are with you.

  4. You don’t know me…but I loved/love your aunt Mandy and william is like a son to me and Julie is my FB friend. I was thankful for the work your dad did in Dinuba’s school district…and my daughter has a picture with your brother when he was in the tv movie😁 God bless you and guide you back to full health! May he bless you with strengtb on the toughest days and fill your heart with peaceπŸ’›πŸ’›

  5. Thank you for sharing your journey. What a strong and beautiful woman you are. Saint Augustine once said you really don’t learn to live until you understand your mortality. May this time be filled with love, colors, music, gracefilled moments, and beauty! And by embracing this cross, may you become the victor! My prayers are with you!

  6. You are a strong young lady ….Always keep your faith and stay strong we will be praying for you ….I can’t wait until the end of this Journey and you become a beautiful buterfly…Because If you believe this too shall pass …

  7. Estee, I am so inspired by your words. Thank you for sharing–for your courage and your transparency. I can only imagine how inspired your students are by these choices you are making! Sending love and hugs and prayers to you! Love you!

  8. The phone call a parent never wants to get…”Dad?” in a cracking and emotional voice, “I have cancer. I’m so scared…can you come and be with me?” As my daughter wilted into a soft but anxious cry, I replied calmly, “It’s OK Sis, I just happened to be here in Anaheim for a workshop and I will be right there.” I hung up the phone, got in the car and was on the road. My heart climbed deep up my throat as I just tried to breath. My body was flush with intense waves of internal heat rolling up my back, over the top of my head and right down the front of my face. My attention span was spinning like the screen on our phone when we are swiping through pictures, stopping periodically at different moments in time and precious memories of a life filled with rich father-daughter experiences. Even though my face was flush with heat I felt my skin go pale. I could start to taste the stress in my saliva and I knew I needed to breath! In a moment I flashed from holding her as a newborn, to how badly I wanted to just hold her right now! It’s funny how that combination of panic and fear are met head-on by rational though and calm, as we try to process the fact that your only daughter and oldest child has just shared she has breast cancer. I flashed back to my mom and the handful of crystal clear memories I have of her before she died of cancer at age 42. I thought of the lump I had in my left chest muscle that was removed when I was age 45. I thought of all the loved ones in our families that have had cancer and the wins and losses and in that moment I remember finding this swell of strength (conveniently disguised as shock) and literally yelled out the words, “You are not going to take my baby girl!” I rarely challenge God in that way but I assumed He would expect nothing less from me in a situation like this. Forty-five minutes later I was standing at her door when she walked down the hill from a bench where she had sat to look out over the ocean and set her mind for this news. She walked into my arms and for a brief moment my world was perfect. Holding her, hugging her, loving her…sucked the hot flashes right out of my body and in our synergy I could feel that this is a fight we are going to win.

    1. Stan-I don’t know what to say except that I will put all of your family, and especially Estee, on my prayer list. God, in the hands of the doctors, will see you through. Breast cancer is so curable. I will claim the promise that “whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” Thoughts and prayers with you.

  9. When I was told what was happening to you I began to question why how could this be happening my head and my heart were so overwhelmed. Then I thought I can’t imagine your feelings if it was you who had cancer not me. I prayed and prayed. Mostly to let it be me not you cause I’ve lived my life and you have a life to live still. You have done everything right in life wouldn’t hurt a fly. You and everyone else don’t deserve this. But I was thinking why couldn’t it be so and so why does it have to be you. That was my demeanor cause I was mad. But I thought grandma my mom says everything happens for a reason and this was something I had to wait and see. I begin to look at the positive sides and give our Lord what was happening to you in his hands and keep the faith. I believe in my heart you are blessed and will continue to be blessed for the rest of your long life. Thank you for sharing and taking us with you on your journey. I love you with all my heart and sole.

  10. I will pray every day for you and your healing. God is good always with you. Myrna I love your mom and aunt Rochelle. Mandy is always in my heart.

  11. Thank you for sharing your journey. We are still right here in Burbank and are here for anyway we can be there for you!!
    This sucks, but you have already been a champion with your mind and soul in how you are handling all of this!
    Love,
    Dana, Madison and family

  12. I am so proud of you Este! What a testament to the strong loving woman you are! You are an inspiration and I know you can kick this cancers butt! I am keeping you close in my thoughts and prayers. Sending you love, light and big bear hugs!!!!

  13. I am reading your first two posts and the responses and weeping. Thank you for so openly sharing your experience – you are an incredible woman and I am honored to know you. I will be here to follow your journey, and to be a friend and colleague however I can. Sending all of my love and support!

  14. Estee, you have already beaten this beast because you have stood up to it and refused to let it take you down! Thank you for sharing your journey. I look forward to hearing about all of the rest of successful battles that you will be victorious in. My prayers for you will be for mental clarity and emotional strength, as well as for your support team of family, friends, doctors and nurses. God bless you today and always.

  15. I am so glad that you are sharing your journey. I believe that God will use you as an instrument to help others. You are a shinning example of strength and grace. Keeping you in thoughts & prayers!

  16. Miss C. You believed in me when nobody else did. You believed in all of us. And that’s a gift you’ve given that will stay with the lives you’ve touched forever. I believe in you. But more importantly YOU believe in YOU. And that is so unbelievably important. I’m so proud of you. And I’m proud that you are taking this journey on directly to the best of your ability.
    You’re one of those people that is impossible not to love. And because of that I am certain that you are here for a reason πŸ™‚
    I can’t wait until the day where you say “I am a strong, beautiful cancer survivor.”

    1. Hannah, one of my OG Unleashed dancers. I love you! Thanks for your support. I can’t wait until that day either. πŸ™‚

  17. I pray that you will have a quick and smooth recovery, Estee. We sure miss seeing your beautiful smile on campus.

    Hugs
    Carita

  18. Estee,
    Your Dad was my superintendent until my retirement at VUSD. I had the joy of watching you and your brother grow up. You are faced with a challenge and all of us will be your prayer warriors! I’ll have the little old Lutheran ladies in my church in Somers, MT praying as well. You are strong, you are faithful, you have this! Blessings!

  19. Estee, God bless you and your badass dangly gold earrings. It appears you have had many mentors-in-disguise over the years to prepare you for this journey, and you are ready. Thank you for deciding to share this journey for we will all be able to share our love and strength with you every inch of the way.

  20. Estee:

    I sent your dad a note yesterday but when your blog popped up on my Facebook I wanted to reach out to you personally. I used to attend St Mary’s and you and your brother are close in age to my children. I was diagnosed with cancer last February. Been through chemo, surgery and almost done with radiation. I will never be able to repay several ladies who reached out to me and were willing to talk to me about having cancer. They answered my questions and helped me so much. I gave your dad my cell number…if you need to talk to someone or have questions please know that I am just a phone call away. I have a friend who is just finishing her treatment for triple negative and another who also is BRCA. I am sure they also would be open to Facebook messager with you if you would like. Please know my family is praying for you.

    Peace,

    Christine

  21. Hi Estee! I don’t know if you remember me but I worked at Corcoran High School with your dad. I always send a Christmas card to your family every year so maybe you will be able to put a face to my name. I’m the one with the 3 cute kids (ha!). Regardless, I just wanted to tell you that you and your family are in my heart and my prayers as cancer affects everyone who loves you. It doesn’t seem fair for someone so young to have to go through this but it sounds like you are so positive and determined and I believe that is half of the battle. Being your daddy’s little girl, I wouldn’t expect anything less! You can and will beat this! I love your blog so I will keep up with your progress. I hope your chemo isnt too hard on you! Keep eating and stay strong! Can’t wait until the day I hear you are cancer free! Love, Pam Davis (Corcoran)

  22. Estee,

    I was sitting in front of you last night at the LBHS Winter Dance Concert and wanted to tell you how blown away I was by the entire performance. Clearly, you are inspiring your dancers with your grace and courage. While you may not have chosen this particular situation in which to be a role model, you have taken on the challenge with such strength that has already brought rich rewards through your students. Brava!

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