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, and 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.