About two weeks ago, a doctor told me she suspects I have breast cancer.
Two days later, my husband of over 18 years, the father of our two young children, announced he's leaving me.
Go ahead, take your time; let it sink in. Let your jaw hang slack and your eyes go glassy a while, that's the normal reaction. I'm not even sure I've fully processed it yet. There's ugly and a whole lot of it here, so let's just tackle these two mind-boggling, life-altering traumas one at a time, shall we?
Like Sarah Palin, My Right Breast Has Gone Rogue
A mammogram, ultrasound and core needle biopsy have all shown a mass with some characteristics of Phylloides Cystosarcoma (PC). It also shows some characteristics of Fibroadenoma, a benign type of mass, but since the usual treatment prescribed for Fibroadenomas is take two wait-and-watch-for-changes and call when it's time for your next mammogram, I'm interpreting the fact that they've scheduled me for surgery in ten days as a strong indicator that there's good reason for concern. I get my healthcare through an HMO, and HMOs aren't known for handing out tests, treatments or surgeries like candy on Halloween.
PC is a rare type of breast tumor that's technically classified as cancer whether its cells are benign or malignant because either way, it tends to grow quickly and large, interfere with or deform surrounding tissues, and some studies have shown the so-called benign form is actually more likely to metastasize, or spread, to other parts of the body than the malignant form. In related news, there's also a "borderline" form of PC that's kinda malignant, and kinda benign, and totally unpredictable. Fun!
PC isn't quite like any other kind of breast mass, but since it only comprises about 1% of all diagnosed breast tumors PC has not been widely studied and is not well-understood. The cherry on top of this particular sundae is that PC tumors have not been shown to respond to chemotherapy, radiation or hormone therapies; the only treatment for them is removal.
My Husband Is No Longer My Husband
Apparently he's had his mind made up about this for quite a while, but on reflection (or a total lack thereof), decided that two days after learning about my health crisis was the right time to share the happy news about the new life he intends to have without me.
There are plenty of sordid details and shocking incidents surrounding this that I'd absolutely love to share with you, but I won't, because it would ultimately hurt my children more than him. He is still their father and always will be, and I realize this is a very public forum. Protecting my children from further trauma is uppermost in my mind, and indulging my baser impulses, however justified they may be, isn't the way to accomplish that goal.
Why Blog It?
So, that's the 'To Hell' part of this blog. The '& Hopefully Back' part is what I hope will be happening over the rest of this year. This blog won't be a repository for my anger at the former Mr. April L. Hamilton. Instead, I want it to be about the process of surviving, and then, one day, if I've earned any positive karma in this life at all, thriving again.
I need someplace to document the surreal-ness of it all, to validate the experiences of others who are facing the same challenges (though hopefully, not both at the same time like me), offer a window of insight to those who have friends or family facing these crises, and share whatever little life preservers I find along the road to recovery.
Well, all of that, and it's cathartic. Writing is my home, and my safe haven. It's something that's always been totally mine, the one area of my life where I'm not anyone's wife or patient, or even mother. I'm just me. It's both a tool and a gift I've been given, and it's the only thing that can pull me back from the void sometimes.
Right now, I'm still in shock. I feel like someone who's just managed to crawl onto a lifeboat leaving the Titanic, only to have the lifeboat crash into another iceberg. But I've got a life jacket, in the form of my children. A flare, in the form of my writing. A warm and protective wetsuit, in the form of the love and support of friends and family. And a large piece of driftwood to cling to, in the form of my sense of humor.
Now, since I intend to make it back to shore, I'd better start swimming.