Christmas, 2021. At the age of 41, I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time (pause for hysterical laughter–she’s kidding right?)
Two weeks ago, I saw my oncologist for a regular appointment. She did an exam, as she always does. She found a lump on my cancerous side. I had an ultrasound the next day. The radiologist placed the wand on my breast and declared ‘there is a mass’. I burst into tears. My only consolation was the Nursing Assistant, Mona, who held my hand tight for the rest of the appointment as I gasped for air and wept.
I couldn’t get a biopsy for a week. I called in some favors and got the wait reduced by 1 day, which felt like a huge win. The biopsy took place 1 week after the initial, regular old visit with the oncologist.
This brings us to Weds. Dec. 22nd. I was told I would be called with results on the 23rd, but I knew they would come early. Remember, I have done this before.
Around 4:30pm, the phone rang. I was shocked that it was not my breast surgeon, but a clinical-sounding nurse I have never met. She confirmed my name and date of birth then said “the lump on your breast is Invasive Mammary Carcinoma.” She started to explain what mammaries were, that they are where milk comes from when you breastfeed. I interrupted and asked if she had looked at my chart. I said, ‘I have already had breast cancer and a mastectomy. I don’t have any mammaries.’
I asked if my surgeon had seen the results because, if she had known, she most certainly would have called me herself to pass this life-changing info along. ‘Nurse X’ was quite sure my doctor had not seen them yet. I asked her to please have my surgeon call me asap.
I didn’t cry. I just kept folding the laundry. Ever since the ultrasound a mere 6 days before, I knew I had cancer again. I felt manic, but controlled. I was sweating and my heart was racing, but I was still calm.
I started calling people as I kept folding laundry. No one was answering. The second time around apparently isn’t as exciting as the first go-round. Yes, everyone I told was upset, but it was more like reassuring 2-sentence texts instead of cries over the phone with the open, begging question ‘WHY?’ This time was more like, ‘well fuck, here you go again.’
I guess I did such a good job of cancer last time that I have officially gone pro. I am Grancer: synonymous with being the local cancer queen. I suppose I paved my own yellow brick road. I just didn’t intend for it to take a fucking u-turn back to the start 5.5 years later. Did you all really miss me SO MUCH that karma had to bring me back around to Cancertown to educate and entertain you? I told my surgeon that perhaps the breast cancer community just needed me again. When you’ve got it, you’ve got it (human magnetism and unkillable cancer cells).
Finding out you have cancer, again, at Christmas time is unfortunate timing in every way. My kids, ages 13, 11 & 8, were psyched for the holiday. I couldn’t take this away from them. Because, unlike friends, they will take this tragically hard. my oldest was 7 when I was initially diagnosed. He got it, but not really. Now they will all get it. They will be terrified to their very cores.
For the past few days, as I have had to lie to them about ducking out to appointments and not being able to lift the laundry basket because my ‘back hurt,’ they thought I was out buying them presents, making merry. I have really been crying into strangers’ arms and having deep holes bored into my body that violently pull tissue out to be studied under a microscope.
When I was diagnosed at 35 with no known genetic markers and a healthy lifestyle I thought, well shit, I got really fucking unlucky. I did everything to ensure the disease’s eradication. Radical surgery, chemotherapy, intense exercise for 5 years, religiously took Tamoxifen, a drug who’s only job is to make sure recurrence doesn’t happen and which I have hated every day. My oncotype, a blood marker that rates your risk of recurrence, was low. I was one and done with this disease.
The day I found out that cancer was back was a day of pure wonder. How, how did any breast cancer cells live through chemo? Survive on the tiniest trace of breast tissue that remained after mastectomy in order to keep the skin on my breast from dying? How did the disease evade Tamoxifen? A drug that made me miserable every day for the past five years. It did nothing to stop the cancer.
I can tell you with certainty that I have never committed to anything the way cancer has committed to my breast tissue. It fucking LOVES it here.
It is still too early to stage this cancer. I need more biopsy results, more scans, more-work ups. My mind is reeling with the thoughts of plans that will be ruined because of this. With the doubt and fear it will sow into my children’s psyches. With the savagery with which it will maim my body again.
I am not sad, or mad or regretful or wistful. I am numb and somewhat in awe of the tenacity of my devoted, dopey cancer. I have even found myself laughing a hearty, WTF laugh. We really doing this again, Universe?
As I sit here and type, I know that I have cancer in my body. A cancer I worked my ass off to eradicate. This is what everyone who has had cancer fears the most, recurrence. And today, here we are.
19 Comments Add yours
I have been crying and laughing and moaning and rejoicing through your blogs for years. My mind and thoughts are as numb as yours right now. You have touched so many with your words over these past years. Please dredge up a little of your courage – again
I’m on it!!
Oh, Grace! My heart is heavy as I read this. I’m praying that it’s small and manageable with not too harsh treatment. I love you so much
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Oh Grace…this hurts my heart..,for you, your hubby and your kiddos. What a shit hand you were delt!! Please know I have followed your Grancer blog since you started it, and have prayed for your healing along with it. I hope you can dig down deep and find that humerus and dedicated spirit to kick cancers ass…again!!! Stay stronger than this stupid cancer 💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻
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I am so very sorry that you’re facing this shit again and that you’ve had to provide much (all?) of your own strength and comfort! I don’t know you, but I’ve been following you since my own diagnosis four years ago. I’m older (51 now), and mine was early stage so relatively easy. Still, I had lymphoma at 20, so I know the horrors of aggressive cancer when you’re young with family — and I appreciated your strength, honesty, and humor. I am praying for you and your family!
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I love you more every day.
Sent from my iPhone
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NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! I am heartbroken for you and your family to deal with this again!!! I am praying they caught it early enough so you don’t have to endure what you have in the past. Grace, please know I am here for you and your family! My text is 847-989-1860. Call anytime with any kind of help you and your family want. I am a terrible cook but I can order out your from your favorite restaurants, clean, do laundry, run errands, drive your kids anywhere they need to go. I can be available anytime this week and then next week everyday from 9-2 pm and then 4:45 PM- 6:00 AM . I am cheering for you that you will knock that damn cancer out for good soon! Love and admire the beautiful, caring, fun-loving person that you are, Grace!! Love ya! Mary
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Thank you sweet Mary! Can you drive us all around in your bus?! Ha!!
Our hearts dropped. Your family in Florida, especially your cousin Carol, are thinking of you. Wish I could make you some matzo ball soup for comfort. Love you ❤️
I’m so sorry to hear this and know that you’ve got this. AGAIN, you’ll fight it and be victorious. You’ll continue to inspire everyone around you and strangers like me who you share your story with.
Sending you and your family all the positive vibes & love.
From one breast cancer survivor to another,
Fuck Grace, I can’t believe you are doing this again. Walked through my diagnosis (stage 1 TNBC) just a few weeks behind you 5 years ago. I know that there are no words that can make this better, so just know that I am angry for you as you go through this, again. Sending you strength and decreased waiting times as you schedule your appts.
I don’t have anything new to add except to reiterate fuck this disease, and if there is one thing I have learned through my unwelcome crash course in breast cancer, it’s that we don’t really have control over it. Which is both terrifying to relinquish that idea of control, and somewhat calming to think we didn’t cause it to happen. I say “somewhat” because I fully understand there is really nothing resembling calm about cancer. You chose all the right things, and yet, this shit happened. This is not your fault. I feel in my gut you will get through it this time as well, but a semi-stranger’s gut states away is not very comforting, I know. Keep hanging in there.
This is so fucking unfair. You’ve provided raw honesty and humor in your darkest hours to women who desperately needed it. I know you’ll do the same with round 2. But really wish you didn’t have to. Sending all the good vibes your way.
Dearest Grace, you and your beautiful spirit are close to my heart. I’m remembering once when Jack and I visited your home in Chicago. You were maybe 10 or 11 and we’re showing us a trick on the swing. You kept messing up but insisting “I can do this!” and after a few more tries, you did the trick! I love you. Aunt Kate
I’m so sorry you have to do this again. Just know that once again you will do what needs to be done. I know from experience, the second time around is much lonelier than the first, however it also didn’t feel quite as all-encompassing MOST of the time. Sending much love to you and your family x
Oh Grace, no words, tears with you. I had breast ca 5 yrs ago, well dx dec 16 2016, surgery jan 9th, all was well till this spring.and then after more mamos said it’s okay but… so yea that but weighs heavy. I will cry, pray and hold you in my heart. Hugs to you, your hubby snd your kidsas you do this yet AGAIN.
Grace, please stay strong and positive. I will be thinking of you and your family through this very hard time. Love and kisses. Shelley Malato
I cringed as I read this blog post because I, too, am 5.5 years out. And isn’t this what we all live in fear of? I am so sad for you. You know that we are all here to support you, dear lady. You are added to my nightly prayers.
I was horrified to see your IG post. I am 6 years out. All the same shit, chemo, rads, mastx2, cellulitis, lymphedema, (even a David Allen tattoo). I opted out of IAs after 16 months as I couldn’t even walk to the kitchen in the morning due to neuropathic foot pain.
We all live our lives marking time with ‘clean’ Onc. appointments. Yet…I never believe that ‘cancer free’ exclamation that people belt out after treatment. Sets you up for deep despair when FBC rears it’s ugly head again. My heart and thoughts are with you. My kids are grown so I cannot imagine how awful and further exhausting it is to deal with the FBC and three beloved babies all at once.
I’m thinking of you Grace. You will kick its ass again I have no doubt whatsoever.
We are all around you and sending the highest vibrations your way. 🤍💫