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October 09, 2010


I receieved a phone call yesterday that has already begun to alter the course of my month, if not my year.  Up until two days ago, I never imagined such a conversation would take place.  In fact, it is safe to say that I am still stunned by the turn of events.

Four weeks ago, I felt a lump in my breast.  I wouldn't have thought much more about it, and would have assumed it was nothing more than a cyst, but for the pain.  It wasn't much at first, and generally only when I touched the side and could actually feel the lump.  I realized I should probably get it checked out, but was in the throes of reunion travel and excitement.  I also thought it might (let me have my fantasy) resolve itself and I needn't worry myself.

I can't say that my first thought was not cancer, but I promptly researched "lump and breast pain" with Dr. Google and found (according to most sites) that pain was not always associated with cancerous lumps.  I am sure if I was not a worrier, this would have been sufficient for me.  However, I knew what I really needed to do and it was just a matter of finding an Ob/Gyn that was not completely booked for the next year.

I found one rather quickly, but then life got in the way and I kept forgetting to call for an appointment.  Finally, after 3 weeks I realized I was delaying in the hopes that everything would magically clear up on its own.  It hadn't and I knew it was time to face the music, no matter what was in store.  I made the appointment, went in, the nurse practitioner reviewed my fabulous medical history and all went swimmingly.

She knew why I was there, but was not concerned.  I was "young and healthy" according to her, had no known risk factors and certainly this was just a fluke.  I was feeling quite positive until the exam.  The minute she finished her demeanor changed ever so slightly.  She suddenly seemed to have less pep and offered that she could not make a diagnosis, and recommended that I have a mammogram and ultrasound to rule things out.

Great!  I would go, "rule things out" and that would be that.  It would be a cyst, some type of infection, I would get antibiotics and head home.  I  filled out the online form that night, a scheduler called me the next day and set me up with a 12:45 p.m. appointment.  I called Nicholas's Montessori and asked for extended care and figured I would easily have him home by 3 p.m.  I wrongly assumed that only a long wait due to many appointments would keep me there.  

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that by 2 p.m., after having one ultrasound and two mammograms, I would be curled up on an exam table, freezing despite the warm room, shaking like a leaf and being prepped for a biopsy that, in the doctor's words, "couldn't wait."  I had not even had a chance to call Peter, only the time to send him a quick note indicating that the tests were taking longer than originally thought.  In fact, I had been so nonplussed about the appointment,  that I hadn't even mentioned it until a quick phone call prior to leaving the house.

By 3 p.m., I was in the car, films in hand and bawling on the phone with Peter like no one's business. It wasn't even the testing, but the sudden urgency after the two mammograms and the ultrasound both revealed "suspicious calcifications."  I had watched an 80 year old woman bounce out of the testing area and declare, "Oh, that was easy, it didn't hurt a bit" and had just assumed at my age, I would have the same experience.

Instead, I left with an ice pack tucked away in my bra, and headed to the nearest CVS to load up on extra-strength Tylenol to dull the pain from the biopsy.  I was stunned by the turn of events, but Peter and the 3 other (extremely supportive) people I told were sure it was nothing and spent 48 hours sending me good vibes and hope.

I can't say I wasn't nervous, but tried not to focus on the negative.  I kept reminding myself that no one mentioned severity or anything of the nature during the testing, they simply said it needed to be done.  For all I knew, anyone with anything remotely suspicious went through the exact same process and ended up with a phone call that indicated all was well.  

I gave the doctor's office 48 plus hours and finally threw in the towel.  Between the never-ending bidding process (no, we still don't have a post) and this situation, I was started to unravel a bit.  I just wanted the news, no matter what, so we could move forward if something was wrong.  I called my doctor's office, but no one picked up, so I left a voicemail.  I then gave the actual diagnostic center a call, but all of the doctors had left for the day.   

Not five minutes later, my phone rang with an unknown number on the screen.  I figured it was likely a wrong number, but picked up anyway.  It was the OB/Gyn returning my call and letting me know that the test results were in.  The doctor did not waste time and while she was very thoughtful, she did not mince words and the next thing I knew I had a diagnosis of breast cancer* (DCIS), a list of doctors to call and a plan of action to start.

Thus far, I am not sure what to think.  I know that it has been caught very early, and that is extremely good news. I know many people have gone through much worse and I should be grateful it is what it is.  I know that there are so many treatment options and that in all likelihood this will be but a blip on my medical history radar.  

Yet...I'm still in shock.  Not only did my body betray me, but at an inconvenient time at best (I know, I know, there is never a good time).  I don't know what to think and at least for the next few days, there is not much I can do.  I have done my share of Googling this type of non-invasive cancer and think, for the moment, I am going to take a break.  On that note, though, if anyone has any experience with this type of breast cancer, please feel free to share on or off-line.  I'm just going to give Google a rest for a couple of days.

Instead I'm going to think that perhaps leaving the choir was a better call than I ever imagined, and enjoy the fall weather.  The kids don't know anything yet, so in certain respects, I can try and live in blissful ignorance.   We will hit a pumpkin patch or two, enjoy the long weekend and try to hold onto our little piece of normal for just a few more days...


*This was the preliminary diagnosis over the phone. I expect to have a more detailed pathology report on Monday to review.   





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From my long winded email earlier today, and your ever so sweet reply, you know that I am here for you... in mind, body, and if need/want be, a quick flight out to be there to hold your hand.

You're a strong soul and will get through this quickly, with the help from your family and friends.

Take care of your kids and let us take care of you - however that may be! xx

Oh - Jen!!! You and your family will be in our thoughts and prayers through this blip along the road of life. Please let me know if there is ANYTHING I can do for you!

Sending you lots of love and warm thoughts, Jen.

My thoughts are with you from Vancouver...

Thinking of you Jen

Jen- I am on Capitol hill. Just a metro ride away. Free babysitting whenever you need it. Are you at falls church oakwood? (no car on my end but i could rent a zip car) I would like to stop by with some food and a care package next week. (kombucha tea, of course!) please call me and tell me what you need. Don't be shy. 313-585-4844 xoxo

Jen - I'm so sorry to hear this. If there's anything I can do let me know. If you have someone to watch the kids and you want to escape to Costa Rica for a few days, just say the word!

Jen...whatever you need...just ask. You can get me on facebook, email (mctalzeme2003@yahoo.com) or 571-330-2168. I can pick up kids, watch kids, clean kitchens, pour wine...just please ask.

Oh Jen - our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Hi Dinoia Family,

I'm an FSO and a habitual lurker on FSO blogs. Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading your blog. Good Luck with everything and you will remain in my thoughts.

Best Wishes,

Dear Jen-
I'm so sorry for your diagnosis. I am praying for you. Please do your best to take care. You and your family are in my thoughts.

Jen - You are in my prayers. I am sending out a big hug for you. Keep breathing. I'm just glad that they caught it in the earliest stage.

I know we've only exchanged a few blog comments and I'm practically a stranger, but I'd like to throw my name in the hat with many of your friends above. I'll be arriving in DC next weekend with literally nothing to do with my time until my few FSI classes start mid-November. If I can help you in any way please let me know.

Jill sent me over. Please know that tonight a stranger in Ohio will be praying for you.

All the love in the world,

Jen and Family,

I have enjoyed your blog for a long time and I am sending positive thoughts to you and your family during this time. My prayers are with you.

With regards,

I'm here via Jill too. Sending you much love and good thoughts from Israel.

Oh no, Jen, what an awful thing to happen at the worst possible time.

I have a dear friend in the SFFO who went through this same scary experience a few years ago, while posted to Egypt. If it would help, I'll gladly put you in contact with her. At the time, I think what helped her the most were the friends who had been through it and could tell her what she would be facing in the months ahead. She's also obviously done battle with the State bureaucracy. If talking to a fellow DS spouse who has been there would help, please let me know and I'll send her your way.

Prayers your way from Jordan.

Oh honey, I am so sorry - this is absolutely the worst time to go through this, although there's never a good time for it. The positive - you caught it early, you're in a place where you have access to good medical care, and there are lots of people there and around the world who care for you. I'm keeping you in my thoughts, dear. Be strong.

We haven't met, but I've been following your blog since my husband joined the FS. We recently moved to NoVA and will be here for the next year. I'm not working, have a car, and my kids are in school all day, so if you need childcare, meals, wine runs, whatever, I would love to lend a hand.

Another one of Jill's friends thinking of you today and sending the warmest thoughts...

Hi, I'm here from Jill's also. I just wanted to say I'm so sorry. I'll be praying for you. I hope you get lots of support and help.

I'm here from Jill's blog too. I will be keeping you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

My prayers are with you. You sound so positive! Hang onto it, hang in there, Sister.

Christine, a friend of Jill's, and member of the "home-with-three-while-daddy's- overseas club"

oh Jen, I'm so sorry. I read Jill's blog post with a sinking heart, knowing it had to be you. If it makes you feel better, my mom had DCIS and is fully recovered. How I wish there was something I could do to help. will be thinking of you non-stop.

Oh baby girl. Nothing I can say will make it go away unfortunately ... So just know that I am here for you (though about the best I can offer is an email thread of support and venting if you need it).

My heart sinks that you don't really have time for this ... But if anyone can kick this cancer in the ass, it's you. Rock it sister!!

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