I’m going to make a very ignorant statement right now. I thought only old people, genetically predisposed people, smokers, obese people, diabetic people, or alcoholics got cancer. I am none of those things and I was diagnosed with triple positive breast cancer at the age of 36-years- old. The jokes on me, eh?!
I never thought that lump resting between my left breast and my chest bone was a cancerous tumor. I had been working out at the gym hardcore at the time, (for what reason, I am not quite sure), so I thought it was a pulled muscle at best. I mean I was healthy as a horse! I ate my greens, took my vitamins, didn’t eat meat and worked out four times a week. But just 1 month later I was sitting in the doctor’s office with the results; I was healthy . . . except for the cancer.
Doctor: "Monique I wish I had better news, but it is cancer." Or maybe he said, “Monique the tumor is cancerous,” or maybe it was, “Monique too bad so sad, as healthy as you think you are, you got cancer smarty pants!” I can’t really remember, but what echoed in my head was, IT’S CANCER. I felt my heart drop, or did it stop? I stopped breathing for sure and closed my eyes. Me: WTF?? Even today, almost 6 months later, I still can't believe it, I don’t feel like I have cancer. I always say, “I didn’t feel like I had cancer, until I had chemo.” (The chemo that saved my life I am sure), but I digress. Then I remember he moved me and my husband, Corey into a private room while he got my paper work together. As soon as I sat down I started to bawl uncontrollably. Corey was hugging me and I said, "WTF is he saying? He had to get it wrong, what about our plans, what about our BABY?! We had just gotten married 6 months prior and we said we would start trying to have a family that year, that month in fact. But a few weeks prior something inside me said, WAIT. I don't know what that was, God, the universe, my gut? I will never know. But I went to Corey and told him I think we should wait. I said, now didn't feel right and we could take the rest of the year to just enjoy being newlyweds. I didn’t want to rush to have kids, just because I was mid 30’s and we “should” hurry it up! Thank God, we did, or chemo (which needed to start ASAP), might have been out of the question and today we would be having a very different conversation.
People ask, “What’s it like being diagnosed so young?” I don't know how to answer that. 36 is young yes, but I am sure no matter what age you are diagnosed it is F’d up either way. But for me, what was really impacted, (or so I thought), was my ability to start a family. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes cancer? That is not how the song goes! This diagnosis was like someone had shot me in both knee caps at the beginning of my race.
This was a real disruption to my and Corey future kin conversations:
Me: “Did you get the email I sent you?”
Corey: “The one with the little girl in the jumpsuit and sunglasses?”
Me: “Yes, she looks just like our daughter, no?”
Corey: “Ummmm not really.”
Me: “Yes, she does, she has my cheeks and your eyes!”
Corey: “How can you tell she is wearing sunglasses? LOL!”
Me: “She looks like the next child YouTube sensation!”
Corey: “YouTube?? How about we raise the next doctor or lawyer?”
Me: “Ugh . . . so boring!”
Then after our first visit to the fertility specialist and she informed us that chemo causes birth defects and we can't start trying to conceive until 3 years post chemo . . . if at all, I thought, F, WHAT’S THE POINT?! (I did freeze my eggs though just in case). It was like someone had stabbed me in the heart. After that I spent many months convincing myself I didn’t even want kids. I mean who wants a crying, poopy, suck your life savings for the next 21 years anyway? I DID!!!
Almost 6 months ago I was diagnosed and I thought it was the end of my world. I was going to sell everything and take me and Corey around the world on a last hooray. What I have learned over these many months is, doctors only know as much as they know, but they have no way of knowing what is going to happen with my cancer, my body, or my future. AND that includes whether we will be able to conceive. I have been very lucky up until this point. I responded well to chemo, YAY! Tumors are shrinking, YAY! I feel good and I am not laying in a depressed heap on the floor somewhere (Double YAY!). I get to keep my breast so far, lumpectomy surgery still healing from (YAY! But hurts like hell!), and 3 years from now we will have my 36-year-old eggs to try and conceive with if we need them. That child, YouTubing/doctor/lawyer is just waiting for us, I know it!
No matter what age you are diagnosed, cancer impacts your life, no matter what you have going on, it comes in and says, “Stop whatever you are doing, whatever you were thinking and however you were being and listen to me!” You are forever changed . . . it changed me. So better that change comes sooner rather then later, no?