Stephanie Gilman Headshot

"I Have Cancer. F**K."

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Here's the deal:

A few months back, I found a lump in my breast. Where the hell did it come from? How did I not feel it before? I showed my husband. I showed my sister. I Googled "what does a tumour feel like." Despite all I read that told me lumps are common and are most often nothing to worry about, I was worried. I started to panic, naturally, as I always do because that is just the way I am. I'm Jewish. I'm neurotic. Being anxious is in my DNA.

The next morning I called my doctor's office and was able to see her right away. She felt it. She was certain it was nothing. It had the feel of something that was nothing. But best to be safe and get an ultrasound. So I had an ultrasound. The radiologist thought it was a bit suspicious. So I got a mammogram. And a biopsy. I started to panic, again. Why were they taking a biopsy of my perfectly normal lump? What did they see on their screen? The technician told me it would take about a week to get the results. "Try to enjoy your weekend," she said, "It could be nothing." It could be nothing? I wanted to smack that woman. But I refrained, found my husband in the waiting room, and burst into tears.

Anyone who has had a biopsy can tell you that waiting for the results is the most awful part. I slowly started to lose my mind. All I could think about was that lump. That stupid lump. I called my doctor's office and tried to track down my results. The more days that went by, the more anxiety I felt. Finally I heard from my doctor, who said she would be getting the results in a few days and that I should come in to go over them. Why did she want to see me if she didn't have the results yet? Was this normal protocol? Did she know something already? WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?!?!

That weekend, I participated in a walk for breast cancer that my family does together each year. Yes, that's right. I surrounded myself with breast cancer while waiting to find out if I had breast cancer. At the closing ceremonies, when all the cancer survivors walked in (including my father), I high-fived all the women who walked by. There was a rope between us, and as I reached over to touch their hands and saw their tears of courage, I began to cry too. No one would have noticed, because it is a highly emotional event, and there were tears in many eyes. But I cried because I suddenly was struck with this overwhelming realization -- I would likely be joining them on the other side of that rope.

On September 11, 2012 (and yes, I was not thrilled about the negative connotations associated with that date) my husband and I made our way to my doctor's office. She chit-chatted a bit, and then got down to business.

"Unfortunately, I don't have good news today. The biopsy showed that you have cancer."

What.
The.
Hell.

My lifelong fear was actually happening. I was being diagnosed with cancer. Many, many years before I ever expected to hear those words.

My doctor, who is wonderful and patient, sat with us for two hours. I have no idea what we talked about. Every once in awhile I heard a word. Oncologist... chemo... children... aggressive... cancer... cancer... cancer. I stopped breathing for a few seconds. I floated out of my body. I floated back in. I called my dad and cried and told him to tell my mom, because I couldn't handle it. We left the office, stunned and exhausted. I messaged a couple close friends: I have cancer. Fuck. I emailed my boss: Unfortunately I just found out I have cancer. I don't think I can come into the office today.

And that was the beginning.

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