“Breathe. Sarah, I’m going to need you to keep breathing…”

…and with those words softly spoken into the phone I realized life as I’d known it was changing.

The pathology report was positive, which was not the news we were hoping and praying for.

Allow me to back up.

January 2021: I had my annual exam where they — you know — check for stuff like cancer. I was given the green light. All clear. Healthy. Good to go. See you in a year!

Fast forward six(ish) weeks. I notice a lump. I think nothing of it, because I had just been checked for this very thing. I dismissed it.

But then I noticed it again in the shower. And then while working out. I then went down the rabbit hole known as the internet. “If it’s the size of a pea but movable…if it feels more like a marble and doesn’t move…” Nevermind, WebMD, I’m fine.

So I road trip to see my sister in Alabama for a couple weeks (honestly not even slightly concerned or thinking about the lump). Ironically, while down there she had her annual mammogram, and I joked that I’m not old enough for that misery yet (talk about eating my words). I come back and note the lump is still pretty prevalent. For peace of mind I decide to pay the $80ish bucks it’s going to take me to see someone so I can stop worrying about it and move on.

Oh, and did I mention the doc I’d seen my entire life for annual exams retired on April 1st? It’s now April 13th. Who do I go see for this? I’d seen a local nurse practitioner one time prior for something totally different and decided to send a note via the patient portal.

“Hi, Kim. I have an odd question, but I’ve found a lump in my left breast. I’m not sure if that is something I can come in and see you for or not. Can you let me know, please?”

The very next day I was her last appointment of the day, and I apologized profusely for wasting her time. I was sure it was just fatty tissue and nothing to worry about.

Well THANK GOD Kim didn’t look at me as a 36 year old healthy female with no family history and send me home (which I honestly think some docs would have) telling me to circle back only if I notice changes. She ordered imaging immediately, noting she could not be 100% certain without doing so.

From there it was a mammogram (which I fought insurance on because I’m not yet 40 and had already gone to my yearly, paid for exam — don’t worry, insurance will be its own blog post at some point) and ultrasound. A fine needle biopsy. Another ultrasound and mammogram. Every step of the way I was reminded that 80% of biopsies come back clear, and “based on what we know it’s likely nothing.”

One week later I received the call (ironically the night before I’d had a dream I was telling people I had cancer).

“Breathe. Sarah, I’m going to need you to keep breathing…”

For 24 hours I said nothing. I kept it to myself. I needed to sit in my new reality. I didn’t cry, but I am here to tell you the weirdest thing happened: in a split second I had every thought I never expected to have cross my mind while feeling absolutely nothing at all.

Oh, but my moment most definitely came the following evening. As I walked across a damp, rainy parking lot I felt tears start to fall, my chest started to tighten. I hardly had the car door closed before I started borderline hyperventilating. I let it all out. I needed to have that moment. It was an important part of accepting my new, heavy reality. I needed to have my moment of crumbling so I could be strong when others had their own moment when I shared the news.

Cancer. The chapter I never, ever wanted to author.

Ps. I don’t care how old you are. I don’t care if you do/do not have family history. I don’t care if you think it’s nothing. TOUCH YOUR BOOBS. Please, I beg you. I never did monthly self checks, and I very easily could have kept ignoring this (honestly, I almost did). If you find anything at all, get it checked. If they send you home, get a second opinion. Please. Be your own hero. You know your body best. Period.

Leading up to my diagnosis I made the most amazing memories with this dear friend (who had no idea about the potential storm brewing).
Dear friend, thank you for every perfect moment of our visit before my world turned upside down.
This moment in time will forever hold a special place in my heart.
So will this one 🙂

Published May 19, 2021

One thought on ““Breathe. Sarah, I’m going to need you to keep breathing…”

  1. Hi Sarah! Thanks so much for sharing your journey publicly with us. I can relate to so much of what you’ve written about. Although I’m several years older than you, getting that cancer diagnoses is so unsettling. I was diagnosed with two places of cancer in my left breast last Nov. It was caught during my annual mammogram in October 2020 but officially diagnosed in November. I had a double mastectomy in December with reconstruction. Thankfully I didn’t have to have chemo or radiation as it was caught early and hadn’t spread to the lymph nodes. I found out about you thru your brother, Andrew, sharing about you on IG. (My daughter and son-in-law have been involved with him in music in Nashville. In fact, Andrew sang and played in their wedding 10 years ago.) Keep writing and sharing Sarah. I created a private group on Facebook where I’ve been able to share my journey which has been a help to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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