I was 38 and a single parent working 48 hours a week to support my two daughters. I had a lot of support from my family in raising my girls, so when I found a lump in my breast one gloomy day, I figured if I ignored it, it would go away. I felt for it all the time hoping it was gone. But of course, it was still there. I waited months before I finally made an appointment for my yearly pap test so I could renew my birth control pills.
That October, I decided to go for my yearly and I told the doctor what I had found. He felt it, but told me not to worry because he thought it was a cyst. Knowing the holidays were coming, for my daughters’ sake I decided on the basis of what my OB/GYN said about the lump to put it off.
I never told anyone about the lump except my boyfriend. I met Ron that September, one month before my appointment, and he thought I shouldn’t wait but I did anyway.
New Years came and went and I finally made an appointment to have a mammogram. The next day after the test, I was at work in my office with my niece when the call came in from my doctor. All I remember him saying is, “It’s bad Julia, really bad.” I don’t even remember hanging up the phone. All I remember is my boyfriend showed up because the doctor had called my home first and told my boyfriend the results before calling me.
I was so devastated I had to leave work. I couldn’t even tell my daughters why I was home early because I didn’t want them to worry. They were 12 and 16 at the time. I finally did tell my mom and dad and they were beside themselves. They went with Ron and I to see a surgeon. He said he would first do a needle biopsy to check the fluid in the tumor, and three days later we were to report back to his office for the results. I did not allow anyone in the room with me because I would not have been able to bear the look in my parents’ faces if it were bad news. I went in alone and he told me it was negative. I think I was in shock. I was so excited that I ran out of his office and told my parents and Ron the good news. We hugged, and they cried right along with me. But now I had to go to the hospital for a formal biopsy.
A few weeks later I checked into the hospital as an outpatient. Waiting for those results were the worse days that I could imagine. A week went by with no results. I called the doctor and told his receptionist that I wanted a call back from the doctor because my parents were on their way to hear the results. About 20 minutes later, the doctor called me and told me it was cancer. The worst part was having to tell my parents to their face, and also my daughters. My older daughter already kind of figured out what was going on, just by how we were acting.
In February, I had a lumpectomy done. I was told it was stage 1, a centimeter in size, and I would need radiation. Before I started radiation, I had to meet with a cancer specialist. He suggested another mammogram only on the cancer breast (my right one) to check for calcifications. I had the test and it turned out I had a lot. They suggested that I just have the breast removed and have reconstruction done. I had my right breast removed in June, and they put in an expander to stretch my skin. I went to a plastic surgeon every week to get it filled. That summer, I quit my job and we moved 50 miles away. I still went weekly to get my fill up, though, so I could continue stretching and have my implants put in that fall.
Prior to the surgery, my surgeon took me off birth control pills. I had not been off birth control for eleven years, but he didn’t think taking estrogen was wise.
Well, about a month after moving, I was late getting my monthly so I took a home pregnancy test and it was positive. I had an appointment for the pre-testing for my implants, so I told them there that they had better give me a pregnancy test. They told me they don’t usually do that, but I told them I cannot have the implants put in if I’m pregnant. They did the test and a few days later my plastic surgeon called and told me it was official. At the age of 39, I was pregnant. I was so excited. To make a long story short, I gave birth on April 6th to a healthy baby boy, had my implants done in November, and gave birth again a few years later.
My point is, there is life — continued and new — after cancer.