Every Step of the Way: A Nurse's Cancer Diary
Nancy Cohen, BSN, RN, has graciously shared her personal journal, in which she writes about doing battle with cancer for the second time in her life. This is the first installment of a weekly blog that will enable readers to join her on the journey.
Entry 1: Here We Go Again
October 11, 2011
It began like any other day.
I reached for the shaving gel and began to slather it under my right axilla. I could have never anticipated the events to follow. What was this thing, this teeny, hard pea-sized mass my fingers kept rolling over and over again.
Could this be scar tissue or perhaps a remnant from an old suture knot left over from bilateral mastectomies I’d undergone in May 1999? Or could it be something far more insidious, the unthinkable … cancer.
I don’t recall having felt this in the past. When did this pop up? I’d seen my medical oncologist exactly four weeks ago and he hadn’t felt anything following a thorough clinical exam.
“Drop everything you’re doing right now and feel this!” I shouted to my husband, Tim.
“I feel it,” he responded with concern in his eyes. “I knew it was cancer,” he’d admitted later on.
“I’m making an appointment with Dr. S.” Six days later I sat in her office.
“What seems to be concerning you?” I pointed out the spot and she immediately felt it with her very nimble, very experienced fingers.
“This needs follow-up. I’m sending you for an ultrasound.” She obviously didn’t think it was nothing. Her intuition was telling her otherwise and I picked up on it right away.
The radiologist waved her magic wand around the tiny nodule. “This has none of the architectural aspects of a lymph node. It’s clearly a mass and with your family history, I’d get a tissue sample.”
Enough said. I ran back to the surgeon’s office in hysterics with the radiologist’s preliminary readings in hand. Within the hour, the surgeon performed a fine needle biopsy and 24 hours later, we had an answer.
“It’s cancer, Nancy. I’m so sorry,” she stated calmly but firmly. But how, why?
No time for questions. She rattled off a list of tests I’d have to undergo in the following weeks in order to begin the staging process. I understood the process completely and I had a hunch why my body was under attack, again.
It was the BRCA1 gene. I’d been through all of this before nearly 14 ½ years ago from a nearly two centimeter mass I discovered in my left breast but I never, ever imagined I would have to relive this.
The nightmare was just beginning - again.