October 11th, 2010
10:37 AM ET
For the next five days, Amanda Enayati will share the milestones of a life-altering journey that began the day she learned she had late-stage breast cancer more than three years ago.
I had felt something in my breast for more than a year before I decided to get it checked out. I never in a million years imagined it was cancer. I had been either pregnant or nursing continuously for almost four years straight. I thought what I was feeling was a clogged milk duct.
I have no family history of breast cancer.
I have no risk factors for breast cancer.
I don’t drink.
I don’t smoke.
I was always the healthiest person in the room.
I think I still am.
Except for the cancer.
The Indian woman who did the mammogram looked at her screen and said: “Don’t worry! I don’t see anything!” I wasn’t worried.
The attending doctor said: “Well, I don’t see anything but I definitely feel whatever this is you’re feeling. Let’s do an ultrasound.”
She did an ultrasound and a fine needle biopsy on the spot. That should have tipped me off. It didn’t.
I hadn’t gotten a call with the results by that Friday as they promised. Should have tipped me off, but it didn’t.
Same thing on Monday.
On Tuesday I finally called. “A doctor will call you back,” they told me. I still wasn’t worried.
An hour later, the phone rang. It was the doctor. She skipped the niceties and got right to it: “It’s cancer.”
I swear time stopped.
I stopped breathing.
The walls collapsed in on me.
All I could hear was my heart pounding.
I called my husband at work: “You better come home.”
I called my brother in LA: “It’s cancer and I can’t tell Maman. You have to call her. I can’t do it.” I can’t even imagine what was going on at my parents’ house that night.
I lost 10 pounds that first week. I don’t think I slept more than a couple hours a night. I started praying to a God I had been angry with for about a decade.
I lost my right breast.
The tumor was 9 centimeters, which, as far as breast cancers go, is massive.
It had spread to two lymph nodes. That’s not a good thing.
I’m at high risk for recurrence, and will be for the rest of my life.
A handful of people I had befriended who were going through treatment at the same time as me have already died.
As far as I know, I’m okay.
I think I’m going to be okay.
I have good reason to believe I will be okay.
I’m the eternal optimist.
What if I’m wrong?
Amanda Enayati’s work has appeared in Salon, the Washington Post, Detroit News, and "Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora" (University of Arkansas Press). You can follow her on Twitter @AmandaEnayati or her daily blog, practicalmagicforbeginners.com.
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