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  • Writer's pictureSurviving Breast Cancer

The new me. The reality of my situation.

By Robin Castle-Hine



I will never forget the day I went in for my routine mammogram in October 2022. Not a care in the world, I was expecting to walk out and go back to work, where I would call my mom and let her know I got my yearly mammogram. You see, I wasn’t the best about having it done yearly, and my mom had been diagnosed four years prior.


After my mammogram, I immediately had an ultrasound completed by Natalie, the technician. I was then asked to sit in a different room—the one I had been sent to years before when they found something suspicious. I didn’t think too much about it at the time. I was more concerned about them saying, “You are all set,” so I could go back to work.


Natalie came back and asked me to follow her to another room. Once inside the ultrasound room, I saw a doctor waiting to talk to me. She had me lay down and she did another ultrasound before telling me they needed to do a biopsy. I immediately said “No, thank you.” I explained that I’d had a biopsy on my other breast several years ago, and I had no desire to ever have it done again. The doctor was extremely kind and tried explaining why it was so important. She basically said, “It looks like cancer, and we must get it out of you.”


Natalie was amazing and stayed positive with me the entire time. The doctor strongly encouraged me to schedule the biopsy, but I had time to think about it as they were booked solid that day. I again told them I did not wish to have a biopsy, and they let me go stating they really hoped I would reconsider.


I refused to think much about it and went on to work. I got calls every single day asking me if I was ready to schedule. I got so frustrated; I told them on the phone not to call me again for at least a few days. I needed time to process this. I think it was at that point I realized this could be cancer.


It was at this moment that it all began for me…


If it was cancer, what would I do about it? How bad would it be? What treatments would they offer and what would I accept or deny? There were so many things running through my head. I knew I had to make my decision before they gave me options. This was my way of staying in control of everything.



A few days later they called me and said, “I hope now is a good time.” I laughed a little and said, “It is never a good time, but thank you for being patient with me. I am ready to schedule the biopsy.” It was scheduled for the next week and everyone that assisted with it was just amazing! The doctor did say to me when she was done that no matter what the results showed, I had to see a surgeon and get it removed. She told me that more than once. I was certain it was cancer at this point. 


While having dinner with my husband two days later, my phone beeped. MyChart had a message for me. My husband was talking away, but I didn’t hear anything he was saying. I sat there thinking, should I open it? I knew once I opened it, there was no going back. I am not sure how long I sat there wondering if I should open it or wait until we finished dinner.


After what seemed like forever, and while my husband was still talking, I opened the phone to read the message. Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC). I must have been holding my breath while I read, because I let out a big sigh and my husband asked, “What is wrong?” I slid the phone over to him and placed my head in my hands for a moment. He read it, looked at me and said, “It’s okay, we will get through this.” It was at that moment my life changed forever


The next day, I was at work when a nurse navigator called me. Her name was Kelsey, and she was so kind and patient. I let her talk, and then told her it was okay; I knew all about breast cancer as I walked this path with my mom who had the same cancer in the same breast four years prior. That didn’t matter to her, she was there to take care of me.


The problem was I didn’t want anyone to take care of me. I was angry


Kelsey got me scheduled with the surgeon for a lumpectomy, which was two months out. I didn’t mind the wait, because I was trying to figure out how I would take care of everything. I had to deal with cancer, still work every day, take care of my family like I always do and see my youngest graduate from college. I really didn’t have time for cancer in my life.


You are probably thinking I am crazy, but that is how I felt. The pressure I felt at this moment was so incredibly hard.


My cancer was found early, and was very treatable. I was diagnosed with IDC stage 1. Lumpectomy and radiation were recommended, and that is what I did. I had the lumpectomy in January and my radiation started in March. I had several problems after my surgery. I had to have a seroma (fluid build-up) drained three different times after surgery before they could start radiation. I was frustrated with this until I realized there was nothing I could do about it.


Once it was radiation time, I had 20 rounds with the last four being “boosts.” By the third week, I was tired. Not sleepy, but very tired. I went to radiation before work every day. By the time the workday was over, I felt exhausted. 


When I would get home, I would try to do a load of laundry or vacuum the house, then it was straight to bed. I didn’t want to sleep; I just had NO energy to do anything, and I believe that is when I fell into depression. On the weekends, I would lay in bed. Other than a trip to the grocery store on Saturday to make sure there was food in the house for everyone, I didn’t do much of anything except work and lay in bed. I gained 25 pounds during this time.


About seven months later, my doctor realized that my vitamin D was extremely low. I have been on the weekly 50,000 IU pill once a week since. I am going into month six of taking it. My levels have gone up, and my fatigue has gotten better. I wish my doctor had tested me sooner. 


I was touched that a few people reached out to me with cards, texts, gifts, prayers, etc. What completely blew me away was many “friends” and some family never thought twice about me. I felt lonely. 


The longer this went on, the angrier I became at everyone and everything in this world. I withdrew from almost everything. I guess I needed to prove to myself that I didn’t need anyone, and wanting others to be there was not being fair to them or me. You should never have to wonder if you have the support of your family or friends. It should just be assumed you do. Well, I didn’t. My husband even disengaged in wanting to hold conversations with me. To be fair, he had a lot going on in his life that I continued to support him with, but he couldn’t see past what he had going on to help me with what I had going on. It really hurt my heart, if I am being honest. 


My kids just knew I was the “strong” mom who was okay. I was always the strong mom that helped everyone and asked for nothing in return. Though they are grown, I cannot blame my kids as they honestly have never seen me need anything.


As the summer went on, my work hours increased (which is normal). I am so tired and not sure where I am getting the energy to make it through the days, but I am doing it without having to ask for help. This makes me happy but, on the inside, I am no longer that fun energetic caring person I once was. I am just empty. This is what my life has become. I am an angry person who doesn’t have anything to look forward to. I look the same on the outside, but I am empty on the inside. This is my new normal. 



If you are frustrated reading this, then imagine being me. I am not complaining, I am just telling my story. I am angry, I am frustrated, I no longer care, I am hurt, I am empty. I had cancer and it changed me. 


For now, I will work on caring again. I still love my family, even the ones that hurt me the most. I have learned that your friends are not really your friends, your job doesn’t care if you are sick, your doctors follow a written plan for everyone, never considering you as an individual and the emptiness I have may never go away.


On the positive side of things, I no longer worry about everything, I have learned how to rest when I need to, I let most things go even when irritated, and I have learned I really do not need anyone. I can do most things on my own. 


I have cancer? No, I had cancer. What is the difference? So many things went right and so many things went wrong. I say with great confidence that I am no longer the same person. I am different in so many ways that sometimes I don’t even recognize myself. I don’t worry about cancer or if it is coming back, yet I do worry about what it has done to my relationships and my mental health. I was told that until I cry and have some fear, I would never heal. I guess I am also waiting for that moment and wondering why it hasn’t hit me yet.


I never accepted that I mattered in the cancer world until I found SurvivingBreastCancer.org’s Thursday Night Thrivers group. I always felt because my diagnosis wasn’t worse, I didn’t have the right to feel the way I felt. Once I joined the group and listened to others, I realized I do matter. We all have different battles with cancer, and mentally I think it is hard on all of us. The way the ladies support one another no matter what is going on is simply amazing. This group allowed me to get rid of some of my anger and to advocate for myself even when I didn’t think I was worth it. I owe a bunch of “strangers” so much for helping me to “feel” again. I am not healed, but I am trying to be the best version of myself I can be.




Read More:





On the Podcast: Breast Cancer Conversations

Discovering Your Divine Purpose with Dr. Sophia Edwards-Bennett






 


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SurvivingBreastCancer.org Resources & Support:

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