#FUcancer -- Stephanie King Writes a Letter to Her Daughter about Hereditary Breast Cancer
Well, by the time you read this, you’ll know that I started this email address for you right after you were born. I wanted to document certain moments of your life and create a gift of emails for you to read when you are much older.
Baby, I need you to pay attention to this one. It’s going to be long, but I need you to read EVERY SINGLE WORD and more than likely come back to it -- this one is important and what I have to say needs to sink in.
This week, I, your mama, got diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. It’s taken me a few days to sort out all of the details before I could sit down and document this part of our life to you. Before you start to panic, know that EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE FINE. There is a bigger message here that I need you to focus 100% on. But first, here is the backstory:
I’ve always known that this was going to be a part of my life. Call it a sick and twisted thought, but I like to call it "spot on intuition." I haven’t let it overcome me with tremendous amounts of fear, but it has made me pay very close attention to my body. You see, it runs in our family. On your Papa Mike’s side, there are numerous women who have experienced this…some as early as 21. I haven’t been the best at checking myself but relied on my doc to do it once a year. But here is a beautiful fact: since becoming your mama, I’ve paid more attention; you gave me a bigger purpose. So this last October, I requested to have genetic testing done and it showed an “elevated risk.” That was enough for me to pay extra attention.
Jump ahead to a couple of months ago. I noticed my left boob was sore all over -- very unusual for me. I dismissed it as hormones but kept it in the back of my mind that both should be sore and not just one. A couple of weeks later, on Valentine’s Day, your daddy was traveling for work. While you and I were having a carpet picnic with the burnt quesadilla I made us, I noticed a particular spot on my boob was bothering me. I immediately texted my Naturopath who got me in the next day. After seeing me, even though she couldn’t feel a lump either, she recommended I get a mammogram and ultrasound.
I sat on that for 4 weeks—FOUR STUPID WEEKS, Emma. Again, I was thinking it had to do with hormone changes going on in my body at my young age of 29…ok, 38. One night, I was doing a self exam because the pain was still there, and I felt what I thought was a tiny bead. I had your dad feel too, and he agreed that it was time for me to make the mammogram appointment (honestly, your dad had wanted me to get it done immediately—I made the choice to put it on the back burner.)
On his birthday, I spent the morning getting tests done. The mammogram showed nothing and the ultrasound images looked like cysts—not traditional masses. However, Dr. Thurmond did not like the fact that I had new pain (FYI, only 3.3% of breast cancer patients experience pain) and that I could pinpoint a very specific location. So I spent the afternoon getting biopsied. It was a LONG ASS few days until hearing from them on Monday. Baby, the words “You have early stage breast cancer” were words that I had dreaded my entire life. Emma, YOU were the first thing I looked at, playing on the floor in front of me. I went into mama bear mode and thought 2 things: I WANT THEM GONE and I WILL SPEND MY LIFE TEACHING YOU HOW TO BE AWARE OF YOUR OWN BODY, TOO, BECAUSE NOW I FEAR THIS FOR YOU. I met my surgeon later that day to find out my options but needed to get through an MRI first to make sure that it really was just in this isolated spot and not elsewhere. That was confirmed 2 days ago.
Baby, here were my choices: 1. 6 weeks of radiation, 5x/week, with a lumpectomy, cancer drugs for the rest of my life, and mammograms/ultrasounds/constant fear every 6 months for the rest of my days or 2. Go the mastectomy route where they take everything, no radiation, no drugs, and never have to worry about it again. S-O-L-D. I have ALWAYS said that if/when this happens to me, I will “Angelina Jolie that shit.” Little did I know that I would be able to call my own shots and have the choice to be my own advocate for this decision. This is happening within the next 2-3 weeks. While it’s going to be a long road, I cannot tell you how beyond BLESSED we are. I have been flying high, and you can ask anyone who has been around me during these last few days how true that is. Emma, I need you to hear me on this: WE ARE SO BLESSED.
The doctors are still trying to piece this all together: pain, specific location, no signs on mammogram/ultrasound, healthy, etc. Here is the bottom line and a direct order from your mama: DO NOT DISMISS THINGS THAT DON’T FEEL RIGHT FOR YOUR BODY. YOU MUST PAY ATTENTION TO THE FIRST SIGNS OF ANYTHING. While I don’t want you to become a fearful hypochondriac, I do want you to be aware that this is a part of our family, and I need you to take this very seriously. The fact that I’m only 38 confirms this for you. I’ve said 2018 was going to be our family’s year and, in fact, it is….just in a much different way than I originally had envisioned. Now, we get to be a testimony to so many about the importance of not dismissing, not waiting, not living in denial. That means we share this with as many people as possible. This is the year we spread the message to take care of ourselves first before we can truly take care of others.
I love this quote by Rudy Francisco: "Perhaps we should love ourselves so fiercely that when others see us, they know exactly how it should be done.” AMEN to that, Em. I’ve also said that everyone has a story to share and we are just waiting for someone to go first. Your mama is up for this challenge.
With that being said, I have to thank you. Thank you for being my purpose. Thank you for being my reason why. Thank you for showing me how to take the utmost care of myself. We’ve got this.
I love you-