Being a SAHM is really not just about playing with your small children, looking up fabulous recipes on Pinterest, and sweeping up Cheerios from under the couch. While I have done all of the above as a SAHM, I’m telling you that it’s truly a juggling act of many full-time jobs rolled into one with fucking laundry added on top. I am the Personal Assistant, Maker-of-Appointments, Chauffeur, Head Chef, Dishwasher, Busboy, Personal Shopper, Automated Medicine Distributor, Finder of All-Things-Lost, Nurse, Proofreader/Editor of All Essays and Homework, Research Assistant, Bill Payer, Accounts Prioritizer (When there is not enough to cover all bills,) Disciplinarian, Chronic Volunteer, Coupon Clipper, Hair Stylist, Schedule Maker, Sole Keeper of the Thermostat Level and Punisher of Anyone who Changes the Thermostat without Express Permission, and the Primary Person to Talk Anxious College Students Off the Ledge When Panic Ensues.
This list is not all-inclusive. I have at least 14 other job titles but that’s not really what I wanted to talk about.
So, we’ve established that I’m busy. Most women are busy. We hold the world together with Scotch tape and bobby pins, all while balancing the carpool schedules and making sure that there is enough money in the account to cover the Netflix and Hulu payments after the mortgage is paid. We also still manage to go to the doctor for our regular check-ups and screenings so that we can stay on top of our health because there is no one out there qualified to do all the shit that we do on a regular basis. I speak from personal experience when I say that even I do not like my own kids on some days. How on earth would a stepmom take over running the lives of this big ole family of 7?
I go each Spring to have a mammogram done. I usually am called back to have a second one done as I have what is known as “dense breast tissue.” So when my regular breast clinic sent me to Moncrief Cancer Institute to have my mammogram done this year, the technician seemed upset when I said, “See you in a week or two,” as I was leaving. She insisted that their machine was a state-of-the-art 4D mammography machine and that there is simply no way I would be called back for a “dense breast tissue” retake. I got the letter 10 days later telling me to report to my regular breast clinic for another mammogram and a sonogram. The mammography radiologist contacted me later the same day as my sonogram and scheduled a biopsy for the following week. I just kept going through the motions and assuring my husband that my “fat boobs” were the culprit and that everything would be fine. And it was fine, until it wasn’t.
The radiologist called me as soon as he had the results and told me that the biopsy was positive for cancer and that I would be contacted by the surgical oncology department on Monday. They called and scheduled an appointment with me for that Thursday. Everything was like a well-oiled scheduling machine. The first mammogram at Moncrief was on April 1st. The second mammogram and sonogram were done April 12th. The biopsy was done on April 19th. And I was talking to the surgical oncologist a week after that. We did blood work and genetic testing and a heart scan and an MRI over the ten days.
My doctor assured me that there was no wrong answer and that it was entirely up to me how we proceeded. I could opt for a partial mastectomy (lumpectomy), a complete mastectomy, or a double mastectomy. She said that we could work with the cosmetic surgeons to reconstruct boobs out of fat harvested from my own belly. So, like every option has a silver lining!
And while I wanted so badly to come out of this joint looking like a Barbie doll, I opted to take one for the team and just have the partial mastectomy to cut down on the recuperation time and limit the surgery to only one.
The main factor in the decision was my adult daughter with Autism who has severe difficulty to change in her schedule, and with me being her primary caretaker, it would have been excruciating for both of us. The downside to this choice is that I have to do radiation treatment. Bleh.
I opted to push back the partial mastectomy until June only so that I could watch my youngest son graduate from high school without the word “cancer” hanging over the event. And then I had the 11 mm tumor cut out of me on June 12, 2019. Within two months I went from a mammogram to Invasive Ductal Carcinoma to cancer-free.
My sister mentioned that if I had to choose a cancer, this is the one to have. I agree. The advancements that have been made in diagnosis and treatment are absolutely amazing. I wish that these same advancements would soon be made for ovarian cancers. So far there is no good method for regularly screening of it.
I am currently undergoing chemotherapy. I have completed eight of my twelve chemo treatments. Once I complete the chemo, I will undergo radiation treatment, followed by 13 weeks of infusions of Herseptin. We have to kill off all my hormones, I guess. My estrogen, progesterone, and her2 receptors are all positive for cancer. I am nauseated a lot. Sometimes I feel stiff and have joint pains in my hips, knees, feet, and spine. I get nosebleeds from being dehydrated a lot and I have ulcers on my tongue and throat. But I am managing. And it’s all a means to an end, right? I am going to kick cancer’s ass and keep it from coming back to me.
Oh, yeah…my hair. Soooo, my scalp is super sensitive now and my hair was thinning pretty badly. It was coming out in gobs in the shower and unfortunately, the result of that was a lot of clogged drain repairs. Also, who really wants to eat hair at dinner? I had been asking my daughter to cut my hair off and she was chronically busy and couldn’t. I figured she just didn’t want to do it. For her, it was a big emotional thing that stressed her out. So I asked my son.
Ismail, being a recovering home hair-cut victim, was more than happy to oblige me. We went on the back porch and, using shears, he cut my hair into a mullet. I was not impressed. Then he started using the clippers and gave me a fade. About the time that I was sporting a Marine Corps “high and tight” I threatened to beat him to death with the clippers. So he removed the guard and now I’m bald. I have decided to wear eye makeup regularly so that I don’t look like my brother’s twin. My husband appreciates this.
My head is still sensitive but the little stubble holds my hijab in place and it doesn’t fall forward like it used to when I eat. Now that it is starting to come in a little bit more, I’m thinking I may just embrace my gray and not dye it anymore. We’ll see.
I have kept my cancer journey a little close to my chest since the beginning because I did not want to have to deal with that being the topic of every frigging conversation. Also, I always noticed that when someone is fighting a brutal disease, that they always end up consoling their friends and extended family. I didn’t want to do this. I needed my energy for my fight and the only people I wanted to console were my husband and children. So I kept the news to a small circle of wagons that I slowly made larger as I needed to.
We are getting by with support of family and friends. My kids are helping out more and things are just a little “out of whack” but survivable. I am keeping my outlook positive. I have been fortunate to have mostly good health my entire life and this is just my bump in the road, if you will. Just my turn.
But I am writing this in a public forum now to remind women everywhere to get your mammograms annually. If I had waited until I felt a lump, I would have been in stage 3 or 4 before diagnosis. With regular screenings, early detection is possible. Mine was caught at stage 1.
Please get screened regularly. Don’t become one of the 40,000 women who die of breast cancer complications each year.