I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the moment I found out I had breast cancer.
Especially since I was 36.
And 30 weeks pregnant.
All of a sudden my world stopped and time seemed to slow down – but not slow enough, because I wasn’t ready for this to be my new reality. I wanted to hold on to what I knew as “normal” for as long as I could, because I knew nothing would ever be the same again. I knew that as soon as I was ready to accept it, this news would consume not only my life, but my family’s life. And I just wasn’t ready.
We all know someone who's been there and hope to Gd it won't happen to us . . . until it does. And trust me when I say that you never know how you’re going to react in a situation like this, until you’re in it. Knee deep in it – a big pile o’ cancer sh*t! I always imagined mine would include the fetal position, but I immediately went through my own version of the five stages of grief . . . well, except there were only four . . . and had absolutely no association with the originals.
1) Shock: am I going to faint or am I going to vomit?
2) Morbidity: actual visualization of myself being lowered into a grave.
3) Regret: why couldn’t I have been a better person? Why didn’t I do more, see more, be more? Why didn’t I spend more time playing with my kids? Hug them tighter? Say yes more often? Kiss my husband a little longer?
4) Maternal instinct: How am I ever going to look at my children (ages 8, 6, 3, and fetus) again without breaking down into a sobbing, slobbery mess? Will they be okay without a mom? Who would walk them down the aisle? (I know, so cliché.) Who would teach my girls about boys and my boy how to treat girls? Would they remember me? Will my baby even meet me? Should I make them a video with important motherly advice? (It did. It totally crossed my mind!)
The first week was an emotional rollercoaster. I spent every day at the hospital – being poked, prodded, squeezed, scanned, marked. I met the oncologist, surgeon, plastic surgeon, geneticist, cardiologist, radiologist, hematologist, high risk obstetrician, umpteen various technicians. I had ultrasounds of my left breast, right breast, lymph nodes, ovaries, liver, heart. I basically got used to being topless and being felt up!
And then each night at home, when I had time to slow down and think, I cried. I cried because I didn't want to die. I cried because I wasn't ready to say goodbye. I cried because I was scared. I was really, really scared! It was a rough week, to say the least. In our twelve years of marriage, I’m pretty sure I only cried in front of my husband five times – once when I was fired from my job and one hormonally-charged break down during each of my four pregnancies. But that was also the week when I discovered that it's okay to cry. (Also, that sometimes once you start, tears are REALLY hard to turn off!) I didn't have to keep it together. It is okay to cry! And I did. A lot.
Once I was told that I have triple negative breast cancer and that it’s the “bad kind” of breast cancer, I didn't want any more details. I didn't care what stage it was or what the prognosis was – I didn’t want to be weighed down by negative facts or statistics. I am my own person and I just wanted to know what I, Adina Moss (actually Adina Martell in Quebec, but that’s a whole other story you don’t want to get me started on!), had to do to get better. This is when my fifth stage of grief kicked in – acceptance. I made a vow to myself to never Google and to spend my energy on kicking cancer’s ass. The idea of cancer still scared the sh*t out of me, but I was NOT going to let it beat me.
I had a plan. Having a plan was a huge turning point for me, because it laid out a clear path and I was able to focus on one step at a time towards my recovery.
16 rounds of chemo.
And somewhere in there – baby!
Oh, that baby! My guiding light. My miracle chemo baby.
After a lot of research, talking to specialists (shout out to my husband – this was ALL him!), flip-flopping with plans, anguish, and concern, we decided to start chemo while I was still pregnant. I had two rounds before my baby girl was born in June – as sweet and as healthy as can be. When you give birth it is the most emotionally overwhelming and magical moment of your life. When you give birth to a child in between chemo sessions . . . there are just no words. We were truly blessed with this little superbaby!
I am still going through my chemo treatments – 11 down, only 5 to go. Woohoo! And let me tell you, if you thought baby brain was bad, you would not believe the impact of the baby/chemo brain combo (which I am fully blaming for my lack of great epiphanies in the face of cancer). But if there are any words of wisdom worthy of passing on, it is this:
A positive attitude increases your chances at a positive outcome. Laughter and love are truly the best medicine.
Besides, there’s nothing a good cancer joke can’t fix. Well, except maybe cancer . . .
Eff you, cancer!