I'm much more than my conditions, and I'm the same person I was before I was diagnosed
Neurofibromatosis. It’s harder to say and much harder to live with, but what is it? NF (for short) is a genetic condition that affects 1 in every 3000 births. NF is the mutation of the 17th chromosome and causes (mostly) benign tumors to grow along the nerves.
By the time I was 10 years old, I already had seven surgeries, one of which left me with two rods in my back. Growing up with NF, lumps and bumps on the skin were pretty normal. When I was 27 years old, I noticed a lump on my breast that was different from my NF lumps. This one was quite large and was causing my breast to concave slightly. I knew that this was not normal for NF, so I decided to get it checked out.
After calling probably fifteen breast doctors and getting turned away by each one because I was “too young,” I eventually ended up in the ER, not being able to breathe with a 135 heart rate. They ran a CT scan and told me I had fluid in my chest. Before I knew it, I was being rushed away into surgery to remove three liters of fluid from my chest. I was later told I had a pericardial window, where they had to biopsy a small piece of my heart. Everything had happened so fast. I woke up from surgery, in ICU with a pretty big tube in my chest to drain the remaining fluid my body was giving off. I couldn’t talk due to the breathing tube I had in my throat during surgery, which had caused some bruising. I had an oxygen mask on, pumping thirteen liters of oxygen into my lungs because I was unable to breath on my own. That day and the weeks following it are honestly a blur. I was told that the fluid they took out during my surgery was being sent off for cancer screening.
I was 27, ran every morning, went to the gym, just graduated college, had no family history of cancer, so I was not worried about that.
A week later, I still had not received my results from the fluid and heart biopsy. I wasn’t worried though. No news is good news, right? On March 1st, my doctor came in my room and told me I was able to go home. I asked for my test results, which were still unknown. What he said next, I’ll never forget. “Oh yeah. I forgot about that.” He forgot! He left the room and came back twenty minutes later. I’m sure you can guess what he said next. “Well you can’t go home, you have cancer.” He said it was probably colon cancer because “That’s a common cancer.” So I lifted up my gown and pointed to the lump on my breast. The bump I had spent the last six months trying to get looked at. He said, “Oh yeah, you’re right. It’s probably breast cancer.” The next day, I had a biopsy done, and I’m sure you can guess the rest. Three days later, an oncologist entered my room and told me that I had breast cancer that had spread to the liver and spine.
I’m currently still receiving treatment. After twenty rounds of IV chemotherapy, I’m now on a pill form of treatment, along with two monthly shots. I know that I will be on treatment for the rest of my life, but I know that you also should not listen to the outdated statistics.. I keep a positive attitude. I think that’s important, especially after a diagnosis of cancer. “I have cancer, cancer does not have me.” That’s something I always tell myself. Cancer is just something I have, along with NF. These are not my whole life, just a small part of it. I’m much more than my conditions, and I’m the same person I was before I was diagnosed.
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