May 26, 2018

and just like that everything changes

Image may contain: 7 people, including Eric Allred and Laura Allred, people smiling, baby and beard

These last few weeks have been such a whirlwind.

Or maybe more like a tornado. A tornado that blows in and destroys everything in its path. But you do know after the tornado moves on, you can rebuild what it broke. And you also know that it will take time and hard work to rebuild. But that when it is finished it will never, ever be the exact same as it was. Yep, more like that.

In March, I went in for my well woman exam and to refill my prescription. I've been on continuous birth control for years to help control the adenomyosis/endometriosis pain. Everything was normal during the exam. Then in April, I was drying off after a shower and I felt a hard mass in my left breast near my armpit. It almost felt like a muscle knot, but it didn't hurt or feel sore or anything. I was a little worried, but I kind of hoped it would just be gone in the morning.

Not the case. In the morning, it was still there. So I decided to go ahead and call the gynecologists office to have it checked out. I made an appointment for the next day with the first dr who was available.

The morning of my appointment, I sat on the couch feeding baby B and reading on my phone. I noticed a new blog post from one of my favorite bloggers at Memories on Clover Lane. And I was so surprised to read the devastating news that she had breast cancer. But I also had this feeling as I was reading her words that her path would also be my path. I was worried by my feeling, but also somewhat comforted that someone who I admire so much, who I never expected this to happen to, was facing this. And if she could do it, maybe I could, too, if that's what it was.

I went to my appointment with the gyno and she felt like it was worth getting it checked out with a mammogram and an ultrasound. The appointment was scheduled for a week later on a Monday.

I tried not to think about it. I tried not to feel if the mass was still there. If I avoided it, it didn't exist. Right??

Eric left out of town the day before my imaging appointment. So Monday morning I dropped baby off at a friend's house and went to the appointment by myself. No one warned me that mammograms hurt. They do. And in true Laura-dramatic fashion, I might have gotten light headed and dizzy and started to pass out after my third picture and had to sit down with my head between my legs and sip juice with a nurse standing next to me. I don't do medical stuff well! After the mammogram, I was brought in to another room to do the ultrasound. The tech told me about halfway through that from what he was seeing the dr would definitely want to talk to me. So when we were done the radiologist came in and wanted to ultrasound the areas again. That's not a good sign. She soon told me that there were four areas of concern that she wanted to have biopsied. There were actually two masses in my left breast (all along, mostly because I was avoiding it, I was thinking it was only one lump that moved sometimes) and one lymph node on each side to have checked. She told me that it still could be benign. She asked me if I had any questions. I'm sure I did, but I couldn't think of what to even ask. And besides that I was certain that if I opened my mouth to talk the ugly crying would start and wouldn't stop! She cautioned me not to look on the internet and to take one step at a time.

I tried to keep it together that week. Sometimes I did. But I also let myself cry a lot. I didn't tell a lot of people because there was still a chance that it was nothing, but I did let a few people know what was happening. I tried to stay busy with my kids. I planned a yoga night with some friends. When E got back into town we planned date nights with other couples. I just wanted to stay busy so I wouldn't cry. But even when I stayed busy the upcoming biopsy and the potential cancer results were constantly running through my head and filling me with anxiety. It was sometimes hard to talk to people and try to pretend that everything was normal in my life. Because it wasn't.

I think it's interesting that when you are experiencing something you start to see it everywhere. Maybe it was there all along and you didn't notice or maybe it starts to appear everywhere to help prepare you. I don't know which it is. All I know is that all week long breast cancer kept popping into my life. An Instagram post from a boutique I follow, a news article, a random conversation about cancer, I noticed it everywhere.

A few days before the biopsy, we sat down as a family and told our kids a little bit about what was going on. I wasn't going to be able to lift B for at least 24 hours after the procedure so we wanted them to understand the situation. And we like to be as open with our children as possible. And I needed their prayers.

One night I was standing in the bathroom getting ready for bed. I had such a strong feeling again that the biopsy results would come back as cancer. The scripture from D&C 122:7 was clear in my mind, "all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." And I knew then that if this was Heavenly Father's will that even though it would be hard so much good could come from it. I knew I would never ask for this challenge, but that I could trust in God and the things I would learn and that my family would learn and that others would learn would be worth it.

The day of the biopsy came. The nurse who scheduled me suggested that I bring my husband. I thought she meant that Eric could be in the room with me during the procedure. So E and I sat in the waiting room until the nurse called me back. While we were waiting, an older man came in for his own appointment. He sat near us and started cracking joke after joke. He had a ring of notecards with joke prompts on them! What an awesome man trying to bring a little cheer with him. I was so grateful for the distraction. He truly brought some smiles to my nervous face. Eric and I stood up together when the nurse called my name. She kindly whispered that E couldn't come back with me. And that is when I broke down. I couldn't stop the tears. E with me was my safety and my strength. I tried to pull it together and then followed her back for the procedure.

It was a core needle biopsy. The radiologist was super nice. But I hate needles or anything medical so I covered my face with a towel and didn't look once. Not even when they bandaged the sites. Sometimes it didn't hurt and sometimes it hurt a lot. The lymph node on the right side was smaller and near a muscle and at one point when she was collecting the sample she hit the muscle or something and pain shot up through my arm. Four sites was pretty torturous, but I survived. I ended up being bruised and sore for more than a week. It was those lymph node sites that hurt the worst! When we talked to the radiologist, she told us to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

The day I had my biopsy I actually sat down and wrote out what I would post on Facebook once I decided to share the cancer news (if the report came back that way). I couldn't get that scripture from D&C out of my head and I couldn't shake the feeling that it really was cancer.

"You will see us in pink now.
“All these things shall give thee experience, and be for thy good” (d&c 122:7)
Infertility, endometriosis/adenomyosis, foster care, adoption, autism and many more experiences have been defining parts of my life for awhile. Now I add one more big thing—breast cancer.
Though I can’t even entirely wrap my head around the reality of this road we have ahead of us, I am trying to remember two things I do know for certain about life: 1. We are much stronger than we think we are. We can do much more than we think we can. 2. And when we realize we can’t do all that we need to do we just need to remember we don’t ever need to do it all alone—we have a loving Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. We can have the gift of the Holy Ghost to comfort and strengthen and teach us. And Heavenly Father is so good about orchestrating our lives to put the right people around us to lift, inspire, comfort, and help us along.
The official diagnosis came on Monday, but these last few weeks have been devastating and emotional and hard. But we are trying to take one day at a time.
Cancer sucks.
ps. I promise not to post too many pictures of my chest."

They told us it would be 2-3 days before the results were back. I was desperately hoping that we would hear the news before the weekend, but as luck would have it, we didn't. So I was full of anxiety for 5 days. Again, I tried to stay busy and we planned a couples game night and other activities.

Eric worked from home on Monday because we knew we would get the results back that day. I purposefully did not put makeup on in the morning because I was waiting for the call. Finally, I called the doctors office around 10am and left a message for the nurse. It wasn't too long before the nurse called me back. She was cheerful and said that she didn't see the results in my chart yet, but she would look in one other place to see if they received it but it hadn't been entered yet. Then her voice changed. I knew she had found it, but she pretended she hadn't and that she needed to call the pathology lab to get them to fax it over. She assured me it would be ready and it wouldn't be too long and that she would have the dr call me. She tried to cover it up, but I knew she just couldn't give me the bad news herself.

We waited for awhile, but then it was lunch time and we hadn't received a call. We decided to go grab thai food for lunch. So I put my makeup on and we went out to eat. We ordered our food and sat down at the table. They brought our food to the table right when my phone rang. I knew she was just waiting for me to put my mascara on before she called! I went outside to answer the call. The dr explained that all three sites on my left side were cancerous. So the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. However, it had not spread to the lymph nodes on the right side. Her office had scheduled an appointment for me to get into a breast surgeon on Wednesday. After I hung up the phone, I went in to tell Eric the news. I tried to keep eating my food, but I looked around the room and saw all these people just going about their normal days and here it was my that my whole life just changed. We grabbed to go boxes and headed home.

There is a girl in my ward who was going through this breast cancer journey when we first moved into this area. She was such an angel and came over that afternoon and helped me make sense of the pathology report, gave me some good advice, shared her story, and then proceeded to arrange through a connection to get me into the breast surgeon she had used and who I wanted to use the next day.

Truly, that was an answer to prayers. You see, the gynecologist had made an appointment for me to see a dr on Wednesday. I'm sure that dr would've been fine and I know he is experienced and knows what he's doing, but from my research I thought this other dr would be a better match for me. I had tried to get in to see her, but her schedule was full and she was leaving out of town so it would've been another week before we could see her. I did not want to wait another week!

That moment was the first time I prayed to Heavenly Father about my cancer. For weeks, I could not get myself to talk to God about it. Mostly because I did not know what to pray for. I knew that I did not want cancer, but I also knew I did not want to pray for something that was against His will. So when I prayed, I talked to Him about everything but cancer. Now that the diagnosis was official and I desperately wanted to get in to this other dr I prayed and cried and begged Heavenly Father to help things to work out that I could get in to see her. Like I said, my friend was able to contact a friend who contacted a friend. In the morning, I called the dr's office and they told me I could come in that day in the afternoon. Oh man, I was so grateful that Heavenly Father answered my plea. It was just one more reminder to me that even though Heavenly Father doesn't take away every hard thing, He has a plan and a purpose and He loves me and He will help me all along the way.

I went in to my appointment with the breast surgeon. They took my vitals when I got there and she asked if I was nervous because my heart rate was so high. Well, we were in that office for four hours. I am happy to say that my heart rate was back to normal at the end of the appointment. I met with the nurse practitioner, the surgeon, and the oncologist. Everyone was fabulous. I was examined three times. They took some blood for genetic testing. They went over my pathology report thoroughly. They carefully explained the options. We decided on the next steps. If I have to go through this, I am glad this is my team.

My cancer is stage two (at least. we won't know for sure until the surgery), invasive lobular carcinoma, estrogen/progesterone positive, HER2 negative breast cancer.

I have since learned some stats. Only 5% of women who have breast cancer are under the age of 40 (I am 33.). My type of cancer (lobular) is the second most common at 15%. However, 80% of women have the most common type (ductal). My chances of getting this type of cancer at my age were pretty slim, that's for sure! However, lobular cancer does not always show up on mammogram and ultrasound so it is pretty lucky that I found it. And that I found it at this stage (especially since I've never done self exams! I always just assumed that I am too young and that I had other crosses to bear and cancer wouldn't be one of mine).

Because my cancer is estrogen positive (it feeds off estrogen), I had to go off of my continuous birth control. Which means to control my pain because of adenomyosis and endometriosis, a hysterectomy/endometriosis excision surgery is in my near future, too. Boo.

Since that first appointment, I have met with my radiologist and my plastic surgeon. I have had an MRI, bloodwork, a CT scan, a nuclear medicine bone scan, and an MRI led biopsy. Each test has been dramatic for me. Like you should know by now, I am the ultimate baby when it comes to anything medical. I hate needles and I extremely hate IVs. I have now had four IVs in one week's time. There has been anxiety, tears, light headedness, gagging, dramatic words spoken, but ultimately I have survived them all.

My bloodwork, CT scan, and bone scan all came back looking good. The mri showed an area of concern in my right breast. That led to the mri-led biopsy. However, the results came back that the area is benign.

My next appointment is on Tuesday and we should be finalizing my treatment plan.

My emotions have been a daily rollercoaster. I am scared. I am grieving. When it is too quiet my thoughts wander to dark places. I cry a lot. E and I have cried together. Sometimes it is good for me to talk to someone. Sometimes it's hard to keep the tears back when I talk. I lost four pounds over a week just because I felt nauseous from anxiety and cried more than I ever have in one week's time.  My life has changed. My perspective on life has changed.

I have some absolutely amazing friends and family who have rallied around me. Each text, conversation, offer to help, gift, invite, prayer, message has meant an incredible amount to me!! More than I can express! Maybe I shouldn't say this, but in all honesty, I have also wanted to knock some people over the head who focus so much on things that seem so silly to me now or who have said some really, um, selfish and insensitive things. Though that is rare and I truly think that most people have such good intentions. I am learning from all of this how to be a better friend and what to say and do for people who are going through hard things. I know I have always needed to be better at this. Too bad cancer had to teach me.

I sometimes still try to pretend like this isn't happening. I only like to hear about things in chunks. And when I'm ready. FYI I am not ready to talk about the possibility of me losing my hair during chemo. Nope. Do not go there.

E is opposite. He is dealing with it all by researching and preparing for everything.

I am sad that this will change how I mother. I know I can find other ways to fulfill that role, but I know there will be periods of time in which I won't be able to do the day to day of being a mom to my baby and my other four kids. That is extremely hard on me.

Sometimes I talk to someone and I feel so strong and I can pick out the positive and the things I am learning and the ways I have been blessed through this. And sometimes I am too sad and scared and I can hardly breathe. It fluctuates even through the day. But it has been a month since my biopsy and I do feel like I am finally starting to cope a little bit better with everything (well, sometimes).

Man, I have written a novel and I still have so much to say and more experiences to record!. I will continue to try to give cancer updates here on my blog, but I have also started a separate Instagram account @laurallred_ to give updates and record bits of my journey. (Recording it all helps me to cope with what I am experiencing.)

Cancer sucks. Carry on.
Unknown said...

Cancer does suck. My mom had breast cancer--stage 3, a double mastectomy, it was estrogen fed as well, and she tested positive for the ovarian cancer gene. After that they scheduled her for a radical hysterectomy. When i was pregnant with Nash, I got my genes tested and I too am positive for the ovarian cancer gene (BRACA2 i believe) so a hysterectomy before 40 is in my cards too.

My love and prayers are with you. I know you can do it. And even if you cant, Christ can. If you ever want to vent or cry, I am happy to be on the receiving end for you!!

Darcee said...

Dear Laura, I'm heartsick for you. I do have many thoughts and comments that I prefer to share in another format, however, sadly, I have lost your email address. Please send me an email ( so that I can truly respond.

Much love to you! Darcee

Laura said...

I hope you never get cancer, Andrea. But I’m glad you are aware so you can keep a close eye on it. I really appreciate your kind words and prayers and support. ❤️