Friday, November 20, 2009


Stage IV Breast Cancer is treated like a chronic disease. Treatments are tried and continued as long as they are effective. Cancer cells can adapt and change as they try to preserve their own existance. When a specific treatment no longer works, another treatment is tried. I am asked a lot why I didn't have a mastectomy or why I am not on chemo or how much time I have left. Because I still have my hair, I don't look like a cancer patient. Part of me wishes we would have hit it hard right away, but Dr. Laudi asked me a lot questions about my life and what is important to me. He felt the hormone treatment was slower, but more gentle than chemo. He knows I am a mother and he hoped that this would cause less disruption in my life.

I discussed this with Dr. laudi at my appt this morning. "People want to know when I will die."

He paused... "People don't ask you that."

"Yes, they do. I'm not offended. They are just curious. It's a valid question."

Dr. Laudi shook his head, unable to comprehend. He put his hand on my shoulder, "Sarah, you are not going to die."

So, there you go. I am not going to die. Dr. Laudi said so (and I have witnesses).

Looking through my test results, Dr. Laudi said he is happy with my response to treatment. My CA 27-29 tumor marker is down to 43.97. The masses in my left breast are shrinking. My bones are changing. The holes left behind, when the cancer cells lost their 'food supply' and died off, are now being filled in with new bone formation. My cancer is responding.

I have much to be thankful for this holiday season :)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween in Anoka, Minnesota

My parents live in Anoka- The Halloween Capital of the World!
Last year my mom and I went with Natalie's Girl Scout Troop to the 'Ghosts of Anoka' walking tour of the city. This year we invited my dad, Amy and her daughter, Coral, to come along, too. Educational, spooky fun!

Our guide wore a vintage dress covered by a long, hooded cloak. A misty rain filled the air, as we followed her through the city streets and neighborhoods of Anoka. History came to life as we learned about the the people who lived in the houses and worked in the buildings and survived the tornadoes. Not everyone survived and nobody lives forever, so Anoka has its share of ghostly spirits...

There are lights that turn on and off.
Doors that slam and lock.
Chairs that spin or rock.
And pictures that move back
to a place they used to be.
Parents awaken to a light and find their child is ill.
Strange noises in the night-
both save a family from a fire
and leave them with a chill.
A voice. A rattle. A fading form.
Merchandise flys off a shelf and hits the floor.

We were taken in. Transported. All the places we have passed by so many times, barely giving a second glance, would now stand out. Now rich and colorful with stories- they had become more than a building, more than a house, more than a winking neon jack-o-lantern.

My mom walked next to me, holding my arm as I held my aching hip. She didn't push me into the bushes, like she did last year when we passed the hedge that reportedly grabs at people. I screamed anyway, like I did before. She was startled, then started to laugh when she remembered.

On the way home, we considered what kind of ghost each of us might become. Would we be filled with benevolence? Would we be pranksters? Maybe a little of both.

Monday, October 26, 2009

More appointments...

I dropped Larissa off at Amy's house to play with her cousin, Terran, while I headed to my doctor appt.

Today, Dr. Laudi put me on steroids to see if that would help with my pain. He ordered a CT and Bone scan. Tumor markers were drawn. Then, Mark went to work and my mom and I headed to the infusion center for my Zometa.

My nurse, Lisa, used to work with my mom at Children's Hospital so they caught up while Lisa started an IV in my arm and ran the Zometa over an hour. Hearing them talking about work, made me miss work. I thought about how I had been making plans to finish my college degree, now that Larissa would be in kindergarten next Fall. I was headed for nursing school before cancer... for now, cancer is like a full-time job.

Monday, October 19, 2009


We are still trying to figure out my pain control. I had my Fentanyl patch dose increased from 12.5 mcg to 25 mcg. My CA 27-29 Tumor marker went up from 66.6 on 09/01 to 73.54. Dr. Laudi said this is due to the Tamoxifen. We will redraw it at my next appt.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Grateful and Humbled

I am grateful for and humbled by the generosity of my family, friends, church, and the people I work with at Children's Hospital.

Our house is clean. Our children and dog are cared for. I have received messages, cards, emails, and calls from many people. I am the subject of many thoughts and prayers. After learning how much pain I have been in, our church offered to help us buy a comfortable, overstuffed chair that is big enough for a mom, 2 daughters and a dog to curl up in and read books. My Aunt Cindy made me a beautiful quilt in blues and purples- it looks like stained glass. People at Children's Hospital gave me a gift card for groceries and have anonymously donated vacation hours to me, so I'm still getting a paycheck (and my health insurance is paid).

I am overwhelmed. I don't know how to Thank You enough...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


In the 4 days since my discharge from the hospital, pain has become my constant companion. I try to keep ahead of it with my po Dilaudid. Pain never really goes away, it just slinks off into a corner and waits until my meds wear off. I am not afraid of it. I acknowledge it and face it. I just can't figure out how to coexist with it. In college, I took Integrative Med classes, so I practice the techniques I learned. Deep breathing.... relaxation.... visualization... aahhhh- Pain screams and wails and makes demands. Pain wants my undivided attention and wants it NOW! Everything else in the world becomes a white-noise static as I focus on pain.

This morning, at Dr. Laudi's office, I asked for the Fentanyl patch. The nurse's eyes got wide and she looked at Mark who was sipping on a Red Bull after working late last night.

"Yep. You heard her right. I am outnumbered." He said.

Dr. Laudi told Mark and my mom that he appreciates the great support they give me, but that I am his patient. He needs to listen to me and help me in any way he can. My mom agreed.

I was scheduled for a Lupron injection (that would shut down my ovaries, further decreasing the estrogen in my body).

Mark said, "You know, Sarah is a 28 year old woman and these drugs are essentially turning her into an 80 year old woman."

"We need to cut off the estrogen supply to these tumors." Dr. Laudi explained. As I headed to the infusion center for my injection, Dr. Laudi spoke to Mark.

My mom said, "Sarah, I don't have to come with you to your appts."

"I want you to."

"But it's important for you to develop a working relationship with your doctor and maybe I distract from the things you need to say."

I told her, "I am a lot like Dad. I just want to get in and get out. Sometimes, I need help."

Mark and Dr. Laudi were talking and laughing by the elevator.

Dr. Laudi said to my mom, "What did you say when Sarah brought this guy home?"

I jumped in, "She said 'Keep looking.'"

Dr. Laudi smiled, "Mark is a good guy."

Mark picked up my Fentanyl patches from the pharmacy. I wasn't there, but I bet that he interrogated the pharmacist. At home, he removed a patch from the package and examined it carefully for defects before I stuck it on. That night as I slept, I imagine Mark lying awake- counting my breaths and reviewing CPR.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Phoenix Taxi

My mother-in-law, Ireane, stopped in to visit me at the hospital. She gave me a beautiful angel. While she and Mark were here, my mom stopped by and Mark told her about his latest idea.

Mark owns Phoenix Taxi, which serves Anoka County here in Minnesota. His cabs are blue with a red phoenix on the the front doors- rising from the ashes (of a previous cab company actually). Mark's personal cab has fake bullet holes on it and the words 'Party like a Rockstar- we'll drive you home' on each side. Now, Mark has decided that he is going to have one of the cabs painted pink in my honor. He was trying to figure out some fun slogans for it. Since it is a cab and not a schoolbus, for example, the slogans can be a bit more risque.

"How about owls?" Mark grinned, "For hooters, you know."

"I don't know," my mom started giggling, which is both fuel and encouragement, "could be offensive to some people."

"Not my clients."

"How about," my mom started, " 'For all the mothers, daughters, sisters-"

Mark cut her off, "How about 'Save Second Base'?"

Mark, my mom and I laughed, but Ireane sat quietly.

Mark turned to his mother, "What do you think?"

"I don't know." She said, "I don't get it."

"You don't know what second base is?" Mark said.

"No," she said, "It must be funny, but I don't get it."

"Mom," Mark said, "You are such a good Catholic girl, but you had 3 kids. You know what second base is."

Then- you guessed it- Mark explained 'baseball' to his mother running through all the bases to the home run. I will spare you. If only I could have spared my mother.

                           Phoenix Taxi's Breast Cancer Cab

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Apparently, I looked like crap when I went to my radiation appt yesterday, so Dr. Dickson called Dr. Laudi- who had already been getting frequent updates from Mark by phone, email, and texts (I have spoken to Mark about his incessant harassment of this poor man. Mark understands 'boundary issues' on a conceptual level, but the possibility of facing tomorrow without me... well, he is stuck in survival mode and cannot help himself). So yesterday, I was admitted to Mercy Hospital for dehydration and pain control.

I have lost 22 pounds. (NOT endorsing this weight-loss plan). I didn't realize how horrible I felt, until the IV fluids started to rehydrate me, the IV Dilaudid PCA kicked in and I actually started to feel good. I had a CT and Xrays of my pelvis, along with an MRI. I get wheeled to radiation each day.

Today, Dr. Laudi said he wonders whether the MS Contin is contributing to my nausea. He is weaning the Dilaudid PCA and is planning to have me use a Fentanyl patch along with Dilaudid and Methadone prn when I get home. It just takes time to figure out which meds will work best for me.

Mark was updating his brother, Steve, who is an attorney in Chicago and when Mark said "Fentanyl patch" Steve told him that he is working on cases where Fentanyl patches have been defective. Instead of delivering a small amount of the narcotic at a time, patients got a huge bolus resulting in death. Steve strongly advised Mark to refuse the patch. Our internet connection will be humming tonight...

My parents have been taking care of Amore. Nan and Larissa- or Pickle as we sometimes call her- have been staying at Amy's. Today, my mom brought Larissa up to the hospital to see me. My mom brought me a new fleece blanket and some flowers that Larissa had helped pick out. My mom told me that Larissa had suddenly started to cry on the way up to my room. She asked her what was wrong.

Larissa said, "On TV, people cry at hosibuls. It's sad. I don't want my mom to get all dead."

We have talked to our girls about cancer and tried to reassure them that we love them and will make sure they are cared for. It breaks my heart when I think about dying and not being here for them.

Pickle jumped into the hospital bed next to me, snuggled into the blankets, then played with the bed controls giving me quite a ride. I held her close and just went with it- luckily I didn't throw up.

I remember my mom taking our dog, Nikita, to the vet. Dr. Wall, a friendly man in his 40s, had examined Nikita observing the stiffness in her gait, the cloudiness in her eyes.

"She is an old girl." He had said.

The next year, when my mom called to make Nikita's vet appt, she was told that the vet had died unexpectantly. An aneurism. Unexpectantly, Nikita had outlived him...

So, you never really know. Cancer reminds me that all we really have is today, right now. Cancer also shows me -without a doubt- how much you care about me. When I count my blessings, I am counting you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sinking into the Abyss

It's hard to keep up with everything when I feel exhausted and can't bend over. It's physically challenging to get in and out of bed or a chair or a car or the tub (which is a huge problem, because I soak in the tub many times a day)... My energy has limitations and I have to carefully choose how I spend it. My children are my priority and everything else in my life gets whatever crumbs are left over. My laundry is becoming a mountain range and my kitchen sink is overflowing. Mark looks at the pathetic crumb in his bowl and turns into Oliver Twist, "More, please." I have so many people that have offered to help me, but I don't even know where to start. I have never felt like I needed help before. I feel a sense of disconnect from it all- like I'm going through the motions, but not really here. My spirit has taken refuge deep inside, while my body becomes a battleground. Mark feels it and desperately tries to send me lifelines that end up either annoying me or making me cry, because when he pulls me to the surface I realize how much he misses the "old Sarah." So do I.

Today, my mom and Amy came over and cleaned our house. My mom brought her Rug Doctor and cleaned the carpet. I lay on the sofa, with my bucket and Amore. When they were done, it looked beautiful in here. At one point, my mom and sister were folding laundry. My mom paused, "Sarah, you know I love you and I would do anything for you," She held up a pair of Mark's underpants, "but I may have reached a limit here." We all laughed and laughed. It was music to my soul. It filled me up and made me feel like me :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Amore means Love

Natalie is in 4th grade and Larissa goes to preschool 3 mornings a week. I scheduled my radiation treatments in the morning before school, thinking this would be less disruptive for my family. The radiation itself only takes about 15 minutes, but it wipes me out. The pain I have in my back and hips makes it difficult for me to roll over in bed or even get out of bed. I still cannot bend over. I also have nausea and vomiting much of the time. The thought of eating makes me feel sick.

I have Zofran and Compazine for nausea. I am taking MS Contin for pain and today my dose was increased to 30mg every 12 hours, with Vicodin every 4 hours prn. I have never taken many meds and now I'm taking so many at once- it's hard to figure out what is working or isn't working. Sometimes, I feel like I could sleep all day...

Growing up, we always had dogs and cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, parakeets, and fish. Mark always had cats. Mark loves cats, but he has asthma and is allergic to them. Whenever he holds and pets cats at his mother's house or my parent's house, he needs time to recover using his inhaler.

Just before my diagnosis, a friend of Mark's asked if we were interested in a puppy. His family has 2 Italian Greyhounds and they just had seven puppies. Mark did some research on them and called my mother to ask what she knew about them.

My mom said, "They are really interesting dogs, but I can't say I know a lot about them."

"From what I have been reading, well, they seem a lot like cats. Short hair. Don't smell. Playful and energetic. Like to cuddle."

"But they are not cats. They are dogs," she said.

"Yeah, I know, but they are very cat-like."

"You should find a way to adopt a cat."

"Not with my allergies," Mark said. "Hey, do you want a puppy?"


Mark and I took the girls to see the puppies. Mark's friend and his wife have 2 sons and a daughter, so the puppies were used to children and had been held a lot. The puppies were playful and precious. One puppy kept coming up to us. She snuggled in my lap. She chose us.

When we returned to see her a few days later, my parents came along. Mark's friend and his wife explained that they weren't planning on having puppies, but now they wanted to find good homes for these puppies, then they planned to spay/ neuter their dogs. By the time the puppies were ready to leave their mother, both my parents and Amy's family had decided to adopt a puppy, too.

My parents already have 2 dogs, Bailey- a yorkie mix- and Buddy- a golden retriever. Their sheltie, Nikita, had died a year ago and we all missed her. Amy's family has Ariel- a shitzu- and Lily- a black lab. On August 10, I wasn't feeling well, so I waited at home with Larissa while Mark and Nan went to get the puppy we had decided to name "Amore." My parents and Amy met there.

Mark started for home with Natalie holding the puppy in the backseat of his cab. Mark had visions of this dog growing up to sit in the front seat next to him- riding along together. Once the car was in motion, the puppy started to cry. Loudly.

Mark called my mother, "Something's wrong with this dog! Do you hear this? What can I do?"

"The puppy just misses her mother and family. Everything is new and strange to her. She is ok. Just relax and try to calm her."

"What? I can't hear a thing over that screeching."

"Mark. Have Nan hold her and calm her. Tell her to try singing softly."

"Natalie bailed. I am trying to get her to sit next to me on the seat."

It was a long, noisy ride with Mark questioning this decision every miserable, earsplitting mile. Then, they got home and Amore was quiet. She was interested in everything outside. We walked her around in the grass on her leash. Inside, we showed her the kennel, lined with soft blankets and new toys. We led her to her new food and water bowl and watched as she ate and drank. We ran her back outside when she started to pee on the floor. We took turns holding her as she slept...

Had I known that day, that 3 weeks later I would be diagnosed with cancer, would I have chosen to adopt a dog? Probably not, but I believe that things work out the way they are meant to be. While I lie in bed, holding my barf-bucket nearby- I can feel Amore breathing softly under the covers, stretched out along my back (taking full advantage of the warm, rosy glow of my latest hot flash). She licks my face. She jumps into the bathtub with me. She noses the cupboard under the kitchen sink until it opens, then she roots around in the wastebasket for treats. I love this sweet, little, naughty dog.

                           Amore (left)  and her sister, Nora

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

SJ Ink

I spent 1.5 hours lying on my stomach on a narrow table while the radiology staff mapped out my radiation fields. I got 5 tattoos, so each day they can just align the machine to the permanent, little dots.

In high school, I thought about getting a Winnie-the-Pooh tattoo...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Met with Dr. Dickson and his nurse, Yvonne, today to discuss my bone mets. He recommends radiation to my T5 to L1 vertebrae Monday- Friday for 3 weeks. Each treatment would take about 15-20 minutes. Radiation will quickly target the cancer in my bones- relieving pain and allowing them to rebuild. Since the radiation field will be close to my GI tract, nausea and vomiting is a common side effect. Taking in my pink and purple highlights, he said "You shouldn't lose your hair."

Friday, September 4, 2009

PET scan

I started Tamoxifen.

Later, I had a PET scan. Radioactive material is injected into a peripheral IV in my arm. I have to lie very still with my arms extended over my head while it travels throughout my body. Then, into the scanning machine for scans.

Mark had made a special trip to his mother's house in Bloomington in search of something. He returned with a small cardboard box that had belonged to his dad. Inside- a geiger counter. For the rest of the day, Mark periodically followed me around the house- listening to clicks and checking readings.
It's official. I'm radioactive.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bone scan/ Birthday/ Bonfire

Busy day. Bone scan and MRI. Then, I had my hair cut and highlighted purple and pink. A going away present of sorts.

In the evening, we celebrated Larissa's 5th birthday with a pizza party and bonfire at my parent's house. We sang and ate cake. Amy worked on showing Natalie and Coral how to make earrings. Later, I sat in a lawn chair between my dad and sister, Amy, staring into the crackling flames. Even with worried thoughts weighing on our hearts, still a peaceful place.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

D Day

For those of you who know my husband, Mark, you know that he is not afraid of disaster. In fact, he is trained as a police officer, owns his own cab company, and runs the Command Center that coordinates emergency assistance in Ramsey
County. Stress, pressure, chaos- to me, maybe- but not to him.

This morning, Mark, my mom and I went to meet the oncologist I was referred to. This man would give me my diagnosis, my prognosis, my answers, my plan. The mistrust I felt for doctors and healthcare in general- like a stinking, leaking garbage bag filled with pain, worry, and fear- would fall right into this man's lap. Unfairly. We agreed to keep our distance and to listen to his spiel, while keeping a firm grip on the escape hatch. And so I waited, facing my own mortality, looking into my mother's teary eyes, and witnessing Mark's first panic attack.

A nurse came in to speak with us. She explained what would happen on this visit. She told me that everyone in this clinic would be affected by my cancer, because seeing someone my age was rare. Mark quickly diverted the conversation to his own breathing difficulties, heart palpatations and feelings of overwhelming anxiety. He said he couldn't sleep last night- especially after seeing the look on my mother's face after she had spent a few hours googling "Stage 4 Breast Cancer." He said, "I have been trained to read faces and gestures and, let's just say, it wasn't good." The nurse cautioned us about getting medical information from the internet and acknowledged that Mark too may need help in dealing with my diagnosis and that he should talk to his doctor.

If you know Mark, you also know about his filter. While some people claim he doesn't have one at all, it's more like he chooses to keep the setting at "Wide Open" most of the time. This leads to some moments that may be perceived from inappropriate and socially unacceptable to simply honest (sometimes, brutally honest), to lighthearted or just plain funny.

Dr. Laudi, my Oncologist.
Dr. Laudi entered the exam room, placed my file on the desk and reached for my hand. "Sarah," he said, his voice warm and soothing, "If you hear nothing else today- hear this: WE CAN TREAT THIS." He let these words sink in, then continued "Can we cure this? I don't know. But we can treat this." He took Mark's hand, then my mom's hand- not shaking, but holding.
Calm. Peaceful. Hopeful. He not only saw the baggage we had lugged to this visit, but he accepted it as a gift to be recycled into something new.

My diagnosis: Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma
-with T9 and T12 vertebrae pressing slightly into my spine
Lymph node status: 1 node involved
Tumor size: 2.3 X 2.6 X 2.5 cm (the largest mass)
Nottingham grade: II of III
Nottingham score: 6 of 9
Mets: +
Hormone receptor status: Estrogen +
Progesterone +
Herceptin -

Dr. Laudi put the discs of my scans into his computer and started to interpret them. I had mets to every bone visible on the scan- spine, ribs, pelvic bones. These mets ate away at the bone, displacing it and making it fragile. He told us not to be concerned with the number of mets- one or one hundred- the treatment would target them all.

Mark blurted out, "Can't we just order her a new spine from China?"

Dr. Laudi derailed- momentarily speechless. "Well... probably not in the way you are thinking, but I have a plan."

Though I thought losing my breasts was a given, since the cancer had already spread beyond them, they would stay- the traitors. (Left one- I'm talking to you).

Tests:-Bone Scan
-Brain Scan
Lab:-CA27-29 Tumor Marker [<35] = 66
Pain Control:-MS Contin BID
Hormone Therapy (to remove my cancer's food supply):
-Tamoxifen (binds to cancer cells, turning them off)
-Lupron (stops ovary function)
-Laxatives (to counteract the narcotics)
-Calcium and Vitamin D (to help build bone)
-Zometa IV (to strengthen bone and reduce fractures)
Referrals:-Radiation (to my spine)
-Orthopedics (weight restrictions, fracture risks)
-Genetics: BRCA 1 & 2 (to see if there is a genetic component and risks to my mom, sisters, children)

No treatment is without risks or side effects. I learned that narcotics will relieve pain, but make me tired and constipated. Tamoxifen can cause weight gain and blood clots. Removing the estrogen from my body would put me into menopause with hot flashes. I already had questionable fractures, so I would have to take an indefinite leave from my job at Children's Hospital where I worked in the storeroom and as a nursing assistant. The Zometa can cause kidney problems and a rare jaw bone necrosis.

"You're scaring me here." Mark said. He went on to describe his vision of my potential transformation- flushed and sweating, bloated, necrotic- I will spare you.

Obviously, Dr. Laudi had never met anyone quite like Mark before. Have any of us, really? "He's stressed out." I said and the doctor nodded, continuing with the plan.

Riding down the elevator and stepping out into the sunny day, we all admitted that we had a good feeling about this doctor. My mom liked that he was present, hopeful, and appeared current on breast cancer care.
Mark said, "Yeah, I liked him, too. But did you notice the times he glanced down and to the right?" 

Monday, August 31, 2009

I hesitate to start this journal.

When you heard of my diagnosis, the pain in your eyes overshadowed my own. Whether you are my husband or daughter or parent or sister or brother or family member or friend or someone I work with or someone I have sat next to at church or someone I have just met... each of you took a hit to the heart. A staggering hit. This may be a bumpy ride and I feel a huge responsibility to be clear about the purpose of this journal, because you are riding shotgun and I care about you as you care about me. So, I begin...

Today I faced the doctor who didn't want to order the MRI. I realize he had looked at me a few weeks ago and saw a woman who had a chronic back issue due to "lifestyle and improper lifting techniques." He didn't consider that prior to 6 months ago my doctor visits consisted of an annual GYN visit (my last one was December 2008). He didn't consider that I had only filled one pain med prescription and still had most of the pills. I told him these things, but he didn't hear. Today, he listened and ordered test after test after expensive test. After 6 months of having my body tell me that something is wrong and trying to get help- a sense of relief settled over me. I'm not crazy or a hypocondriac. I have cancer.

Clinic Fashion

My Mammogram

Busy day. Blood drawn. Mammogram. Ultrasound. Core needle biopsy of masses in my left breast. CTs of my chest, abdomen, and lumbar spine. I was handed discs of these images to bring to the oncologist in the morning. So, my husband and mother and I huddled around the computer, popped in the discs and played amateur radiologists. Even after surfing the internet for "Reading your own Scan" tips, we finally accepted our limitations. Enough cancer for today. Mark and I headed to the State Fair with Natalie and Larissa, leaving our dog, Amore, with my parents to play with their dogs.

*When cancer is stripped of its fear and doom-
  Cancer... simply is.
  It is nobody's fault I have cancer.
  I am not cancer's victim.*
               -This is not my denial, but my truth.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Background Story

In March 2009, I started having low back pain that wouldn't go away. Over the next 6 months, I went to many doctors who told me that back pain was very common- I had urine cultures, chest Xrays. I was given muscle relaxers and pain meds (which didn't help or made me too sleepy to be a mother, so I didn't take them). Each doctor formed an opinion and here is what I learned:
-I am too fat and my pants are too tight.
-I may have a herniated disc and need physical therapy.
-I shouldn't be carrying around my 4 year old daughter, Larissa.
-I wasn't lifting properly.
-It would probably just go away by itself, even if I did nothing.

For each of these pearls of wisdom, I paid a $20 copay. The pain continued. I just tried to deal with it the best I could, even when I could no longer bend over. Natalie, our 9 year old daughter, helped me around the house. My husband, Mark, wanted me to go back to the doctor, but I would rather spend my money at a garage sale than pay someone to tell me I'm fat. Then, my mom saw me try (unsuccessfully) to pick something up that I had dropped on the floor and she insisted I go to the doctor and request an MRI.

When I asked for the MRI, the doctor was not impressed. He said, "What do you expect to see in there? A tumor?" He claimed 28 years old was too young (not really- my mom is a pediatric oncology nurse). He said I had no family history or risk factors. He suggested I was seeking pain meds and said he would not give me any more. I told him something was wrong and I would not leave until he ordered an MRI. He very reluctantly ordered an MRI to be done when the "schedule permits," so 10 days later I got an MRI of my back.

Two days later, I was driving to work on a Saturday morning, when an on-call doctor found my MRI results on his desk. He asked me to pull over and park my car. He told me my MRI showed "multiple spinal masses" and I would need to follow up on Monday morning with my doctor. Though he had no further information to give me, he was calling because he was concerned that I was in a great deal of pain and needed pain meds.

A song played on the radio-

"She got the call today,
one out of the gray.
And when the smoke cleared
it took her breath away.
She said she didn't believe
it could happen to me.
I guess, we're all one phone call
from our knees."

Monday was a blur. Mark, my mother, and I faced a visibly shaken doctor who ordered a bunch of tests: CT, Mammogram, Ultrasound, needle biospy, labs, along with a referral to an oncologist.

-4 small masses in my left breast (you could kind-of feel one of them, if you knew where to feel and used your imagination)
-One enlarged lymph node under my left arm
-Numerous (basically in EVERY bone) lytic lesions (meaning the cancer eats away at the bone- displacing it and leaving holes)
-T12 (thorasic vertebrae) completely replaced by a mass
-T6, T9, T10 mildly bowed posteriorly
-No clear fractures, no narrowing of the spinal cord

Diagnosis: Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma with lymph node
involvement and mets to my bones
or Stage 4 Breast Cancer

That evening, I went to the Minnesota State Fair with my husband and children and slid down that giant wavy slide. When I got to the bottom, Mark had to help me up.