Friday, June 10th
Let me introduce myself. My name is Natasha Fogarty. I am the wife of an amazing man, mother to the best six month old baby anyone could ask for, twenty-nine years old, and diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. I know right, WTF. I am only 29!! I am supposed to be celebrating my 30th birthday and watching all of the milestones my little baby boy will reach. Don’t worry I will still be doing all those things, but I will also be fighting the biggest fight of my life. This is my journey. I am not a writer. This may be hard to read for more ways than one. I realized I use very dark humor to cope with this diagnoses. You never know the person you will be until you are in the thick of some messed up shit.
Today I started chemo, but I want to tell the whole story. This is my story. I hope it inspires, helps, and motivates all people.
I am going to start from the beginning, the day was June 10th 2016. Well really, it started 5 months earlier, kind of. I will elaborate. Last Friday I went to my OBGYN for my annual check up. While I was there we talked about how we missed each other and how I needed to get pregnant soon. We joked but I was a little serious. I told him “I have this lump on my right breast. Should we be worried?”. I found the lump 5 months earlier. I know, I know… Let me explain. I was 8 and a half months pregnant. I thought it was my milk coming in. I wasn’t really worried. Then life happened. I had a beautiful baby boy after 44 hours of labor. Yes, it was hell. My boobs got so engorged and I started my breastfeeding journey. It is beautiful and truly my favorite thing about being a mom. So, fast forward through all the night feeding and growth spurts and we come back to my doc appointment. My doctor said it was probably nothing to worry about but he ordered an ultrasound. So I left and scheduled my ultrasound for the following Wednesday.
My Mom, Milo and I all went up to St. Luke’s hospital. It all felt like it happened so fast but we were there for over 4 hours. I had my ultrasound, the doctor looked over it then decided she wanted me to get a mammogram. So I had a mammogram, which wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I even joked with my husband through text about it. Once that was done, the doctor pulled my Mom, Milo and me into a separate room. She told me that it looked concerning. Those were the words she used… I still was thinking, “Okay but I am not worried”. She wanted to do a biopsy on my lump. I was like, alright, lets get this over with. They explained what would happen. They would numb my breast, then go in and take out 3 samples of tissue and place a very small metal object in there as a tracker for where they took tissue out. We went back into the room with the ultrasound and they used the ultrasound to find the area to biopsy. It really didn’t hurt. There were 3 people in the room with me. The doctor, ultrasound tech, and a nurse. The nurse held my arm up and rubbed it to help calm me. The doctor did her job and it was over. I thought, “Easy! Done!”.
Friday 6/10 was just like any other day. I went to work. I was told to call the doctor this morning any time I had a second to discuss results. Let me be very clear… I had no idea this would be the outcome. Breast cancer was so far away from what i thought this lump was. I would have never went to work if I had the slightest idea. I called the doctor during my 15 minute break while I was pumping breastmilk for my little dude. It was kind of a blur, but she said “I am sorry to tell you this, but the biopsy came back positive for breast cancer.”. I am pretty sure that everything she said after that, I didn’t hear at all. Something about a MRI and meeting with a surgeon. I hung up and just cried so hard. It was unbelievable, unthinkable, unimaginable. I calmed myself down enough to call my Husband. He answered and all I said was “it is breast cancer. I have breast cancer”, as I cried hard again. I don’t know what to do… I don’t know how to live my life. Not like suicidal thoughts, just, like… what do i do? Keep working? Keep crying? Come home? Drive? Like… how do I do life?
Jimmy wanted to come get me from work and at that point I was okay with that. Then I called my Mom and the same thing happened… She shed a few tears then put on her Mom pants and told me everything was going to be okay and that I would get through this, and I just needed to come home right now. I know the moment we got off the phone she broke down, but she was strong for me. I was at this point in shock. I was shaking so bad. My hands couldn’t even dial a phone number as I called my boss to tell him I had to go home because I just found out I had breast cancer. He said “Oh, No Natasha! I am so sorry.” I didn’t know what to say. I was shocked and confused. I then called people to come in to work for me. I work in retail and we work on two people coverage. I went back out on the floor and pretended like nothing happened. I helped customers like I always do. I did tell the associate that I was working with what happened. It was all a blur. One of my sisters texted in while I was still at work “Mom just told me the news. You are seriously the strongest woman I know tho so I know you will beat this! Next week is my last week of work then I’ll be free to help you out in anyway possible. I can be at your house every day if I need to be just let me know. I love you sister.” I didn’t respond until later in the day. She knew, and that was all I could deal with at that point. My boss came in and I was on a different level, like not crying, but making light of the situation. I have breast cancer. “It is not a death sentence, but just incase, I need to go out and get some major life insurance.” He thought I was taking it very well. I have a great way of hiding my emotions, as I am sure we all do. I have had a lot of other terrible things happen to me in my life and I know how to put on a smile. I grabbed my stuff, and as I walked to my car, the tears came fast and hard. This was all a bad dream. I was going to wake up. But I knew it wasn’t a dream. I knew this was my life now. I got into my car and started driving the same drive I have always drove, but somehow this time felt different. My world was different.
I first texted my other sister who was in clinical because I knew calling her would only stress her out. I just said “Call me when you get off.” I didn’t want to freak her out or take her mind off of work. She was under a lot of stress too. I have never asked her, but always wondered if she was worried that day, as my Mom asked her to call too… I called my best friend and cousin. I told her I am sorry to tell you this at work, but I know if I didn’t, she would hear it from her Mom, and that is what I didn’t want. I said “I have breast cancer.” We cried. What do you say to that? How do you react? There is no wrong way I have decided. The way you react is always the right way. I promise. Be honest. Julia said a few things but the thing I remember was, “I don’t even know what to say Natasha.” At that moment I felt the same way… We were going through the same emotions together. We have always been honest with each other and it was refreshing to hear that at that moment. It wasn’t, “You are strong. You are a fighter. You can do this.” It was “I don’t know what to say.” We were both in shock. I hung up the phone and immediately called my other life long best friend. She was working as well, with kids. We did some small talk first and then I told her the same as I told everyone. Simply, “I have breast cancer.” Tears again. “What do you need?” Those were her first words. WOW. I don’t know. She immediately went into helping mode. The mom in her came out. I needed that too. She had just went through this with her mom less than a month before. Her emotions are still raw from that. I felt better after talking to both of my friends. They had different reactions but they were both what I needed. I finished the long drive home. I walked into the house and My husband was standing there. We hugged for a long time. We cried a little that day but more laugher and jokes were made. I hugged my baby. And all felt right in the world.
My mom came over that day. She said that if we wanted to know, the doctor should be able to tell us what kind of cancer I had. I think when I was on the phone I was in such shock that I didn’t even ask one question. I knew I had an MRI and I thought that would tell us more. I didn’t know anything about any of this. Jimmy, Mom, and I all sat around and joked about Jimmy needing to take out a life insurance policy on me and how he would have to wait a little bit before remarrying. I said if I am going to die, the least I could do is pay for Milo’s college. We laughed and joked more. Like I said before, this is how I deal with cancer. I joke and laugh about it. My sister, Gabrielle, called my mom first as Jimmy and I sat there, and we heard Mom tell her the dreaded words… “Natasha has breast cancer”. There was a pause and instinctively, the future doctor came out in her… “Was it the left breast?” she said. No, unfortunately it wasn’t. My left breast didn’t produce as much milk, sometimes only getting under one ounce. Lefty was my slacker boob. So you can understand how upset we all were to find out it was my “good” boob. It was bigger, it was prettier, Milo favored it more, and so did I. Jimmy on the other hand liked my left boob better. Jimmy still thinks the left boob plotted this whole thing so that lefty could, for once, be the favorite. Part of me wonders myself.
Mom brought this book over that went through everything about breast cancer. It was a very good, informative book. Last that day, Jimmy called my OBGYN to ask what kind of cancer it was. I could hear my doctor just completely saddened and shocked by this diagnosis. He asked how I was. “Fine, strong.” He asked about Milo. Jimmy joked that when he told him, Milo smiled a big smile. Jimmy said, “He has taken it the best out of all of us.” We all laughed. By the end we heard it… Invasive ductal cancer, Grade 3. Very aggressive. I had no idea what any of it meant. I was instantly scared. The unknown is the scariest thing about all of this. Dr Pearse said this is the most common and that we will know more on Monday. Jimmy hung up and re-read what he had wrote… Invasive ductal cancer grade 3. I immediately said, “Are you sure he said ‘grade’ and not ‘stage’?” Jimmy reaffirmed what he heard. It was “grade”. I don’t know what that means at all. I have never heard any of those words. I know what aggressive means though, and I am terrified to learn more. Jimmy immediately goes to the web and reads. I am lost in thought. I don’t really remember what I was thinking just lost and confused. I finally, after some time, grab the book Mom left. I start flipping through the pages. So much information. It was clear, and explained much of what I needed clarification on so well. Ductal meant it started inside the milk duct. Invasive meant that it has traveled outside the milk duct and was in the fatty tissue too. Grade 3, one of the most aggressive grades, meant that the cells have mutated so much that they no longer look like themselves anymore, and are nearly unrecognizable next to the cells they started out as. They were cancer at its best. This is some heavy shit. The knowledge at this point does not make me feel better. They don’t know if it has spread. So we get to sit with this information, alone, for a whole weekend. This was the scariest time. The unknown is so unbelievably scary. I really didn’t know how to go about being a person. Jimmy and I did our normal routine Friday night. We got into bed and cried together. Was this really happening? One minute I am breastfeeding my baby, the next I have breast cancer. We said a few prayers and fell asleep.