My Experience with DCIS
December 14, 2018, is the day I received that phone call from my doctor. Those words. “We have the results of your biopsy, and you have DCIS.”
I’m not sure I heard anything else after that. Immediate tears streamed down my face, even though deep down I sort of expected this news. I had no idea though what it meant, other than knowing it was a form of breast cancer. This wasn’t supposed to happen to me. I was healthy. I exercise and eat right. I had just run a half marathon two months prior. I don’t have a family history of breast cancer.
I am told that DCIS is ‘the good kind of cancer’ to get. Everyone’s cancer experiences are different, but no one should ever be told this! Sadly, though, this is reality for many DCIS patients. In a matter of four weeks, I went from receiving a cancer diagnosis to having a nipple sparing double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. I’m incredibly blessed that this was found early, but my treatment plan certainly didn’t tell me that this was the good kind of cancer to get.
With a very short time between diagnosis and surgery, I had to process a lot, quickly. It was overwhelming as I was in information overload, and in denial of receiving a cancer diagnosis. This plus trying to “carry on with life” of being a mom, a wife, hold a full-time job and keep the spirit of Christmas alive was tough. Thank goodness for my husband and close family and friends who lent me their ears to listen, and shoulders to cry on, as I was hanging on by thread.
After my double mastectomy, I spent the rest of 2019 physically healing. My care team did a tremendous job helping me feel physically better, but the emotional healing is a bit more complicated. I now know that what I processed was a loss. It was a trauma to my body, it was a kick to my confidence, and it squashed my self-esteem. A mastectomy IS a loss. A part of my body, a part of my self-image was removed and put back together again and was not the same. The physical feel of a hug from my kids or the intimate touch from my husband would never return. It still makes me sad thinking about it but there is no way I could fully prepare myself for it until after experiencing it.
Enter 2020 where I had such high hopes of emotionally putting myself back together again. A pandemic, social and political unrest, burnout from working remotely while homeschooling two children and my dad passing away, turned my world upside down and every emotion I hadn’t dealt with was now overflowing out of me. This reared its ugly head by being angry and frustrated all the time with my kids, and feeling a general sense of frustration with life.
Now two years later from my initial diagnosis, I’m trying to “deal” with this and it’s not easy. Putting in the work of “feeling all the feelings” is hard, but necessary as I can’t keep feeling angry, frustrated and spent all the time. My mantras for 2021 include “putting myself out there” and to “listen and learn from my internal voice”. Unfortunately, that voice is mean as I’m my own worst critic. What this looks like for me is a lot of self-hatred towards my body, which leads me to not work out, eating poorly and not being my own best cheerleader. It also means that whenever I have any aches and pains, my anxiety is through the roof thinking my cancer has returned. Therapy and working with a mentor are helping to put all this into perspective by putting my thoughts and feelings out there and using techniques like flipping negative feelings into how I want to feel. Positive thoughts = positive outcomes, right? I’m also taking more time for me by reading more at night and less time scrolling mindlessly on my phone, and patiently awaiting the delivery of my Peloton so I can feel physically strong again.
Everyone’s journey is different, unique and takes time…and it takes bravery to work through it. I hope by sharing my story I can help someone else by reassuring them that it’s ok to deal with your journey on your timeline, in your own way. – Nancy Wright Burdzel
To learn more about DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ), click here.