NOT ME by Guest Blogger Christine Handy

Christine_couchChristine, today.

I remember some of the details of the days leading up to my breast cancer diagnosis and of the moment the doctor called me with the results. The initial memories I do have are memories of disbelief and fear, not anger. The memories are of deep sadness, but not pity. They are of confusion and guttural pain. It’s a day nobody wants to experience and a day I will never soon forget.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer October 1st 2013, I was 43 years young with no family history of the disease. I was one of those ladies that never took the self exam seriously. But on that one, very random evening in late September for no apparent reason at all, I gave myself a breast exam and found a lump. It was a hard mass below my left nipple and it seemed to appear out of nowhere. That night my husband and I convinced ourselves that it was a cyst, it couldn’t be cancer. Not only did I not have any family history, but I worked out 6 days a week. I’m allergic to sugar so don’t eat any and I’m a vegetarian. Other than the major debacle with my right arm I was otherwise very heathy. This could not happen to me.

I was out of town the night I felt the lump and as chance would have it, it was on a Saturday. During my initial frenzy I contemplated going to the emergency room, but I had to come to grips with the reality that I had to wait. The compulsion for an answer that gripped my every breath was intense and yet I could do nothing about it. By Tuesday, I was back home and called my obstetrician who referred me to a breast specialist. Oh boy , I thought, here we go. I called the specialist and begged my way into an appointment the following morning. More waiting. I look back to the waiting during those days and I still shake my head. It was agonizing.

The following morning my husband and I headed to the “specialist”. Something unexpected happened when I checked into the reception area that morning. I started to feel humiliation. I had a lump. I was a marked woman (I thought) and I actually felt shame. I can’t explain why I felt humiliation, but I can only surmise it was because of the stigma attached to the word cancer . I remember growing up and adults whispering to each other, ” oh she’s the one with cancer,” like it was shameful. I had already felt fear and now I felt the black mark.

The specialist’s office was typical and systematic. We got to speak to the doctor fairly quickly, a brief hello and off with the shirt and bra. He did a physical exam and said that he believed the mass on my left breast was a cyst just from the touch and from the way it “moved.” I felt a surge of relief. I may have even smiled. The doctor then asked my husband to head to the waiting room and I was shuffled over to the line for the mammogram. I sat next to another lady who was older than me, I recall. She was very pleasant and started to talk to me. She said that she was there for her 6 month check up. She also said she had been diagnosed with breast cancer the year before, but that it was stage one and therefore she didn’t have to undergo any chemotherapy treatment. I felt sorry for her. She, although older than me, was still way too young to have had cancer- I thought.

Shortly after my mammogram , I was back in an exam room feeling pretty confident and a bit more at ease. The doctor came back into the exam room, sat next to me while placing his hand on my knee and said in a quiet , genteel voice that possibly it wasn’t a cyst, but that I should not be concerned. He also said that they needed to do a needle biopsy the next day. This was some kind of roller coaster and my brief feelings of relief were washed away by total panic. I remember I started to cry. All the emotional courage I had mustered up collapsed right before me. I asked for the nurse to go get my husband and she did. My husband walked in a few minutes later with a swagger and a smile but when he looked at me he immediately stopped and asked ” what’s wrong”. I explained to him what the doctor had said to me and then he lowered his head and in a solemn manner spoke out an, “awwwwww” sound . I knew from his tone and expression the he knew at this point that this was serious. As much as he recovered quickly and tried to convince me that it was going to be fine, I knew he felt differently.

It was at this very moment when the anger began. We left the breast specialist’s office and as I walked to the car I started to sob. You see, in the 14 months prior to this very day, I had had surgery on my right arm that led to an infection which went misdiagnosed for 5 months. The infection- during those 5 months- literally ate away all of my cartilage in my right wrist and broke every single bone while decaying the bones that were left. The misdiagnosis led to 6 additional arm surgeries, somewhere around 14 different arm casts and months of ridiculously painful physical rehab. It also led to my having a PICC line that was inserted into my upper right tricep and threaded to my heart. This allowed my “new” infectious disease doctor (I didn’t even know this type of doctor existed) to pump me with what was described as ” World War 2 ” intensity antibiotics to stop the infection. Even after all this, I ended up with a permanently disabled right arm.

So, on this very sad solemn day in late September 2013 while walking to my car fearing the worst , I was still in a cast . You see the reason I was out of town when I found the lump was not because I was on some kind of vacation after the arm debacle. It was because I was in NYC seeing the surgeon that had just fused and bone grafted my wrist. It was my 6 week post surgery check up. I hadn’t even gotten a chance to realize the magnitude of my permanently fused arm and I was worrying about having breast cancer. By the time I got to the car that day in Dallas Texas, in the parking lot outside of the breast specialists office, I started to scream. Literally scream in broad daylight. I couldn’t wrap my brain around having any more pain, any more suffering and I especially couldn’t imagine having cancer. Was all that I had gone through with my arm not enough? Was I being punished? I screamed and screamed and screamed some more. Not me. Not me I cried. 

photo-261

 

photo-262The week before chemo starts.

photo-264Chopping hair off before losing it to chemo. 

Christine_PeterChristine & her husband, Peter. 

_________________________________________________________

Christine resides between Dallas and Miami. She is a wife and mom to two great teenage sons. She’s a former model and power athlete. Stay tuned for Christine’s next inspiring post! She is also writing a book about her dual journey with her battle with breast cancer and the fusion of her arm. 

 

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57 thoughts on “NOT ME by Guest Blogger Christine Handy

    • Thank you Michael. My arm is unfortunate. I missed my annual mammogram because of the picc in my arm to fight the infection. And when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my fused arm prohibited my oncologists from starting treatment until the grafts were fused enough to take the chemo. My arm certainly prevented my earlier diagnosis and it also prevented me from getting chemo right away.
      I know I am a rock star to have endured the emotional And physical anguish of the diagnosis , 12 surgeries, 28 chemos and some…. I am grateful to be alive to share my story and serve others. We need a cure for this horrible disease as well as accountability in the medical field. If I inspire I am doing Gods work. We are here to love and I plan on serving and loving others.
      Thank you for taking time to post on my article . I hope you will continue to watch the story unfold.

  1. Thank you, Tiffany, for giving Christine a platform to share her story, and thank you, Christine, for being a source of hope and inspiration through your transparency.

    I, too, am a cancer survivor (Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma), and your story hit home in so many ways. Even though I’ve been in remission for several years and, through God’s enormous Grace, I hope to stay this way, the truth is: YOU NEVER FORGET AND YOU’RE NEVER THE SAME.

    But, your ‘misery becomes your ministry,’ right?

    So, we must share; we must encourage; we must educate; we must give hope; we must give God all the glory He deserves for healing not only our bodies, but our souls. And, know that in doing so, we are helping the same woman we were that day when our lives changed forever.

    May God continue to bless you. I look forward to reading more about you.

  2. Thank you. Gods grace IS good enough. , why is there no cure for breast cancer ? How can we allow doctors to leave undiagnosed infections in our coveted bodies until bodies or limbs are destroyed. This is 2014! We have to share our stories so that maybe, just maybe , a woman will randomly do a breast exam who MGHIT otherwise not have . And we have to share our stories to give hope to those with disabilities that have resulted by doctors negligence. We have to take back our lives and Part 1 of
    Not me is just the beginning. There’s more to come… Stay tuned

  3. Thank you for sharing your story- it sounds like you certainly have not had an easy time of it lately! I think it is wonderful you can open up and share your story, hopefully helping other women (and giving a great reminder to self-exam!)

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment. Self exams need to be reinforced, I was so convinced I could never get breast cancer/ Thank the Lord I did that self exam that one night….

  4. That really is a crazy emotional story. I know a women who was the healthiest person i knew, and even own the gym! She also had breast cancer, and had her breasts removed. she is doing good now, but i cannot even imagine the roller coaster

    • Some days I have so much pain in my arm I still can’t believe it and to have gone thru cancer too, well its a lot. Thank you for your validation. Some days I just need that to get me through. I walk by faith not by sight. At least I TRY to !!!!

  5. You are one supremely strong woman. Even with the arm and the breast cancer, you just kept moving forward, pushing towards the goal line. Thanks so much for sharing such an inspirational story.

    • I appreciate your comment. I can’t wait for you to read the next 2 parts. I hope to keep you inspired. Its quite a story and I am so excited to share it. Thank you for caring…..

    • Thank you , my style is so different now. I had to learn how to use wigs and make them look REAL!!!My beautiful friends taught me how to do scarves on my head. I re-learned to wear hats. I was super blessed with timing and losing my hair, suddenly short pixie cuts were in for woman which helped me and hats became a cool accessory as well during my chemo. God provided.
      Thank you for caring and for your compliment. I will take any and all compliments. I hold them closely to my heart.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story. You are very brave! I wish you all the best in your journey towards recovery, and I will look for future posts.

    • It is hard to get sick and harder to have to raise kiddos at the same time. I struggled every day with that. Should i rest and get well like my doctors have ordered me to or go love on my kids. SO tough.

    • Its a wild ride. I have been told a million times my story is out of control crazy with all the juggling parts between arm surgeries, chemos, a port in my chest, a PICC line in my arm to administer antibiotics for the arm infection. Being a mother of two boys, taking care of our home, feeding my family when many weeks I couldn’t even open the refrigerator because I had had a mastectomy on my left side and my right arm was casted and unable to move it. Looking forward to you reading the second 2 parts. Its juicy!!!!

  7. Oh my good. That bio at the bottom of this post is missing a lot. You are also amazing, strong, positive, and an inspiration. Seriously… I’m a so touched. My mom had breast cancer after getting over uterine cancer. I’m sharing your article with her tomorrow.

    • I love your reply. You are truly so kind to give me such compliments. Thank you. PLEASE share my article with many and all. I hope to help as many as I can touch and have access to!!

  8. Wow. Just wow. How did that go unnoticed for so long. I am so sorry that you had to go through that. Our neighbor almost went through that with his elbow. He complained about elbow pain and the doctor kept telling him that it was tennis elbow. He finally got a second opinion some years afterwards and it turned out to be bone cancer. But like you, he had an undeniable strong spirit that pushed him through.
    I do believe that attitude is everything and you, you are so strong. What an inspiration you are. Keep telling your story of survival. You’ll help so many xo

  9. I hope everything goes well for this young lady. Cancer is such a scary word that it is quite normal to have the feelings that she did. I had a scare about a year ago, after dealing with my diagnosis of Felty’s Syndrome and then starting to feel better. I had a mammogram after I too felt a cyst but it was scar tissue from an automobile wreck I had, thank goodness. But I always hate waiting for the mammogram because I don’t know of any other test (maybe pap smear) that makes you feel so vulnerable and alone!

  10. I can’t believe they let you arm go so long before figuring out what was wrong. What a story. You are a strong woman.

    • The doctors told me for months the pain and swelling in my arm was all in my HEAD. My wrist was destroyed completely. Its still hard for me to believe what has happened. I truly appreciate your reply.

  11. Wow seriously you’re such a strong woman. I guess that’s one of my biggest fears, I’m obsessed checking for lump and stuffs, nothing yet, a really close friend was a breast cancer victims, the closer it hits you, the harder you start thinking it could be you next time. Thanks for sharing

  12. What a beautiful guest post. My heart goes out to her, especially when she was screaming. I can relate, though the one incident I had that left me feeling just like that, was not health-related.

    Very much looking forward to the next post.

  13. I have several relatives with cancer including my Grandmother with breast cancer. I have a big fear of getting cancer. Since the day my doctor told me to start having mammograms I was there. I’m sorry you are having to go through such pain in your life. I have to tell you though your now pictures are beautiful. Blessings Christine.

  14. What an eye opening story. I need to be more conscious of my breast exams. My sil just had a double mastectomy, and is cancer free for 2 years. It was a preventative mastectomy because she had a huge percentage chance of occurrence. You look beautiful.

  15. thank you for sharing your story, even though we have NO family history of cancer of any sort, but I regularly self-examine myself.. needless to say I’m pretty scared everytime.. but I wonder how did it go misdiagnosed.. i’m sorry for what you are going through, even though I cannot relate and not say a lot, but I feel deeply..

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