The Cancer Roller Coaster
39-year-old Shay Moraga was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at the beginning of 2016 and has been sharing her journey with Desert Health® readers in an ongoing column. When we left Shay last issue, she was close to finishing chemotherapy…
Throughout this cancer, I visualized running a marathon. I sat in my chemo chair listening to music and when I closed my eyes I ran up a mountain and down a hill. After the chemo was over, I began visualizing being on a roller coaster (by the way, I hate roller coasters); however, this roller coaster is only one way, and there is no getting off. Ever.
After my last 20 rounds of chemo, I walked in for my final MRI. With butterflies in my stomach and a huge lump in my throat, I told myself I was going to be fine. I pleaded with God to please let me be ok. Most of my life I have been pretty confident, but this cancer shook me to the core. I had been at this for 7 months. I blew through chemo and wanted to be done.
A few days later, I walked into my doctor’s office for my results. The right breast responded the best they had ever seen, the chemo did its job. We were going to be able to save my breast. Finally, good news, a huge sigh of relief to this surreal dream I had been in. Then just like a roller coaster, with all the ups you must come down. My surgeon told me that he was going to send me in to re-look at something that was found on the MRI. This time it was for the left breast – the previously unaffected breast.
I cannot tell you the fear that rushed through my body like a hot flash. What I was sensing with my surgeon was concerning. In slow motion, I heard the words I had feared: “We have to cancel your surgery, they found something.” My surgeon continued saying they were not sure what it was, but my MRI and ultrasound did not match up. “We will need to do a special guided MRI biopsy because of the area this was in; it is just to make sure that this is not cancer or a new cancer.” I lost it. As the tears and the hysteria flowed out of me, I could barely talk. Even my doctor and his assistant were emotional. How?? Why was this happening all over again? My world felt like it was crashing down.
I am tired. It’s been a long 7 months. I am scared. My family is tired; my friends are tired. When will this end? My medical team reassured me that they were going to get me through this- but it would have its challenges. The only doctor they knew that could do this procedure was going on vacation out of the country. They only do this type of procedure I needed twice a week. We needed to have one doctor and two different kinds of nurses that were certified in this procedure from two separate departments. It was complicated. Same as me. I couldn’t listen anymore. My mind was going to the worst places. I told them I had to go and I would call them later. I prayed to not let this be true.
After a few hours I was able to call the office back and make sense of what was going on. My mind and body were still in complete shock. This was supposed to be a happy time. They promised me that they would get me in as soon as possible. We could not wait much longer. They knew, and so did I, the urgency to get in right away.
The next day my surgeon called personally to check on me. He reassured me he would be there for me if I needed him, as would his assistant. He promised he would pull me though this. We just needed to do the right steps to make sure this is not cancer again. He calmed my mind somewhat so I could believe in him, the journey and the system again. His Chicago accent once again reminded me of my dad – the one I would always turn to in a crisis and the one who was very much missing at this time of my life. My dad and I would always talk on Thursdays. That was our day before he passed away two years ago. How I wished I could speak to him now.
As my doctor spoke he said, “Kid, I really believe you have an angel looking out for you. What we saw is so small and hard to see, so we have to do this.”
I said, “Ok, I believe in you” and we hung up.
I knew from that moment on that angel had to be my dad. He always gave me his love and why should now be any different? He taught me to be a strong, independent woman. He taught me to save for a rainy day, and he taught me to believe. I knew the end would be hard. I just didn’t know how hard it was going to be.
Thankfully, the hospital got me in quickly and my prayers were answered. The additional tests showed no cancer.
This journey has thrown a lot of curve balls. I am trying to really dig deep and understand the lesson I need to learn. I have faith that there is a message. I know and see all the signs, such as the sign we should all understand is that life is a gift. Do not take it – or your health – for granted or wait until it is too late. Any one of us could be going through this. Cancer does not discriminate. So reluctantly here we go…on to surgery.
Shay’s Story is an ongoing column in Desert Health®. To view previous columns or to leave a message for Shay, please search ‘Shay’. For more information on triple negative breast cancer, visit www.tnbcfoundation.org.