As 2013 starts with new opportunities and adventures ahead, the C4YW Blog welcomes Vallory Jones as one of this year’s recurring writers. Be sure to check back often, as Vallory offers us insight and experience about her diagnosis and life after celebrating her first Cancerversary. Her strong voice is one of the many that C4YW strives to represent, and we are very excited that she will soon provide us with VLOG entries! (Video blog entries, to be exact!) Be sure to visit the website and register for this year’s event in Seattle!
One evening, I emerged from my shower, ran both of my thumbs down the side of my body, and unknowingly landed on a suspicious lump. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I sat down and inspected what felt like a BB—pressing it with my fingers and tracing around the hardened outline of its edges.
It was Friday evening, so waiting out the weekend to see my doctor seemed like agony. By the time Monday rolled around, however, the urgency had faded. I mean, what were the odds it was cancer, right? Afterall, I don’t just work out. I’m dedicated to fitness, and at age 40, I was in the best shape of my life. I’d committed to a healthy lifestyle because I planned to live a long life, enjoying the adventurous and physically demanding activities I loved, well into my golden years. No one around me expected me to get cancer, and most certainly not me. While I wholeheartedly intended to get it checked out, with teaching, the gym, and my social activities, it landed at the bottom of my list. I simply reminded myself, “I’m a fit, young woman. I’ll do this when I have some time off.”
Prior to my lump, I either missed or dismissed the warning signs because I had no reason to suspect my body was fighting disease. Yes, I had noticed my night owl curfew of around 1:00 am had inexplicably turned into I-can-barely-hold-my-eyes-open at 10:00 pm, but I chalked that up to the intensity of my weight training. And yes, my clockwork periods now showed up whenever they felt like it, but even after detecting the lump, I never connected it. I was a healthy, active, young woman—not a candidate for breast cancer.
Over a month later, after seeing another young woman, Giuliana Rancic, from E! Network, announce her diagnosis during Breast Cancer Awareness month, I finally made an appointment with my doctor. When my physician felt the hardness, I could tell by her serious tone that this was not to be taken lightly. The sense of urgency I felt during the first few moments of my discovery returned, and it saved my life.
She did not waste any time ordering a mammogram and ultrasound, and the following day I found myself in the imaging center. The doctor reviewing my scans reassured me, “It doesn’t look alarming. I believe it to be old debri. I’m 99% sure it’s nothing to worry about, but since we can’t get a clear picture because of your dense breast tissue, we’ll biopsy it just to be safe.”
Waiting for those results was the longest weekend of my life. The 99% the doctor spoke of echoed in my head, but by this time, I knew. I don’t know how, but I just did. Call it intuition. Call it whatever you like. I shared my suspicions with a few people, and after several of them told me that I had no possible way of already knowing this news, I dismissed myself as being silly. With false confidence, I signed onto Facebook and posted, “The doctor says I will have my breast biopsy results in half an hour.” I convinced myself, again, that it was nothing, and I fully expected to update that post later with, “False alarm, everyone!” But just as I’d chalked it up to an overactive imagination, I got the call.
“Oh, crap!” I thought. My doctor was calling with the test results.
“Are you driving?”
My chest tightened. I was actually backing out of my parking spot at work. I put the brakes on and replied, “Not yet.”
“I’m afraid it’s not very good news. You do have breast cancer.”
I don’t recall much else about that conversation other than thinking maybe I just didn’t hear her correctly. At the end of our call, I found myself asking, “So, wait, just to make sure I got this right, what you’re telling me is that I have cancer?”
“Yes,” she replied flatly.
As I sat in my car dumbfounded, I sobbed until my chest hurt. The reality of what was ahead slapped me hard in the face that afternoon. Thoughts raced through my head at warp speeds. I just celebrated my 40th birthday. I work out five times a week. I do everything right! Cancer, you’ve got the wrong girl! It took me two days to wrestle with the news before I could go back on Facebook and tell everyone, but by that time, I’d formulated a game plan. Yes, this might get me down—but not for long. Goodbye cancer, and hello, Victorious Val!
I hope you’ll come back to the C4YW blog for the next part in my series.
Vallory is a breast cancer survivor, Zumba freak, and fitness fanatic. She has taught middle school English for 19 years and enjoys mountain biking, singing, writing, and playing guitar. She recently celebrated a milestone, her first Cancerversary. In fact, check out this charismatic and heartfelt video about celebrating this momentous day.