Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I'm Glad Oprah interviewed Christina Applegate...

I patiently sat in the quiet waiting area and noticed that no one looked like me. I didn't see any other young women, and I didn't see any black women. I had always heard that breast cancer was more prevalent in older white women. Then I read that more white women are diagnosed with breast cancer but more African American women are dying from the disease...
I heard my name called, and it was time to go back. I sat on the table in the doctor's office nervously listening to the details of my diagnosis. I have a short attention span, so I tried my best to stay with what she was saying in her non-emotional, monotone voice. "You have ductal carcinoma.” This was a term I had never heard before. "The good news is that we caught it early and it’s enclosed inside your milk duct." My attention faded. 
My thoughts went from giving natural childbirth holding on to the rail screaming at the doctor, "Get this baby out of me!" Then my thoughts traveled to breast-feeding and the sensation of the milk letting down at the sound of my baby's cry. Images of my daughters' birthday parties and sounds of their laughs danced in my head.  Images of the people I love and care about raced through my mind.  Suddenly, my thoughts jumped to sitting in the recliner for hours right next to my mom as she was getting her chemotherapy treatment. She always feigned a beautiful smile when I would visit and force myself to act unaffected at the site of her bald head. (The first time was the hardest). 
My focus snapped back to what the doctor was saying. "You only have two options at this point because of your family history. You can have a lumpectomy, and they can just go in and remove the cancer from the site, or you can have a bilateral mastectomy." The sound of it was jarring. They were two totally different options. The second sounded so extreme. I really knew nothing about either option. She then added, "If you choose the lumpectomy, which is what most people choose in your situation, you will have to do radiation and get tested every six months for the rest of your life.  If you go with the bilateral mastectomy, you won't have to do chemotherapy or radiation and there's a less than 1% chance of you getting cancer again." Then I thought, "I don't know anyone personally who had a double mastectomy at my age."  At that moment, I had nothing to help me with this critical decision. However, it really seemed like a no brainer to me.  Just the thought of waiting on a phone call every six months to find out if I had cancer again or not made me cringe.  I said, "I'm sure you know what I'm going to do. I have small kids, and I don't want to ever be in this position again." Even though I was scared, I felt confident in my decision. Maybe it was that inner voice that God blessed women with, the one we tend to pick and choose when to listen. At that moment I was listening without doubt or fear. My doctor told me not to be so hasty in my decision and to go home and think about it, but added that I shouldn't take too long because I would have to get an appointment with the plastic surgeon soon. She told me that I would also have to go for genetic testing for the BRCA gene (breast cancer gene). “The good news is it has not spread anywhere else at this point,” she said. I had undergone an MRI that confirmed this. I was looking for her to give me advice or her opinion or maybe even a hug. She gave me neither. I told her to go ahead and make the appointment with the plastic surgeon. I took a deep breath and walked out still having no doubts.

I left the doctor’s office and walked to the car. I was afraid to google anything. I thought, "I'm only in my thirties. I work out three days a week. I eat healthy. I don't eat fast food, and I don't drink sodas. God is this really happening?".  Suddenly, I remembered Oprah's interview with Christina Applegate! I remember watching the show at home a few years ago, unknowing how I would later be affected. She was thirty-six with a husband, small kids and a nice career. She said she just told them to "F--- it!  Take them both!"  Forced to tell her story after her privacy had been invaded, she had chosen to have the lumpectomy first and then chose to have a bilateral mastectomy. I just know that I saw her talk about going through the surgery, and when she recovered she returned to her life with her family and her career. She survived and looked amazing!  Who knew, after watching 'Married With Children' so many years ago… I sat in the car scrolling through her articles on my phone. That interview was my only reference point at that moment. Reading her story gave me reassurance. My decision had been made. "I have two beautiful little girls to be here for...", I thought. I was having a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction, and there was nothing to think about. I just needed to get all the details of what this entailed. To this day I'm still afraid to google bilateral mastectomy. It's still so hard to even say. 
My next thought:  Now, how do I tell my seven and nine year old daughters about all of this?...

(To be continued...)


  1. Tracy, I am thankful that God chose you and a vehicle to demonstrate his power over, mercy throughout, and grace within our lives. You are such a beautiful sista with a most sincere and peaceful disposition that I've seen in years. No image from my vantage point ever even hinted at the magnitude of your personal struggles.

    Sharing your story is a part of your charge, as others will be drawn toward health and salvation through your testimony. May you always remember God's purpose for your gifts and be abound with courage from every life you touch. Keep WERKIN" this movement, Tracy. You've done well. Shani.

    1. Shani, thank you so much for taking the time to share such kind, moving words. I have had to push through the fear and trust God to guide me with this blog and it feels amazing! I truly feel blessed. I appreciate your support! Take care. -Tracy

  2. isn't it wonderful to feel the Spirit flowing with, in and through your words?

    open, honest, transparent- this is the stuff that touches hearts

  3. You are a vessel that God has chosen to get this message out! Your gift is writing & this will help share your story & help others! Since I have had the pleasure of knowing you from an early age (Chapel Hill & Girl Scouts) I knew you & your sister were special and God sent! Thanks for sharing!! Love you!

    Dawn Thomas Murrain