Hudson Valley Parent

HVP - March 2014

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18 Hudson Valley Parent n March 2014 Breaking breast cancer A young mother tackles her illness head on By HEATHER LABRUNA 10:30 a.m., October 2 T he phone rings and I nearly jump out of my skin. The caller ID says it's my breast surgeon. "So, I have the results of all three of your biopsies back," she says. Then there's the pause, the kind of pause that has launched a million cancer diagnoses. "The results were not good," she finally continues. "Quite frankly, I'm floored. You have early stage breast cancer, or DCIS, in the left breast and invasive cancer in the right." I fight to keep it together. Off the phone, I tearfully relay the news to my husband. I am 36 years old and facing my own mortality. Unlike the doctor, I am not com- pletely shocked. My father's mother, his aunt and his sister all died of breast cancer, and I always had the feeling I'd eventually face breast can- cer, too. But I wasn't prepared for it this early. I immediately think of my chil- dren. What, if anything, will they remember of me if I die young? My 4-year-old son, Fiorello, would only have vague recollections of the "yum-yum kisses" I like to plant on his belly. Nora, my feisty 18-month old, would only know me from photographs. My husband would be a young widower with two kids to raise on his own. No, I can't die yet. There's only one thing to do: It's time to put on my big-girl panties and tackle this head on. October 5 We haven't mentioned the words "breast cancer" to Fiorello, but at some point he must have heard us talking and put two and two togeth- er with his toddler math. He catches me absentmindedly adjusting my sports bra, my breasts still sore from the biopsies. "Is your boobie OK?" he asks suspiciously. Without waiting for an answer, he orders, "Come upstairs to my office." He first shows me to his "waiting room," which was my bedroom, and orders me to sit there till he's ready. Two seconds later he comes back, leads me to his "office" (his bed- room) and takes out his toy doctor's kit. He checks my blood pressure, puts the stethoscope to my heart and gives me a shot. "Your boobies are sick," he says after much deliberation. "We need to change them." He informs me that he could do the procedure. When I tell him that Mommy has doctors all picked out, he seems concerned that it won't be him doing the surgery. I kiss his head and tell him that if our insurance doesn't come through, he's my go-to guy. October 7 It's my first meeting with the plas- tic surgeon, Dr. R. Michael Koch. Dr. Koch is a native of Great Britain and I immediately think of my children. What, if anything, will they remember of me if I die young? Fiorello gives his mom a thorough exam. "He picks his nose, he cuts our appointments short to 'go potty' and his patellar reflex exams are brutal," she says. "I think I need a new doctor." (Continued on Page 20)

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