It was a Wednesday evening, around 5:30 and I was at work in the financial district in San Francisco. Everyone else had left for the day but I had plans to meet Gaurav, Kimberly, Yash and Shefali (who was in town for the holidays) for dinner later in the evening, so I stayed in the office to finish up work.
My cell phone rang, and I went into a small phone room at our office, shut the door, took a deep breath and pressed the green accept button
One year ago, on December 12, 2018 I received a phone call from Dr. Lee Char who told me I have breast cancer.
I remember using a notebook that was in the room and starting to take notes as to what she was telling me – invasive ductal carcinoma, lymph node, 30 mm, fast growing, pet scan, breast mri, etc. I remember crying on the phone as I hastily tried to scribble down everything she said, but I barely understood what she was saying or what I was writing. She said she would send me the pathology report.
The last thing I recall Dr. Lee saying is that she asked her team to schedule a PET Scan and Breast MRI for me for that week and that she would also try and get me an appointment with a medical oncologist the next day. Even though I did not understand my diagnoses at this moment, I knew she considered the situation urgent because my cancer cells were fast growing and had already moved to my lymph nodes.
I was crying and my hands were shaking as I pressed the end button. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I took some more deep breaths, tried to stop the tears and called my brother Gaurav. I remember Gaurav was still in his car and just about to arrive home. I could not get through telling him without crying. I don’t remember much of the conversation except he said could make an excuse for dinner and come to me so I would not be alone. I said it was fine as I just needed to wrap my head around this and that I would email him the pathology report once I got it. He is a doctor-so I knew he would understand it better than me.
After getting off the phone with Gaurav, I called my sister Sarika. She picked up and I asked what she was doing and where my nieces were. She said she was with Nitya and I remember saying that I could call later. She could sense something in my voice, and she started to cry. I told her what the doctor said - I could hear that Nitya was starting to get upset as well since her mom was crying. I told her I would email her and Ronak the pathology report (my brother-in-law is also a doctor) and talk to them after the girls went to sleep and I got home.
Then I called my friend Mona- Mona is in New York. She picked up and then I told her that I had breast cancer as I started to cry again. I know she was even more shocked because she did not even know I was getting a biopsy. (I was hoping and thinking that it was nothing, so I only told my brother, sister and two colleagues as I needed to take time off for the appointments and procedure). I told her whatever I understood from the notes, but then also let her know that I would send her the pathology report (yes, she is also a doctor). I recall only a few small details from the 3 conversations,but after I got off the phone with Mona I remember feeling I had the right people on my side to help me through the first few days.
Dr. Lee Char sent the pathology report and told me she got a hold of Dr. Jeske (medical oncologist) who would make time in her schedule to see me tomorrow, and that I would get a call in the morning as to what time. I emailed the pathology report to Gaurav, Sarika, Mona and Ronak and walked home.
The rest of the evening is a blur. Kimberly called to offer her support as well (in hushed tones because Yash and Shefali were at the apartment also), I may have spoken to my brother again. Sarika and Ronak both wanted to come for the appointment but depending on the time, at least Ronak would. Mona emailed with her analysis of the pathology report and sent a list of questions I should ask the doctor.
I am not sure if I slept much that night knowing the uncertainty of what was to come.
Life really can change in an instant. And a year ago today, that phone call from my doctor started me on this journey and there is no turning back.
In January I wrote a post about my hair and having to shave it. I wanted to share a few pictures so you can see what it looks like now, as it started to grow back slowly after I stopped chemotherapy.
Sadly, the new growth was a different color- more white than black (my hair used to be black with some grey) Many people said it looked good, but I could not get used to the white hair. Here is a picture with Kiran at the end of August where you can see the white and black - It is one of the few if only pictures I took without a hat on during this time.
I asked my doctor if I could dye my hair and she said yes. My friend Margaret made an appointment with her hair stylist to dye my hair. She said that I will not be able to see if I like my new hair if I am so put off by the white (she was right).
Here is another picture of me with Kiran after I dyed my hair. This is in October so you can see that it has grown since August. I am not going to cut it yet and will just see how it looks.
When my dad saw it – he said it reminds him of when I was very little. I found a picture of me at around 3 years old.