The other side of the rope

Here’s the deal:

A few months back, I found a lump in my breast. Where the hell did it come from? How did I not feel it before? I showed my husband. I showed my sister. I googled “what does a tumour feel like”. Despite all I read that told me lumps are common and are most often nothing to worry about, I was worried.  I started to panic, naturally, as I always do because that is just the way I am. I’m Jewish. I’m neurotic. Being anxious is in my DNA.

The next morning I called my doctor’s office and was able to see her right away. She felt it. She was certain it was nothing. It had the feel of something that was nothing. But best to be safe and get an ultrasound. So I had an ultrasound. The radiologist thought it was a bit suspicious. So I got a mammogram. And a biopsy. I started to panic, again. Why were they taking a biopsy of my perfectly normal lump? What did they see on their screen? The technician told me it would take about a week to get the results. “Try to enjoy your weekend,” she said, “It could be nothing.” It could be nothing? I wanted to smack that woman. But I refrained, found my husband in the waiting room, and burst into tears.

Anyone who has had a biopsy can tell you that waiting for the results is the most awful part. I slowly started to lose my mind. All I could think about was that lump. That stupid lump. I called my doctor’s office and tried to track down my results. The more days that went by, the more anxiety I felt. Finally I heard from my doctor, who said she would be getting the results in a few days and that I should come in to go over them. Why did she want to see me if she didn’t have the results yet? Was this normal protocol? Did she know something already? WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?!?!

That weekend, I participated in a walk for breast cancer that my family does together each year. Yes, that’s right. I surrounded myself with breast cancer while waiting to find out if I had breast cancer. At the closing ceremonies, when all the cancer survivors walked in (including my dad!), I high-fived all the women who walked by. There was a rope between us, and as I reached over to touch their hands and saw their tears of courage, I began to cry too. No one would have noticed, because it is a highly emotional event, and there were tears in many eyes. But I cried because I suddenly was struck with this overwhelming realization – I would likely be joining them on the other side of that rope.

On September 11, 2012 (and yes, I was not thrilled about the negative connotations associated with that date) my husband and I made our way to my doctor’s office. She chit-chatted a bit, and then got down to business.

“Unfortunately, I don’t have good news today. The biopsy showed that you have cancer.”


My lifelong fear was actually happening. I was being diagnosed with cancer. Many, many years before I ever expected to hear those words.

My doctor, who is wonderful and patient, sat with us for 2 hours. I have no idea what we talked about. Every once in awhile I heard a word. Oncologist… chemo… children… aggressive… cancer… cancer… cancer. I stopped breathing for a few seconds. I floated out of my body. I floated back in. I called my dad and cried and told him to tell my mom, because I couldn’t handle it. We left the office, stunned and exhausted. I messaged a couple close friends: I have cancer. Fuck. I emailed my boss: Unfortunately I just found out I have cancer. I don’t think I can come into the office today.

And that was the beginning.


21 thoughts on “The other side of the rope

  1. Hi, I’m 22 I’m from Montréal and I got a biopsy two days ago. Waiting for the results, and I know they won’t be good… Do you still post things?

  2. Hi just happened to come across your blog. I am really sorry to read about your diagnosis. But just wanted to say you are an inspiration. Good luck for the future. Will keep following you through your blog.

  3. wow… even though i have found your blog a year on from this blog.. knowing your current situation.. im crying right now 😦

  4. I just found your newest post on my feed and I really wanted to hear about how this has happened in your life. I am so moved by your story. I can’t imagine what it must be like to go through that at your age. Your story is beautiful and when you have fought this and you are cancer free you should publish a book.

  5. Dang, does this mean that at 24, I am NOT being stupid for worrying obsessively? Dang.

    I had lumps in both, but wasn’t too worried because it was bilateral. Ob/gyn – I think you’re fine, go to a specialist. Specialist – go for an ultrasound. Ultrasound – fine, thank G-d.
    I took it for granted that it would be. I guess I shouldn’t have.
    Gee, thank G-d.

    But how would you know if it showed up somewhere other than your breasts?

  6. moved to tears with your blog. You will get through this and somehow come out of it more amazing than you already are!

  7. Your cousins from “afar” are here for you Steph. Why is it that the challenges of life brings us together again. But maybe that is what it takes….we never left you, blood is thicker than water but now we are here again, in your life to love and support you as always!
    Love to you, Michele, Michael, Kate, Maddy and Patrick. Uncle Jack and Aunt Fran’s kids xoxo

  8. Dear Steph,
    I’m so so sorry that you have to go through this. You are so brave for starting this blog, and I admire your strength and ability to give to others even when you are riding such a roller coaster. I know you’re probably overwhelmed by responses, but I want to offer you my support (I make good cupcakes) in any way possible. Really. Anything you can think of, please let me know. Sending you lots of prayers for a refua shleima (a complete recovery), strength, optimism, clarity, love, and hope. Love you very very much.
    PS – ironically enough (sorry), I started my website the day after finding a lump in my breast as well, so reading this is resonating in a way that I can’t quite put words to. I admire so much that despite what you’re going through, you are managing to bring a lot of love into the world.
    PPS – Do you have a Hebrew name? Does your mother have one? I will be praying for you every day but if I could get yours and your mom’s Hebrew names that would be awesome ❤

  9. Dear Steph,
    I am so sorry to hear about your diagnosis, but I have faith that you will get through it! xoxo Megan Tepperman (Cowley)

  10. Steph, You are a beautiful blessing to this world. You shine, you sparkle! We love you so much and thank you for the strength and courage in your words. Fight, love, write and sing your way through this! love, John, Paula, Rachel & Rita

  11. I want to pass you a lot of cupcakes. Love you, and think the world of your bravery, fortitude, and spirit. You amaze me.

  12. My parents were next door neighbors of Gert and Jack…I know the strength of this family. Hold tight to that rope!

  13. My best friend was diagnosed at the age of 29 and her story is literally a carbon copy. Funny how personal it is to you, but common it is for women to go through it. From finding the lump, to the docs saying its likely nothing, to close to tears with her husband in the waiting room to finding out the results and going crazy waiting for them — its a horrible thing, this cancer but she went through it. Im happy to tell you she is cancer free and extremely healthy close to 5 years later. We run for the cure too, if you see the team “Tough Titties” thats us — and she, my best friend Amanda, named that team because shes a tough one! She considered chemo “a light hangover” lol imagine that!

  14. Hi Steph,
    I wanted to let you know that Dan and I are thinking of you and sending that you lots of love and positive thoughts. Thank you for writing this blog. As hard as it is to learn that you’re going through this, I’m glad you found the strength to share your story.

  15. This is beautifully written. You are strong, but know that when you don’t feel that way, we are here for you to lean on. We love you.

  16. Dear Steph . one cant truly understand what you are going through unless they too have been there., I know that you and your wonderful strong inspiring family will be a great support
    for you, as well as your extended family that Loves you

  17. Lynnette just forwarded me this information. I keep informed about you from your Mom and have just not known what to say to you…It shouldn’t have happened……your strong…’ll kick this in the ass. Everything you know and have already heard. One thing I do want to say is that Lynnette and I are here for ANYTHING that you need. We love you very much!

    By the way, we LOVE your haircut!!!!

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