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  • Writer's pictureZoe

Zoe's Story: My Slow Realization (Amid a Pandemic)

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

On March 18, 2020 life would change.

A global pandemic was taking hold and people everywhere were impacted by the far-reaching effects of the pandemic. It was terrifying but not for one second would I have imagined what was to follow nor did I believe that the business I had spent over a decade building would be forced to close. When the mandated closure was imposed my thoughts immediately went to our brides, grooms and their families; the sadness I felt for them was deeply profound. My biggest fear however was for my beloved team and industry colleagues and their financial security and future careers. However, this is not a story about a pandemic (although COVID-19 has certainly impacted my cancer journey profoundly thus far); it is the story of my realization and ultimate acceptance.

I do not remember exactly the date, but I remember it was very soon after our mandated closure. I was getting ready for work and noticed a dimple on the side of my right breast. I remember thinking "how odd" - but COVID-MANIA was taking hold. I thought of nothing else but the task at hand: handling the copious amount of daily calls and saving the business from being critically impacted by this pandemic. My days were filled by one crisis after another. Time evaporated and my stress levels were infinite.

By Easter, the dimple had a perfectly defined line and the dimple size had increased. By late April, my nipple had started to retract, multiple lines had appeared, and the lump was really evident.

By May I was waking up at night with a throbbing in my right breast and the shape of my breast was changing. I was also experiencing extreme fatigue and it certainly was a wakeup call when my 70 (plus) year old mother was mocking me for falling asleep before her. I blamed it solely on COVID-19, which was infiltrating every aspect of not only my waking hours but also my sleeping hours.

At this point, I decided I had to put myself first and called my doctor for a script for a diagnostic mammogram. The first available appointment with my regular diagnostic center was August 10. Not wanting to wait that long, I thanked the abrupt and particularly unpleasant woman paid to assist me (but who seemed more intent on scolding me for waiting 5 years for a screening mammogram than actually helping me), and put the phone down.

My intention was to find another diagnostic center with earlier availability. But with another twist of fate, the COVID-19 headlines steered positively; the governor announced that restaurants could once again reopen (albeit with restrictions), and we did.

The chaos that ensued took COVID-MANIA to another level entirely. I was jumping from one call to another and before I knew it, July had come and gone. I was no further forward with my diagnosis, but the realization that something major was at play had finally arrived.

I have always been the rescuer, shouldering the burden and attempting to solve other people’s problems. I finally I knew I needed help. I reached out to my doctor and in stepped my FIRST superhero team: Dr LARA-cutie (as he is known by his fellow professionals), his incredible wife Raquel and his secretary Kenia - who are all also my family.

Dr. Laracuete, Raquel and Kenia

Together they fought harder for me than I was willing to fight for myself, demanding appointments and immediate results. Their sheer grit and determination got me a timely result. I discovered with a BI-RADS-5 mammogram that what I had was highly suspicious, with a 95% chance of breast cancer. I also discovered I was not one of the lucky 5%, and so I found myself with the sad realization that, at 49 years old, I was about to embark on a new challenge. I thought I was embarking on journey with a select few, but it turns out I have so many people fighting alongside me that I can’t keep up with the calls.

It has already become evident just how lucky I am, and it is obvious that my cancer journey will be an easier one. I say this because of the overwhelming support and love that has already been showered upon me. ...friends and colleagues dropping everything to help me, a boss whom I am eternally loyal to offering to pay my out of pocket medical bills, a team of medical professionals that are beyond talented and I could not be more blessed to have them treating me and family, my most cherished and beloved people who will undoubtedly have the hardest time dealing with my ups and downs, tears, losses and challenges but whom I know will be my loudest cheerleaders through all this.

To all of you reading this I LOVE YOU deeply and I am so grateful to have you as a part of my life’s journey.

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