Happy Birthday! You have cancer.

An unfortunate departure from the fun of starting up a brewpub, my wife, Tracy, was diagnosed with breast cancer on July 8. Today, August 17, she goes in for surgery.

“I’m scared.” Tracy had just crawled into bed and curled up in my arms as she muttered those words. All I could muster to say back was, “I know.”

A couple of weeks earlier, she happened upon a strange lump in her right breast. Over the last few days she’d been poked and prodded by doctors, had an ultrasound, and enough mammograms to last a lifetime. They also found a second suspicious lump. We went to an appointment earlier that day to meet with the doctor and review the results. As the doctor showed us the images, my eyes were transfixed on the radiologist’s notes which were thorough, however only one sentence mattered and it leapt right off the page at me. “Indicates highly suspicious for malignancy.” It was two days before her 37th birthday.

The next week was a biopsy. We did our best to enjoy the weekend. Her birthday is on the fourth of July so we enjoyed lake time and boating with friends on the fourth, then friends joined us for a magnificent day floating down the Wisconsin River on tubes on the fifth – her recently found birthday tradition. It couldn’t have been a better day for tubing. For a while, anyway, we were able to push the issue aside.

On the seventh, she went in for her biopsy and I joined her. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to be in the room with her as they had a few too many husbands pass out from experience. I understood and reluctantly waited in the waiting room.

Just over 24 four hours later I got a text from Tracy that she was walking home and I didn’t have to pick her up as planned to go see some music. When she got home, the message was forward. She had cancer. We skipped the music that night, and she called a couple of friends to let them know the results. One of them immediately dropped what she was doing and showed up 20 minutes later with a six pack of beer and a bottle of wine.

The next week (week three of the ordeal, if you’re keeping track) we saw all the doctors. The general surgeon, the oncologist, the plastic surgeon and the geneticist. It is estimated that in 2015 approximately 290,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the US with almost 80% being intrusive or invasive (meaning growing into the surrounding fatty tissue, outside of the glands or ducts.) (Source) With that many cases, it isn’t a surprise to me that doctors have the prescribed path of discussions mapped out pretty well. Tracy’s was indeed intrusive.

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Comfort. w/ @rockhoundbrew at concerts on the square @wcoconcerts

A post shared by Tracy (@pricklypearbloom) on

With all the appointments, information, potential issues, new areas to look at, and on; small victories started to become very important. Genetic testing was done for mutations in the five genes most commonly correlated with (but not necessarily guaranteed to cause) breast cancer. A week and a half after the genetic testing, Tracy texted me that she had no mutant genes. That simple little good news made me ecstatic. It offered no guarantees in any direction, but it was a small comfort.

Then another suspicious lump was found and biopsied on the other breast. That biopsy was a bit more complicated as it was a surgical biopsy and not just a needle. Two days later, the results showed it was not cancerous, but the cells showed strong indicators of potential cancer in the future. So she made the decision to remove the left one as well, as a precaution.

After all the testing and discussion, surgery was scheduled for August 17 – more than a month after the first diagnosis. A bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction that would take around nine months to fully complete. Add in potential chemotherapy for six months, and it definitely looks like a long tough winter.

But there’s still a brewpub to build and open, and the show must go on. While we’re both working through the cancer, there’s financing to finalize, equipment to select, finishes to approve, budgets to keep, and more. The train keeps rolling, I’m not going to pull the emergency brake now.

Tracy has been my rock in starting the brewpub and I try my best to be hers through the cancer and all the bullshit that comes with it. I am constantly reminded that I found the right life partner and best friend. I can’t imagine where’d I’d be without her. As noted in a previous post she’s the one I rely on to give me a kick in the pants when I need it. With her strong wit and personality, I’m sure she’ll still be able to do that, even during her recovery.


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