I’ve been dealing with an ongoing saga of the right breast since the first of the year. Thankfully all is well but my right boob has been poked, prodded, photographed, and felt up more times than I care to recall.
My pathology report says NEGATIVE FOR INVASIVE CARCINOMA. I may have it matted and framed.
I am a healthy 37-year-old woman with no history of breast cancer in my family. I take my health for granted.
The moral of the story is if you feel any type of abnormality in your breast, go get it checked immediately. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Do monthly breast self exams. Even if you do not have a history of family breast cancer, even if you are very healthy, even if you want to blow it off as nothing because you have dense breasts or a history of fibrocystic disease, like me, it could be something and the sooner it is detected the better.
Around the first of December I felt a pea-size lump next to an existing “innocent” fibrocystic mass I’ve had for years in my right breast. I wasn’t concerned since it was small and since that breast is my “lumpy” one. I kept putting off my annual OBGYN appointment due to the holidays. I finally went in the first of January. My doctor also felt the questionable lump. He told me that it might not be anything but that it might be something cancerous and that I should go see a breast surgeon he recommended right away. Fear starts to set in.
The following week I saw the breast surgeon. I was examined by the nurse first who did an ultrasound exam on my breast. She said she wasn’t concerned about it and when the surgeon did an exam he told me he felt 90 percent sure it was just fatty tissue. He gave me a handout sheet on fibrocystic disease and told me just to be on the precautionary side I needed to schedule my first mammogram. He seemed matter of fact and almost upbeat. Case closed, or so I thought. This guy sees thousands of boobs and he wasn’t concerned.
I went to the mammogram appointment in February by myself as I had no reason to expect anything out of the ordinary. By then the small lump had actually disappeared. I put on a cloth gown that swallowed me like a California king size sheet. One of the other ladies in waiting went back to her changing room and gave me a small gown. Who knew I had grabbed the XXXL? We were all laughing and it was nice to have a diversion.
The mammogram itself was not bad at all but then instead of being sent on my merry way like all the other women, I was told they wanted to do another ultrasound of my right breast. This threw me off a bit as I felt like they must be seeing something. I went to a quiet waiting area and called the hubby from my cell phone. I was nervous. I told him I felt like something was not right as they were doing even more imaging. The technician went over and over my right breast without saying much at all in the darkened room. I finally craned my neck to try to look at the ultrasound screen and asked her if she saw something. She responded, “You’ll have to talk to the radiologist.” Okay.
The ultrasound technician with the personality of a dead fish left me waiting for the radiologist. There I was lying on the examining table alone, in my glamorous cotton gown, in a dark room, and panic set in. My mind started racing. Did I have cancer? Why in the world was this taking so long? The radiologist came in and used the ultrasound wand to examine my breast yet again. She told me that the tissue looked a little suspicious in the area of the fibrocystic mass and asked if I’d ever had it biopsied. She told me I needed an MRI and a biopsy. She said some forms of cancer are more insidious than others and that area was so dense it was difficult to really get a reading on it but there was a small shadow area that needed to be looked at.
The C word. Yet again. I was starting to freak the hell out. The radiologist was not the warmest person in the world. I commented to the technician as I walked out that I was going to go home and have a glass of wine. She quipped, “or the whole bottle.” Great, just great. Thanks for the vote of encouragement. My mind races to dark places. I cry off and on the whole way home. The hubby insists I am fine all along. He tells me to be strong and not get upset in front of the girls.
I tell myself that a “shadow” is nothing to get upset over. I tell myself that if I do have something wrong, it is obviously miniscule. I tell myself to not Google information about breast cancer. I try to have positive energy and thank God that I live in a day and age of modern medicine where all of this testing is possible. I tell a few friends and co-workers about what is going on. They are praying for me. I choose not to tell my family yet, which is hard, but I want to know something. It’s all so vague. I don’t want my mother, especially, to worry unnecessarily.
The breast MRI was not bad at all considering I was prescribed a valium to take although I was extremely anxious on the way to the appointment. I went in on my stomach on a platform with two openings for my breasts. I had a brief moment of feeling claustrophobic, but closed my eyes and just meditated and prayed. It only lasted about 25 minutes.
On Tuesday of this week was the grand finale of all the testing. I had an ultrasound guided biopsy. All I can say is thank God for valium. The hubby drove us to the appointment. The surgeon said he wanted to first biopsy a lymph node under my right armpit that showed a little something off on the MRI films. Biopsy a lymph node? What? That freaked me out. I told him that sounded scary to me and he asked why. “Because, I associate lymph nodes with bad things.” I could not bring myself to use the word cancer. Apparently a breast MRI is highly sensitive to any type of abnormality, no matter how miniscule. It had taken 2,000 images of my breasts.
He took out about a tablespoon of issue from the suspect area. The surgeon told me during the biopsy that it was symptomatic of a benign tumor. He didn’t seem concerned. The biopsy itself was not too bad, but the numbing of the lymph node area felt like a bee sting.
Yesterday I had my post-op appointment. I was fearful but every time I thought negative things I pushed them out of my mind. I also slept better Thursday night than I have in a long time. I could feel my friends’ prayers and positive thoughts at work. A nurse led the hubby and I to the examining room and told me to do the familiar “get undressed from the waist up and put on the gown” thing and as she was looking over my information she told me that I could cancel my April followup appointment that had originally been scheduled in January. I took that as a good sign. And it was.
The wonderful nurse who had first examined me and who had assisted during the biopsy, the nurse who had asked about “my babies” during the procedure, came in the room. She said, “I have great news. You are just fine.” I started to cry a little because I was so happy and relieved. She handed me a tissue. She said she had been watching for my pathology reports to come in.
I am OK. Thank you Jesus. And thank you to everyone who prayed for me.
The hubby took me to lunch after the appointment and I ordered a margarita. He made sure it was a top-of-the line model.
And the original pea-size lump? Apparently it was just a cyst that vanished.
Why did I go through this? Why? I don’t know. Some cool things happened along the way that I will probably write about that, in retrospect, were signs that I was OK. I’m not the most religious person in the world, but whether you believe in God or karma, there were undoubtedly signs.
I will try to not take my health for granted. And I implore you to do the same.