Fear, Relief, Gratitude, and Tequila

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.

27 comments

  1. Pattie says:

    Oh Jamie,
    I was crying reading this. I am so happy to hear that everything turned out just fine for you. All I can say is :

    “Thank God”....

    Good health is something I certainly take for granted. Sometimes it is good to be reminded of our fragility. Life can change in an instant. I will be more mindful to be grateful for each an every day.

    Oh, and I am due for a mammogram in May. Thanks for the important reminder.

  2. Charla says:

    I had wondered about you several times this week…

    I am SO GLAD to hear the wonderful news you finally received! I can’t even imaging what relief you are feeling this weekend! I am so guilty of taking my health for granted, too. I admire you for not waiting when you found something that was “not right.” Sending you giant hugs to say how proud I am of you and for you!

  3. Liza says:

    OK Jamie, I cried over this post!

    I have been thinking of you this week and thought of e-mailing you. But I was lazy to e-mail so just turned my thoughts to prayer that your test result will be ok.

    I am soooo happy to hear the news! It’s a God thing! πŸ™‚

  4. Ginger says:

    I am SO thankful to hear that you are ok! I wish I could give you a big hug right now, so consider yourself hugged through cyberspace!

    πŸ™‚

  5. Blonde Mom says:

    Thanks ya’ll…obviously I am very relieved this is all over with! I have a followup mammogram in September.

    I’m glad they were proactive and aggressive in checking things out, although it was very stressful.

    And my boobs have been checked out THOROUGHLY. That I know.

  6. deb says:

    Jamie, I’m really glad that you’re okay and while I was reading about your experience I had someone on my mind who’s going through the same thing right now. She’s my age and works with me every day and she’s having her biopsy this coming Thursday – only her surgeon isn’t talking too positively about what’s been seen so far… Please everyone keep Lisa in your thoughts and prayers for a good outcome!

    I’ve postponed my mammogram for far too long. And the thing is…I work in a hospital…so it’s not like I have to even take off work or be inconvenienced in any way. I’ve just been procrastinating…as usual. I think I’ll get that set up for next week. If I don’t, someone needs to kick my ass.

    Hope you have a good weekend and thanks for sharing this πŸ™‚

  7. Donna Locke says:

    Consumption of even small amounts of alcohol has been linked to breast cancer. There is no safe amount of alcohol for women.

  8. Blonde Mom says:

    Thank you for the info Donna, although that is frightening as I do enjoy wine and margaritas! Well I had to have a celebratory margarita.
    Deb, I will be thinking positive thoughts for your friend. I never did get a bad vibe from my breast surgeon, but the radiologist scared me, frankly. And I will kick your ass if you don’t schedule your mammogram next week! πŸ˜‰

    Here is a great website with breast cancer information geared toward women under 50…because I am under 40 years old I had never had a mammogram.

    Also, it is recommended that beginning at age 20 all women have clinical breast exams.

    http://www.youngsurvival.org/en/young-women-and-bc/bc-faqs/early-detection/

    Although family history is a factor, 80 percent of women with breast cancer do not have a family history.

    And although I was nervous about the biopsy, about 80% of all breast lumps biopsied are not cancer and early detection is the key so it is good to be cautious!

  9. Athena says:

    Glad to hear you’re okay. I had a similar (but not as in-depth as yours) scare last year. Breast cancer does run in my family so I had my first mammogram early (age 37) and was recalled for a second series of tests. It was terribly frightful and the technicians are more than dead-fish if you ask me. You might think they would be a little sensitive and comforting wouldn’t you? As a result of my “shadow” I have to go back this month (and every year) to make sure that everything is okay. I’m glad you shared your story. There’s comfort in knowing one isn’t alone.

  10. Jennifer says:

    Jamie I am so glad that it turned out to be OK. I’ve heard too many sad stories lately about “young” people (when I say young, I mean people my age) getting cancer. Serious cancer. When Rugrat was born, 6 months later a friend of mine who was doing graduate work in psychology was diagnosed. She was dead within 7 months, leaving a 18 month old behind. It was so terrifying. I am so glad it was nothing.

  11. Richie Ann says:

    I’ve had a similiar experience and can remember bawling the whole way home. My husband thought someone had died when I walked in the door. Cancer or even the thought of it is a very very scary word. I’m so glad that you are okay. Thank you for sharing your touching story today and just remember that there are so many not so lucky. And wear you sunblock because that is the kind of cancer that I, and a lot of women in their 30s, have.

  12. Holly Schwendiman says:

    Hey dear, I know exactly what you’re saying. When my daughter was 3 months I found a lump and tried not to freak out. The whole process can be really unnerving!! Congrats on the good news.

    Hugs,
    Holly

  13. Mrs. M says:

    Wow, I’m speechless, and that’s not easy for me. I’m very happy that you’re fine. I know it’s hard to see, but if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.

  14. mamatulip says:

    Breathing a huge sigh of relief. So glad that things are okay…and that you shared your experience. It’s a wake-up call, for sure.

  15. Amanda says:

    Hey, Girl

    I have been so busy. I feel like a horrible friend for just now getting to read this. Please forgive me.

    I hope you are fee;ing better. I am sure you were scared. i am sooooooooooo glad that you are okay.

    Take care!!

  16. Mari says:

    Whew—
    Waiting is horrific, as it allows us to imagine every scenario. And as mothers, the images transform to multiple scenarios with our children.

    I am so happy to hear that you are in the clear. So very happy.

    Here’s to an irritated, but healthy Frankenboob. And praise be for Valium – and the doctors who are wise enough to prescribe it!

  17. malia says:

    I’m trying to catch up on blog reading so I just got to this post! Wow! What an experience. I’m so thankful that everything is just fine. I would have been really freaked out if it had been me. And thanks for the reminder…I’ve been putting off my annual appointment. Not because I don’t want to do it but because it just seems like a hassle right now. I’ll be calling the doctor soon!!

  18. Nohell says:

    Holy Moly, James. I didn’t know you went through all this. I hadn’t checked the blog in a while and was catching up this afternoon. I’m glad you’re OK. And I’m glad I read this happy ending b/c I’d been worrying myself silly down here in S.C. Go have another margarita!

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