Almost cancer

Today was a scary day. This summer my amazing mom discovered she had breast cancer and quickly got a bilateral mastectomy. She is recovering well and we don’t yet know if she will need chemo.

About the same time she went through all this, I noticed a lump in my own breast. I hadn’t paid much attention to it because a lot has happened to my breasts with three pregnancies and miscarriages this last year. I figured my breast was just settling after another miscarriage. But the lump didn’t go away. And then while we were on our Alaskan cruise, it actually started to hurt and bother me.

I decided it was time to take action and get it checked out. So this week I called my OB to schedule an appointment. I was pretty surprised that they got me in to see him THE NEXT DAY. I guess, “I have a lump in my breast” are the magic words to say when you want an appointment STAT! I’ve never seen my OB that fast except for a miscarriage!

When I went to my appointment, I was hoping that my OB would reassure me that nothing was wrong and that I was exaggerating what I felt to be a lump. Instead, he felt it and immediately confirmed that it was a lump. He also recommended I get a mammogram…like immediately. The nurse, who I also consider a friend, after all the years I’ve known her, immediately got to work on getting me an imaging appointment. Meanwhile, as a result of their reactions, I found my own adrenaline pumping and my anxiety beginning to throb. My blood pressure registered at 147/90, which is quite high for me (I’m usually a balmy 110/75).

20 minutes later I was sitting in the imaging department, wondering to myself, “Can this be real? Am I really getting a diagnostic screening for breast cancer?” It felt surreal and also pretty scary. I began to realize what my mom must have felt when they found her lump.

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The nurses and ultrasound technicians were SUPER nice. They were so caring as they showed me to a locker room that makes you feel like you should be changing into robes for a relaxing massage, instead of getting your breasts compressed like pancakes in an imaging machine!

Due to the location of my lump (close to my right armpit) and my age (still 34 years young people!) the radiologist wanted to do an ultrasound first and then decide whether a mammogram was necessary.

The ultrasound did indeed show “spots” where I felt my lump. In fact, there were several spots. But the ultrasound technician was quick to reassure me that my lumps were actually cysts, NOT tumors. She said, “I shouldn’t tell you this, the doctor should be the one to tell you this, but I’ll tell you first, those are cysts!” And when the radiologist saw the images, he also confirmed that I simply have a “cluster of cysts” and nothing to really worry about. The cysts look HUGE on the ultrasound machine and the technician wrote down 4 cm on one of the images and I freaked out. She reassured me and said the 4 cm was about location of the cyst, not 4 cm big! It’s only 1.5cm big. But cysts…as cysts do…can change size, which is probably why I’ve noticed them lately.

The only thing that they want to do is follow up with me in 6 months to keep an eye on the cysts. As the technician put it, “We need to make sure the cysts keep acting like cysts and aren’t a tumor in disguise.” But beyond cautioning me to continue to monitor for lumps, they gave me a green light to simply move on with my life and not worry about it.

Phew!!! That was a pretty nerve wracking afternoon.

I am waiting to hear if my mom has the BRCA gene that causes cancer. If she does, then I need to get tested for that too. But besides that, I am very happy to just move on with my life!

I was slightly shaking when I arrived to the imaging department, overwhelmed by nerves and the possibility of what I would find out. I found myself also shaking afterwards and realized how worked up I must have been about the whole situation. While I felt very relieved after that appointment, I also felt sympathy for the women who attend those appointments and don’t get to feel relief. It so easily could NOT have been cysts and I would be facing a very big and different life challenge. I’m grateful that for now, that’s not the challenge I need to face in my life. My heart goes out to the women who are facing it. My respect for my mom’s bravery through all of this has also increased as a result of today.

When I came home, I fell into Chad’s arms and said, “I almost had cancer today.” I hope a day like today doesn’t repeat itself any day soon!

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