Friday, December 19, 2014

"I found a lump"

(before you read any further, I AM fine)

The Tuesday night before Thanksgiving, I rolled over in bed and felt something I'd not felt before. It was a medium-sized lump. Women over 35 all seem to know what I mean, when I say, "I found a lump". This was a sizable lump, solid-feeling, distinct from any other tissue and it terrified me.

The next morning (the day before Thanksgiving), I woke early, and as soon as I could call the doctor's office, I did. My tightened throat choked out the sentence, "I found a lump". I asked for the soonest possible appointment, but unfortunately, they could not get me in until the following Wednesday.

I tried not to worry about the lump too much, but just get through the holiday weekend. However, you need to understand my family history with cancer, to understand why finding a lump would be so terrifying for me.

My mother and father both died from cancer. My uncle (my mother's brother) and my grandfather (my mother's father) also died from cancer. Cancer had also taken my step-sister when she was in her 30s, and another uncle on my father's side of the family. When you say "cancer" in my family, the next question is always, "is this the big C or the little C".

My mother was diagnosed at age 41 with an aggressive form of breast cancer, and her brother also died from the male version of breast cancer. These weren't people that you would look at and think, "cancer -- I guess that makes sense". These were fit, active, otherwise healthy people. They did not fit the standard profile for cancer risk.

When I met with my doctor, she was concerned. So much so that her office called me the following morning to make sure I had made my diagnostic appointment (which I had).

The soonest I could get into the breast care center at the hospital was 2 weeks. These next 2 weeks would be excruciating for me to endure. I spent a lot of time online, reading all I could about both malignant and benign breast tumors.

This past Tuesday, I went in for my diagnostic appointments (mammograms and ultrasound). I expected the appointments to reveal that I was worried over something needlessly.

The mammogram technician was bubbly and friendly. Then she went to talk with the radiologist, to make sure she gotten the images the radiologist needed. She came back quiet, said they needed another angle, and proceeded. Afterward, she took me back to a waiting area where she said the ultrasound technician would be there to get me in a minute.

I was still doing okay, having expected both mammo and ultrasound work to be done. Once again, the ultrasound technician was friendly and talkative, until . . . She told me to just rest and enjoy the peaceful music while she conferred with the radiologist.

This is where I became more alarmed. The radiologist came into the room, put her hand on my arm, let out a sigh, and had that sad/concerned ("I have to be the bearer of bad news") face on. The radiologist wanted to look at the mass herself.

Meanwhile, I was trying to get a handle on any subliminal information I could. I was studying faces, analyzing whatever the 2 of them were doing, etc. While we chatted about our children and universities, I studied the radiologist's face. At one point, she did display that sad/concerned face again. So I thought, "maybe that's just her facial expression".

Then the ultrasound tech was checking my underarm, I presume for signs of lymph node involvement. You see, I've been through 3 biopsies, 2 of which were for breast masses. This combined with my mother's cancer, and I know what they look for, and when.

At that point the radiologist told me that I needed a biopsy. We discussed the merits of surgical vs core needle. And it was decided that a core needle biopsy could get us information sooner. I got dressed and met with the nurse for scheduling. The nurse told me that they could get me that afternoon. At this point, I'm thinking, "they've red-flagged my file and are squeezing me in, in a hurry."

A core needle biopsy takes between 4 and 8 samples of mass tissue, under local anesthesia, and takes about 1 hour for the procedure itself. By the time this was over, I was a wreck.

I was given my aftercare instructions and informed that I would get a phone call with results sometime Thursday. The paper said the call would come from either my doctor, the nurse (who did the scheduling at the breast care center), or the radiologist. I had already arranged with my doctor's office for me to get any results directly from the breast care center. This speeds up the delivery of information. So, I had it figured in my mind that a call from the nurse would likely be good news. And a call from the radiologist would be either definitely bad news or inconclusive information requiring a surgical consultation and biopsy.

Thursday morning was difficult to get through, for me. But I tried to distract myself as best as possible. When the phone finally rang in the early afternoon, I answered to a friendly and upbeat nurse. I just knew at that point that the news was good. And it was. My mass is benign, but will be followed up in another 6 months.

So, that's where my head has been for the last few weeks. I have second-guessed everything in my life. Did I eat enough veggies? Should I have only bought organic? Did I have too much soy? Did I take the right supplements? Did I get enough exercise?

And I've been asking myself, "what can I do, now, to get all 3 of my kids fully launched into this world?"

I have not been able to even think about writing a blog post all week, but now, wanted to just let you all know I'm still here, and I'm fine.

While breast cancer is not my diagnosis, for now, I do feel a connection to those women who stare down this disease. They are a courageous bunch of women. I've been training for a local 5K/10K that benefits the Susan G. Komen Foundation, set later this next spring. I am always touched by the stories of these brave women's lives, and their family and friends who support them.

Thanks for checking in with me, and have a lovely weekend before Christmas!

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