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!

32 comments:

  1. You know how happy and relieved we all are for you.

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    1. Thank you, Kris.
      This definitely changes the tone of our Christmas celebration.

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  2. So glad your news was good!
    If I may add, ladies, please remember to get regular pap tests and do not ignore any abnormal bleeding. If you aren't comfortable with your current doctor, find another.
    (Don't ask me how I know...)
    Jo Ann

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    1. Hi Jo Ann,
      You are sooo right on that. A few minutes of discomfort at the doctor's office could save months of treatment discomfort, and your life.

      One thing people kept saying to me was by going in as soon as I could, after finding this lump, I may have just saved my own life (had it been malignant). We need to be proactive with our own health. If something has changed with our bodies, we shouldn't ignore it. I read case after case of women hoping their lumps would go away, and waited a long while until they ever sought medical care.

      As women, we matter. We can't keep putting the rest of the family's needs ahead of our health. I know. I've done this, saying to myself, "now is not a convenient time for me to make doctor's appointments". There never is a "convenient" time for these appointments, so we need to just make the time.

      Thanks for your comment, and bringing up the importance of all of a women's medical care.

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  3. I am unfortunately one of the unlucky women. Was diagnosed with stage I almost eight years,ago. Lumpectomy, chemo and radiation and was fine for six years. Almost two years,ago this pass March was diagnosed again, this time stage III. Had a double mastectomy in April, chemo ( was way harder the second time) and am doing well. I hate to hear women complain about how the mammogram hurts, a double mastectomy is much worse. Glad you are o.k. Cheryl

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    1. Oh Cheryl,
      I am so sorry about your diagnosis. I am glad that you are doing well.

      And that is such an important, and realistic way to look at these regular appointments, that a mastectomy is way more uncomfortable than a mammogram. For me, I've often said that the worry and suspense of waiting for results of a mammogram almost makes me not want to go. But realistically, the worry and suspense of not going (and then finding a lump, or worse) would be so much worse.

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  4. I have never posted a comment before but had you on my mind today. My husband was diagnosed with a rare cancer in March and fast forward to today the treatment is helping. I have implemented many of your tips to help us save money and time. He now has Influenza A to end the year with. While I was changing the sheets today, I put on a fitted sheet that I had patched after reading one of your posts. I had tossed many other sheets in the past and could kick myself for it. But today I actually stopped for a few moments and thought I should write down all the things I learned from you. To read your post today about your cancer scare touched me because we went through 5 weeks of waiting to get a clear diagnosis for my husband. It consumes your life and sometimes I felt I needed a Lili tutorial on how to put my pants on in those first few months. Thank you Lili for your blog and talking about real life. I get something from every post but today I really needed to come and read this. You are truly an inspiration. Lori

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    1. Hi Lori,
      The real inspiration is the courageous folks, and those who care for them, who deal with radiation, chemo, and multiple surgeries, day after day. I kept wondering to myself if I had it in me to go through the treatments that my mom endured. I just didn't know if I could do it.

      I am sorry that your husband has this diagnosis, but am glad that the treatments are helping him.

      It does consume your life. From how I remember my parents' and their cancer, everything in life was framed by how the cancer and treatment would affect their every move.

      May you and your husband be blessed with many, many lovely years ahead.

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  5. Oh Lili, that's so much to deal with, especially during the holidays when everything is crazy to begin with. I am SOOO glad you are OK. I've been through the lump/biopsy thing back in my 20's and I know how terrifying it is - can't even imagine what it's like with your family history. OK - note to self: stop putting off that annual mammogram!

    Wishing you and yours a beautiful Christmas!
    xoxoxo,
    Cat

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    1. Hi Cat,
      Get that mammogram!! I told my two daughters to NOT let me off the hook in future years, about getting my mammos on time.

      And as Jo Ann, above, said about if you don't like your doctor, find a new one, I think the same goes with the hospital or breast center that you use. The place I had been using was fine enough, but out of the way, parking was a problem, the waiting room was always crowded, I had to drive in miserable traffic -- all excuses to put it off. This year I chose a different hospital, and it's actually a bit closer to my house. And I liked it a lot (despite the radiologist with the facial expression that gave me a scare). I could see myself using this place for the future.

      Sorry to hear that you went through the lump/biopsy scare in your 20s. That's young, and would be so frightening.

      Hope you have a wonderful Christmas, as well!

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  6. Dear Lili,
    thank you for today's blog and the information you have provided for your readers. I am so relieved that your ordeal is over, and consider your good news as an absolutely wonderful Christmas gift to you and your family.
    Jayne

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    1. Hi Jayne,
      It is a wonderful Christmas gift. I've spent a good part of the last 3 weeks deciding what is really important. I feel I have greater clarity in how I want my life to continue, now. That's a spectacular gift.

      Thanks for the well wishes, prayers and support. I could not have gotten through these last few weeks without this.

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  7. What a terrible few weeks you have been through. I hope now you can spend a nice quiet relaxing Christmas with your family. So thankful you are ok

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    1. Thanks, Cheapchick. I hope you and your family have a lovely Christmas, too!

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  8. Benign. One of the best words in the English language. I hope that's one that you always hear. Merry Christmas.

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    1. Hi live and learn,
      I hope so, too.
      Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas!

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  9. Lili, thank you for sharing your story and I'm so glad it's benign. May you and your family have a joyous Christmas season!

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    1. Hi Sharon,
      Thank you. Have a lovely Christmas with your family!

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  10. So happy for your good news. I have been through the testing/needle biopsy/waiting process (also benign) and found it excruciating. But obviously not as much so as cancer treatment. The whole ordeal made me very appreciative of modern medicine.

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    1. Hi Dar,
      I'm sorry that you've also had to go through this process. It's a frightening thing, and I'm not very good at getting through this sort of tough waiting period.
      But you make a very good point -- we are fortunate to live in a time when the testing itself is easier on the patient, and treatments have advanced to give women a fighting chance against this disease.

      I'm glad that you were fine, as well!
      Take care, and have a merry Christmas!

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  11. Lili
    My heart sank when I read your post, what stress you have been under! Fortunately, it was benign. I had my own, similar scare when I was in my early 40's, ending up with an excisional biopsy. Benign is an awesome word! I continue with my yearly mammograms, including ultrasound due to dense breast tissue, as well as do my monthly self checks. Scarey!
    Enjoy your Christmas!
    Carol in CT

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    1. Thank you, Carol!
      I am so sorry for you to have gone through the surgical biopsy. Both my sister and step-mom have been through that one. But, also relieved for you that yours was benign.
      Taking care of our own bodies, as you do, is so important for us as women. No one else will do it for us. And our families and friends depend on us.
      I do read in your own blog posts about your yearly women's doctor's appts, and that always encourages me.
      Have a wonderful Christmas with your family, in your new-ish home!

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  12. So sorry you have had to go through all of this. It's so very stressful. Both my mother's parents passed away due to cancer in their early 50's so there is that family link. When my own cancer was diagnosed (almost 4 years ago now), it felt surreal (I was 37 with a baby). So very glad your lump is benign. You have been missed!

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    1. Hi Cat,
      I thought of you this past week, and you having mentioned in the past that you had cancer. I didn't realize how young you were when diagnosed. How dreadfully scary and overwhelming!

      I kept wondering to myself if I had it in me to go through what you and so many other women have been through, the surgeries, chemo, radiation. I think women who battle cancer are among the most courageous of souls.

      Your blog doesn't show any posts, but some day, when you feel distant enough from the emotional and physical pain, you should write up your story. These last few weeks, I found myself online searching for other women's stories of how they battled cancer. It helped me to read how someone else faced a cancer diagnosis.

      Wishing you a blessed Christmas with your family!

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    2. I tried blogging many years ago. Didn't feel like I had the knack and deleted it after just a few posts. I am happy to share my story with you sometime, perhaps I will send it over to you as a message on fb or something. I opted to go with a more natural route (after much research and soul-searching) for treatment. That brought it's own challenges as my doctor was very upset with me for that choice. I still believe it was the best for my own specific situation. Wishing you an extra special Merry Christmas with that weight off your mind!

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    3. Cat, I would really like to read your story, if you'll share it with me. I can imagine the resistance you received from your doctor, on going a route different from his recommendation. When I read that, I was imagining how one member of my family would react -- much the same.

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  13. (((((Lili))))) I'm so glad that your biopsy was benign. What an ordeal you have been though the last few weeks. My heart goes out to you. I'm glad everything is OK!

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    1. Thank you, Belinda.
      I sure don't wish to go through this again. But I am grateful for good medical care and insurance.

      Have a beautiful Christmas with your family!

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  14. Oh, Lil ... so glad to hear that you are OK. Something like that does put things into perspective. (And yes, you have given me a kick in the pants to get my mammogram scheduled early next year.) Merry Christmas!

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    1. Hi DW,
      Thank you, and you're right, my perspective on a lot of things is very different now. It's funny how we can think that some things REALLY matter. Then something comes up to change how we see things. A blessing to have that shift of thinking and perspective.

      (Now call in to schedule your mammogram, pronto!)

      Wishing you and your family a very lovely Christmas!

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    2. Switching insurance on 1/1, so gotta wait for coverage to kick in and see if provider is part of the network. But the reminder is on my calendar!
      Merry Christmas!

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I'm so glad that you stopped by today. Please comment, and let me know what you're thinking.