If you somehow didn’t notice, October is breast cancer awareness month. Normally I just smile, nod, purchase something pink and feel good that I’ve done my part. I had my first mammogram last October at the age of 38 because my breasts are dense and there is a small history of breast cancer in my family. I wanted to go ahead and establish a baseline for my normal so that if anything came up, I would be as prepared as possible.
As far as my boobs go, I was a rock star. I was taking care of my girls. They were fine, we were fine.
But here it is October again and this year is a little different. I have a story to tell.
August 1st, Tuesday
We got home from the gym around 8:30 PM and I was stinky, sweaty and sticky. All I wanted to do was get in the shower and then go to bed. I stripped off my clothes and was about to get in the shower when I scratched a mosquito bite just below my left breast. When I did that, I felt something. And not a small something. A good size something. A lump that was up under my breast. The size of a grape and it felt like a grape. How in the hell how had I not noticed that before?
Jeremy was outside so I called him in and said, “feel this.”
I’m sure we both wore very quizzical expressions as we mashed and poked and prodded this strange intruder in my body.
Again, how in the hell how had I not noticed that before?
“What do you need to do?”
“I guess call my ob/gyn in the morning.”
You can imagine all the thoughts running through my head. And you can bet I was wearing out Google. By the time I fell asleep, I was resigned to que sera sera and was weirdly calm.
August 2nd, Wednesday
I already had an ob/gyn appointment the following Monday for a routine appointment. So since I’m a natural ostrich and love to bury my head in the sand, I didn’t call to make an appointment about this new development. I decided it was fine to wait until Monday. I mean, it’s nothing, right? Why get all excited and upset.
When Jeremy woke up he vehemently disagreed with me and convinced me to call anyway. Guess what. They asked if I could come in to the office in thirty minutes, waiting almost a week was too long.
Um, yes. I guess so.
At the appointment my amazing doctor checks the lump out and while he doesn’t say, “it’s nothing to worry about”, his demeanor does imply that it’s probably not cancerous. Of course, it could be and he can’t give me false hope, but judging by the feel and location, I leave with a mammogram and ultrasound appointment and some peace of mind that it is probably a weird fat lump.
August 8th, Tuesday
Oh how I wish there was a hidden camera in the mammogram room. Y’all would laugh your asses off!
I don’t think I can begin to describe the hilarity of what ensued, but I will try. Picture a very sweet grandmotherly lady trying to convince this grapey lump (let’s call it Gilbert) to not roll away while it’s getting its picture taken. I’m in a lovely hospital gown with my left boob hanging out and smooshed between two pieces of clear plastic, with my left arm over my head and my face smashed up against a plastic guard. My right hand is holding my right boob out of the way and I’m on my tip toes for some unknown reason.
Click goes the machine. No Gilbert.
Try a different plate, smaller this time. Lift boob onto plate. Lean into machine. Pull right boob back. Smoooooosh goes the machine. Try to keep robe half on as it’s falling off. Smash face up against plate.
Damn! Gilbert rolled away again.
Repeat. Damn! My fingers are in the picture.
Repeat. Damn! The gown is in the picture.
Me- Do you mind if I just take this gown off? Ok. Great.
Repeat. Same situation but let’s try leaning over to the right. Nope. No Gilbert.
Grandmother tech- Do you mind if I get another tech in here to help?
Me- No, that’s fine. I’ll do whatever we need to do to get this picture.
I assume the position and Tech 2 now holds left boob up while I hold right boob. While on my tiptoes with not just my left breast in the machine, but my entire left chest basically.
Tech 2 to Grandmother- Are you compressed??
Grandmother- Yes, but I don’t want to break her ribs!
Me- Break ‘em! I don’t care, let’s just get this done!
In the end, we won, but just barely. Gilbert finally showed a tiny bit in the last shot. All this drama though did lead to a reassuring comment that the lump was NOT in my breast, it was clearly under it.
And that is a good thing. Thankfully the ultrasound was next and had zero drama. Gilbert had nowhere to hide. We got a great picture and I was told I’d hear something within a week.
August 10th Thursday.
I received a wonderful call from my doctor’s office that the ultrasound showed it was a fatty lipoma. Not cancerous! They did want me to follow up with a surgeon for removal and I agreed to the appointment. But then as the date approached I decided not to go.
From all my research, I knew that a fatty lipoma wasn’t anything terrible and that it didn’t have to come out. I had had A LOT of stuff going on in life and just didn’t want to deal with this particular issue anymore. Live and let live for me and Gilbert. He can stay as long as he doesn’t bug me.
Fast forward a few weeks and I am getting annoyed at Gilbert. He doesn’t hurt, but he is right where my bra rubs and is becoming annoying. In my head, I swear it’s getting bigger too. (It’s probably not, but you know how your mind can get you going). Since I’ve met my deductible, I reschedule my appointment with the surgeon to find out my options.
September 25th, Monday
Dr. comes into room and is surprised that I’ve waited so long for the appointment! In my head I think he is going to tell me I can leave it or have a small, in-office procedure to remove it. No big deal. A little lidocaine, a little cut, poof! Problem solved.
He informs me that there is still a 2% chance it could be something bad and that he either wants to
A) Biopsy it and then check it every 6 months or
B) Schedule surgery to cut it out.
WHAT?!?! Like real surgery. Like go night-night and wake up confused and disoriented and in pain. But a biopsy sounds miserable as well….
October 5th, Thursday
Bye bye Gilbert. I remember being wheeled out of my pre-op room and then I woke up in the recovery room. I have an approx 2 inch incision under my left breast where the lipoma was removed. Official lab results won’t be back until next week, but Doc told Jeremy everything looked fine.
I kept all this to myself and a very small group of people until today. But since it is Breast Cancer Awareness month I decided to share my story and publicly celebrate how lucky I am that it was nothing and that I was able to get the top quality care I needed. By sharing I also hope that as women, we stop putting ourselves on the back burner! I’m still stunned that somehow I missed that lump until it was as big as it was! Even though breast self exams aren’t really recommended anymore, if we all did them, we might save our own lives. And ladies, if you haven't had a mammogram before or if it's been awhile, please go get one! Your insurance covers it and it is no big deal for a huge piece of mind.
Stay Strong Y'all!