Tuesday, September 07, 2010
10 years ago I had a suspicious lump. They removed the lump and it was negative. I was told I have Fibrocystic breasts, which basically means I have dense and lumpy tissue. I was instructed to get to know my lumps and be aware of any changes. Since then I have been a pretty faithful "lump checker"
(still getting used to talking about "lumps" and "breasts" in such a public manner. oh my...)
Last year I had a couple of areas on my right breast that worried me a bit. They decided to order a mammogram and an ultrasound. I was sent home with the diagnosis of breasts cysts, which are fluid filled and no big deal. Nothing showed up on my left breast.
Around Christmas, I noticed a rather distinct lump on my left breast. After opening Christmas gifts, I made my sisters come in front of a mirror with me as I discretely showed them my concern. They were amazed that they could see the lump just by looking at the reflection in the mirror. Most lumps you can only feel. Now granted, I am not the most voluptuous woman in the world, so to see it would not be as hard on me as some, but its distinctness bothered me.
I went back to my physician. She agreed there was indeed a lump. She sent me to get an ultrasound. The radiologist just said it was normal tissue with a bit of scar tissue from my previous biopsy 10 years ago.
Fast forward to May, I felt the area was changing and was more distinct. I went back to my physician She sent me straight to a surgeon to have it evaluated for removal. This surgeon came highly recommended and is very well known in this area. I trusted her. She did a quick exam, and in the most confident manner said "I know what I am feeling is normal breast tissue" & "I am very confident that this is nothing." "I do this everyday and I know what I am feeling" She told me it felt distinct because of the scar tissue to the side of it from the previous biopsy, and the changes I "think" I am feeling are do to age (breasts get softer which would make the scar tissue seem more distinct) and a few pounds I had lost. Her explanation made sense to me. She was the most confident doctor I have ever talked to. I believed her.
Todd happened to come with me to that appointment and really pressed her. She kept giving us her same confident answers. I sat there feeling so relieved, but Todd pushed for at least another ultrasound, so we could compare it to the one I had around Christmas. She reluctantly gave in and wrote up and ultrasound order, and handed it to me flippantly and said "if you really need this for peace of mind, here you go"
We left feeling so very happy and relieved. I slipped the order into my purse and thought "maybe I should get it done before school gets out. I was in no hurry. I had never had a Dr so confidently tell me I was fine like she did. I trusted her. I should not have.
Kids got out of school for the summer, and following up on the ultrasound was in the back of my head, but the Dr made me feel like I was wasting my time, and we all know I like to procrastinate.
Throughout the summer I would periodically look a the lump and wonder if it was growing. I also had a hard time keeping weight on, and noticed that I was losing a ton of hair with each shower I took. I thought it was lack of protein so I increased my protein. Weight loss and hair loss were the only two things out of the ordinary. Both were easy to ignore during a super fun summer with my girls, and I did not connect that at all to the lump. I still don't know if they are connected or not...
Girls go back to school, I start having some pain below my left rib, in the spleen area. It started waking me up at night, so I went to the Dr. They ordered an ultrasound for my spleen and I thought to myself "I might as well get that lump looked at since I have an order, and hit two birds with one stone"
Ultrasound showed a very healthy spleen, but not a healthy breast.
They wanted me to have a biopsy as soon as possible.
I had a needle core biopsy -which was one of the most painful tests I have ever had! Stupid area would not numb during the procedure. Grr. I was not a happy girl leaving the clinic that day. Pain makes me MAD!
2 days later, the same surgeon that told me she was so very confident that what she was feeling was normal breast tissue, called my home and told me "I'm sorry, you have breast cancer."
I froze. I knew I was in trouble because this lump has been around awhile. I started to hyperventilate, but then remembered I was home alone with my girls and 2 very rowdy neighbour kids. I pulled myself together in time to hear the doctor say "I'd like to set up a time for you to meet with me."
I calmly but coldly reminded her that she was the doctor that told me I had nothing to worry about months ago, said I had no interest in seeing her again, then I hung up. I blame the shock for my rudeness.
How I feel about that doctor is something I think I still need to work through. I know she is human. I know she has done a lot of good for many other women in my situation. I just wish she were not so confident, her confidence kept me from feeling the urgency to get the ultrasound back in June. I need to forgive her and I think I have, but my emotions toward her are confusing.
I called my husband, he rushed home. The girls had Bible Club that night, so we had 3 hours alone, together. It was so surreal. We just kept looking at each other in disbelief. I started making phone calls, Todd took to the treadmill to walk it off.
I felt very lost without a doctor and had no idea where to start. I have so many good friends and family members who went to work right away trying to get names and recommendations. Even that process took some faith, as one person would highly recommend a doctor, then the next person would give me a list but say "do not go to so-and so" which would be the very name I was just told to go to! We heard numerous times the best surgeon in town was the very doctor I hung up on. It was overwhelming, but even in the midst of it all I knew God had the perfect doctor out there for me.
My sister -in -law's sister, is married to an doctor here in town. They were on their way out of the country when my sister- in- law, Wendy, called them and asked what we should do, where we should go. He not only gave a recommendation, but called the Oncologist and told her my story. It is only because of God working though that phone call that I was able to be seen by Thursday, two days before a long labor day weekend. I now know that was a huge blessing, as it is not easy to get into an oncologist so quickly, especially a good one. I got a lot of testing out of the way Thursday and Friday, which gave us a good jump start on the slew of tests that it takes, to stage and grade cancer.
I am so very thankful for my Oncologist and love her already. She is so very smart, kind, and tough. She is straight forward, but will also make jokes at appropriate times. For example, she is Indian and while listening to my heart, she says in her soft Indian accent "Oh, my. Your heart is going like a train. We must find a way to calm you" :) It made me laugh which calmed me instantly.
As of now, here is what we know:
~I have breast cancer
~The tumor is 4 cm.
~There is a suspicious, swollen lymph node under left arm pit.
~ CAT scan is negative-Praise God!
~Bone scan is negative-Praise God!
*Tomorrow I will have an MRI and meet my surgeon for the first time
*Thursday I will have PET scan and have a big meeting with my Oncologist, in which she will tell us the grade and stage of the cancer and our battle plan.
*Friday-I will have surgery to place a port. More than likely, I will receive chemotherapy first, to shrink the size of my tumor, then surgery. The port is placed so the drugs can go directly to a main artery and so I won't have to be poked a thousand times.
I sigh and smile (and pout) as I read this. I am supposed to be on a plane to Chicago to enjoy a week away at a conference with my husband. How quickly life can change.
I will do my best on this new journey, thanks for coming with me.