As you may be aware, the month of October focuses on breast cancer as well as breast health. I volunteer with a breast advocate group at one of our local hospitals and really enjoy the opportunity to do health fairs and other events and have the chance to talk with women. People generally think that the advocates have all had breast cancer. That is not true. I have never had breast cancer. But what I have had are some oops along the way that made me well aware that it is important to have good care when bad things happen. So-today I am writing about the first time I found a lump in my breast. Perhaps my story will help someone else.
I was that person who always had a “call back” when I went in for a regular mammogram. Maybe it wasn’t always but it was enough to feel like always. In those days, the radiology department did not call you on the telephone. They sent a certified letter to your home. EEEKKK! You go to the mailbox and there is a notice to come to the downtown post office to pick up a certified letter. I find that scary enough. Generally it would be a full week after the mammogram. And it was always on a Saturday afternoon that I would receive the notice. That meant I had the rest of Saturday and all day Sunday to wonder why I had a certified letter. The card did not give the sender’s name. If it had I would realize the reason for the letter. I would pick up the letter Monday and it would be too late to call. So I am off another day but at least I knew WHO sent the letter. The next day I would find out that my mammogram was “abnormal” which are scary words for any woman. I would make another appointment which generally took a week and go back for another one. In a week, I would get another letter. Certified. Sometimes I would be done and have the “normal” thing. Sometimes I had to go back for an ultrasound. And then another week before I knew anything. Stressed out is the operative word for me! One time when I was back for the third time, I refused to get off the table and get dressed until someone looked at my most recent test. Guess what? That worked! I knew right away.
Then one night I was getting undressed for bed, removing all those unmentionables that women wear, and felt a lump in my left breast. It was not the size of a golf ball but it sure felt like it was! I don’t think I slept any that night! The next day, I called my doctor who squeezed me in that afternoon. I think I probably touched the lump 500 times that day before I even got to the doctor’s office. I wore a cotton sweater set and you could even see a lump through the sweater. My nurse at school took my blood pressure but then decided to not tell me what it was! I am guessing it was high.
Once at the doctor’s office, he came in and looked at my breast and said—“You have a lump.” I hate to say this but I wanted to yell-“DUH of course I have a lump!” He sent me off to see a surgeon. So I was looking at another appointment in two weeks. I am not sure how I made it two more weeks but I did.
The surgeon was great. He was so calm that I became calmer. He told me he would drain it because he thought it was a cyst. So don’t worry. Then the nurse began to set up things for him. I laid down and he told me to shut my eyes. He said it will not hurt but he didn’t want me to see the needle and be frightened. When he was done, he told me not to worry. He would call when the lab work came back. He also told me that sometimes these things come back. Yikes! Oh No!
And it did. Come back that is. The lab work was ok. Whew! In three weeks it was back again and BIGGER. Rats. So he told me he wanted to take it out because it was better to do that. So we set that up. In six months. When I was out for the summer.
Six months later, I had the lump removed. Before the surgery, the surgeon told me not to worry. It would be ok. So when I woke up, the surgeon was standing beside my bed. He smiled. I asked if everything was fine. He said, “Yes everything is fine and you still have your breast.” You see you have to sign that they can take everything while you are asleep. Then he said, “Do you want to see your breast?” and I said, “Yes.” So he carefully unwrapped the bandage and showed me my breast. I am still impressed by his compassion to me that day. That he would let me actually see that it was still there. He didn’t have to do that. He didn’t have to be there when I woke up. But he was. And I am thankful for him still to this day.