December 9, 2014: Finding the Monster

Finding the Monster – My Informational Journey

*I thought cancer meant sick. I felt the healthiest I had in years.

*I thought cancerous tumors would cause pain. My tumor’s size over time and location eventually caused discomfort when I wore all but one of my bras but wasn’t painful.

*I’d heard way more women talk about freaking out over knots they found in their breasts that turned out to be these little cysts that most women have than I had ever heard of those who discovered knots that turned out to actually be cancerous tumors. Somehow being able to feel this knot might have brought a false sense of security.

*I put off going to the doctor because I was “too busy”, it would cost “too much”, and my annual exam was scheduled within the next 90 days, so I could just wait until then. Please never be this stupid!

*I tried to make the knot be a bruise, cracked rib, or calcium deposit. Oh, the lies we tell ourselves!

*I was struggling with the effects of a Ph imbalance. This hadn’t been the first time this had happened. Over the course of the past five years or so, I had gone through this every time I’d dramatically changed my lifestyle in an attempt to get in better shape or to quit sodas for longer than 30 days. These symptoms actually caused my doctor to test my estrogen level. That test would actually throw things off a little because my estrogen level was way low. High estrogen levels usually put up red flags not low estrogen levels, so my doctor had me start estrogen replacement that day. She also sent me across the hall to radiology for a mammogram and a needle biopsy. They wouldn’t be able to get me in due to the biopsy, so scheduled me to return in a week.

*I opted not to pay the extra $75 for the 3D mammogram. We could all feel the lump, so I never imagined a mammogram not being able to see it. I was wrong. I’ve had over 20 pictures of my left breast specifically searching for the lump we could all feel, and my tumor was not detected in a single picture. Scary, huh?!?! If I were giving you advice, I’d advise you to pay the extra $75 for the 3D mammogram. If you have a family history of cancer, I would advise you to ask your OBGY to schedule you an ultra sound or even a MRI especially if you are past your mid-thirty.

*Because they couldn’t see the lump in the mammogram, I had to have an ultra sound. I didn’t know that at the time. I’d find that out later. I actually thought I was being taken into that room for the needle biopsy. That ultra sound would completely change everything! I saw two nearly identical black circles on each breast in the exact location. No one seemed concerned about them. They each measured 0.5mm. They took a couple of pictures of them and measured them and moved on. They took cross section pictures of my breast tissue on both sides. These looked like a blurry black and white TV screen from way back when. I did notice they took more pictures on the left side than the right side but considering I hadn’t felt anything on my right breast, this seemed like the normal thing to do. The moment I saw the picture on the screen, I knew the lump I could feel was cancerous. I didn’t need a doctorate degree. Everything I’d learned over the years in education from being a student to teaching told me that mass was bad news. I watched them take several pictures from several different angles. I watched them add color and take more pictures. When the doctor told me he wanted to do an ultra sound guided biopsy instead of the needle biopsy, I knew I was looking at cancer. I just didn’t know how worrisome of cancer it would be.

*Another week, another test, and another mammogram. As soon as the doctor pulled the section from the tumor and I watched the fibers of the tumor instantly wrap around the missing section, I knew the results weren’t going to be all that great.

*A couple days later, my radiologist would confirm what I already knew. I had ductal carcinoma, the most common kind of breast cancer.

*My OBGYN called very upset apologizing for not preparing me properly for what was coming & told me to stop taking the estrogen since my tumor was estrogen fed. Oops! I felt bad for her.

*I’d meet with my breast surgeon next to go over my pathology report and my options.

*A MRI would discover a second suspicious looking tumor on the left side. I opted for a double mastectomy with reconstruction and scheduled an appointment with a plastic surgeon.

*I met with the plastic surgeon and surgery was scheduled.

*My ACTH STIM test (testing my cortisol levels since I have Addison’s Disease) results would prove my adrenals were failing to keep up with the stress. I was put back on steroids.

*Genetic testing would come a few days later. Surgery dates and times would get moved around.

*The first week in September I discovered the BB sized lump. October 23rd, I was formally diagnosed with breast cancer. The lump size was compared to a large marble. On my surgical date, November 21st, when I had a double mastectomy with reconstruction started, the lump was just over the size of a golf ball. December 16th, I will start chemo. My annual girly exam was originally scheduled for December 19th. I say all this to say – Don’t wait! If anything doesn’t seem “normal” or you feel any kind of lump or knot, don’t lie to yourself or make excuses, go get checked out! Time is not your friend when you have breast cancer.

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About courage2conquercancer

At the age of 40, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This is an account of my journey from my discovery and beyond.
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