Sunday, January 25, 2009

Breast Cancer: My Own Story

While reading this article: High Omega-6 Fatty Acid Intake Linked to Breast Cancer, I felt it was time to come out and tell my own story, not one that most people know:

At (almost) 30 years old, sadly I can say, that I have already had my own scare with breast cancer. Luckily it was just a benign cyst, but at the time, it seemed like my life had come to a complete halt.

It was a total fluke that I found the lump in my left breast when I did, as it was a normal Sunday night, with me flaked out on the couch watching re-runs of Beverly Hills 90210. It was the episode when Brenda finds a lump in her breast and, understandably, freaks out.

While I was watching the show, it crossed my mind that I'd never really checked myself out. So I got up off the couch, wandered into the bathroom and started to feel around.

And in 2 seconds, my life seemed to change.

I felt something. And not just a little something, a BIG SOMETHING. It felt like a large marble, moving a bit beneath the skin, but not all over the place. I was shocked and completely taken aback.

And then I became scared ... very, very scared.

My family has a rampant history of cancers and my Nana (Mom's Mom) had been diagnosed with breast cancer shortly before her passing (not cancer related, she had a massive heart attack and passed in here sleep, peacefully). Knowing this only made my fears stronger.

I had no idea what to do. It was 11:00 pm on a Sunday night. My Mom lives 40 minutes away in Mississauga, I have no car and do I even really need to get out there right now? For what? What was that going to do, other than get my Mom all worked up and have both of us in a state?

A few minutes later as I was back sitting on the couch contemplating what to do next my cell rang. It was time for my nightly chat with my far and away boyfriend, Phil (who was living in Vancouver, while I was still in Toronto). I answered with every intention of not mentioning the new findings until I had spoken to my Mom, but when I went to say "Hi Babes!", I barley croaked out a tight "hhhhhhhhi". It was obvious that something was up and he knew this instantly and wants to know what's going on. I didn't know what to say. I had no idea how to say this and I knew that as soon as I did say something then it would be all the more real and I would have to deal with what could be a potentially life threatening situation.

After a few moments of silence, I managed to get a few words out, but not before the tears started to flow. He attempted to calm me down; still not knowing what the heck was going on. I collected myself the best I could and blurted out "I just found a lump in my breast and I am scared shitless".

Silence on the other end of the phone. Clearly, he was just as shocked as I had been when I felt the lump and also didn't know what to say.

Finally, we both managed to get our wits together and started to talk about the new development. We both agreed that there was nothing that could be done at the current time, but that as soon as I got up I was to make an appointment to see my Dr and get things looked at.

I attempted to sleep that night, but as you can imagine that was not an easy feat.

The next day I bailed on work, trekked out to the 'Saug to meet my Mom and went directly to see my Dr, who when I called her in the morning, immediately insisted that I get to her offices ASAP.

Sadly, the Dr did confirm the presence of a lump, and a rather big one at that.

I was sent directly across the street to the mammography clinic to have a mammogram and an ultrasound. And let me just say this, for any woman who has had to have her boobs mashed between to cold glass plates - OW!!!!!!!!!!!! What a process.

Once I was finished being squished and smashed it was off to be greased up for the ultrasound, something I had never thought I would have unless I was preggers.

And again, the lumps presence was confirmed. I was told that because of my age (only 27) that my breast tissue was still very dense and hard to read and that the only way to be sure of what we were dealing with was to biopsy the lump.

Now there is a side note to all of this that I have failed to mention so far: I was scheduled to pack up my life and start a cross country road trip to Vancouver in 7 days. I had already quit my job and signed off on my lease contract, had my bags packed and was ready to go.

Hello?! Can we all agree that this whole new development put a major kink in my plan?

After consulting with my Dr., family and Phil, we all decided that it was still best for me to go on with my plans to move and to have my Dr. in Ontario refer me to a Surgeon in Vancouver to deal with the biopsy and any further developments.

So Wagons West it was and I was off on a new life adventure, both in a positive and negative way.

Throughout the course of the trip I never once let the pending meeting with the Surgeon get me down or wreck our awesome adventures.

Once in Vancouver and settled, it was time to meet with the surgeon for that date with a big needle, something that I was not at all looking forward to.

Phil met me at the Dr's office and waited with me, holding my hand before the procedure.

The nicest, old Dr came out to call me in to the examining room and I was terrified. He asked me to undress from the waist up and put on the surgical gown and lay back. He noted that this was going to hurt but that it was just for a moment and would be over before I knew it.

He started by feeling my breast, trying to locate the lump ... and guess what ... he couldn't find anything ... WTF?? I had just felt it the day before when I was obsessively checking, hoping that all of this was just a really bad dream and nope, it was still there. So where the hell was it now?

He checked some more, reference my charts, mammogram and ultrasound results and looked at me perplexed. Where was this lump that everyone had seen and felt just weeks before??

His deduction was this: It was not a solid cyst, but just a fluid filled cyst that with my menstrual cycle may have become engorged and then drained itself. It was possible that this was something that would reoccur or hopefully, not.

Regardless, I was shocked and beyond relieved. He told me to keep diligent with my self-exams and if anything ever felt wrong or I had any questions to call him.

I then got dressed, and in a fog walked out into the waiting room. Phil was waiting for me and jumped up as I came out of the room, since I had only been in there a few minutes and he had been expecting to be waiting at lease an hour. He asked what was going on, and I my state I didn’t want to get into it in the waiting room with all the other patients around so I simply said “Let’s talk about it in the car” and headed for the door.

Now in hindsight that was probably not the best way to phrase that, as it only got him more concerned, but I was still in shock.

Once in the car, I replayed the events of the examining room for him and watched his face go from total panic to total relief. We hugged (and I cried) and decided that this FANTASTIC new called for a tall, stiff drink.

That was almost 2 years ago and I continue to do my monthly self-checks in conjunction with my menstrual cycle and I am more than happy to report that there has not been one instance of a lump arising again and that I am to be in perfect heath at this time.

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