My blog posts always gravitate toward the ridiculously long side of things, so in case you don’t have time to get all the way to end, I wanted to highlight some facts for you right up front so there’s no panic:
I’m all good.
I don’t plan on dying anytime soon.
If reading about cancer makes you uncomfortable at the moment, you may want to skip this post.
Part 1: Holy crap – There’s a lump!
You know how some people hate certain words like ‘moist’ or ‘panty hose’? Well, BREAST is one of those words for me. Unless we’re talking about a succulent piece of chicken or feeding babies, it just sounds so clinical and too high-and-mighty for my humble toppers.
Perhaps you could blame it on my private school upbringing or the fact that I still struggle to refer to myself even as a grown woman. (‘Girl’ or ‘lady’ is my normal go-to term–still unsure why that is) but if we’re going to refer to those two bumpy things that necessitate the need for a bra every day, then my default term of choice is boob.
I really didn’t think much about my two lady friends until I discovered a random lump in ol’ righty at the beginning of March. At first I figured it had always been there and maybe I just never noticed it. I mean, not knowing there’s a hard, pea-sized thing in your body parts happens to lots of people, right?
Plus, in school, we were told that our bodies were temples of God and we should take great pains to keep them pure and spotless for Him. I basically took this to mean that if you were touching yours all the time and getting all squeezey-squeezey with your bad self, you’d be all dirty and non-pure and in the same class as the heathens and murderers and who wants to be there? Better leave those breast exams and the like to the professionals. We don’t want to trip up and piss off the Lord of the Universe or anything.**
When I first found the lump, my thought process went something like this:
- What the H E L L is that?
- AM I DYING?
- What do I do now?
- Wake up and check for the lump in the middle of the night, first thing Saturday morning, in the shower, while walking down the hall and there’s no one around to see. Pretty much whenever I could. Yep. Lump is still there.
- Am I making too big of a deal out of this? I’m sure it’s just always been there and for some reason I never noticed it until now. I consider asking my ex-husband if he ever noticed anything but quickly vetoed that idea.
“Hi there, so um…Not sure if you remember my boobs or anything, but just in case you do, do you happen to remember if there was this weird, hard, lumpy thing in the right one? No, not YOUR right, MY right. Just wondering if there’s a chance I could be dying or something. Cool. Thanks for your help!” Nope. I decided sudden death would be better than trying to make that conversation seem like a normal thing and moved on to the next step.
- I’m working on not being such a dramatic person slash a better listener. This is just a great opportunity to stay in the moment and not freak out. Step one, Jenny, don’t run around and tell too many people and create panic.
- Forget that idea and tell my favorite gal pal about the lump the very next day. Blame her birthday party cocktails for the slip up and plan on sticking to my original plan of being a responsible and non-dramatic, grown up lady-person. Lips are sealed. Again.
- Three weeks go by and I have my moments of panic, breast checking and then forgetting about the lump. But the lump is always there and so is the worry in the back of my head.
- Cave and tell my mom.
Telling my mom was not part of the original plan.
The original plan was to wait until there was something to worry about before I shared the details. Not to say my mom is a worrier – far from it. She’s extremely level-headed has often played the non-dramatic role in many of my life’s freak-outs.
But my parents just survived nine months of job-hunting with me and it was an extremely stressful time. The roller coaster of that season was finally done with and I was looking forward to our conversations being full of positivity and “Outlander” series updates, not “Jenny, are you gonna be OK?” discussions.
When I told my mom, I was also afraid it would somehow make things real. She wanted me to call my doctor and get checked out. I had no idea what doctor even checks those things out! Is there a breastologist out there? A boob-opthomist? Whenever I Googled, ‘What do I do when I find a lump in my breast?’ It just said “Contact your doctor.” Thanks a lot internet. But, WHICH doctor?
My town has zero general practice doctors accepting new patients which is extremely frustrating, so I decided to call the doctor who delivered my babies. I mean, he kind of specializes in lady parts… it makes sense he could branch out and handle the above the belt stuff too, right?
YAHTZEE! He was the right one to call.
When I told the receptionist that I’d found a lump and I’d like to get it checked out, she asked me how long it’d been since I’d discovered it.
“Three weeks”, I told her.
“Three weeks? Why did you wait so long to call?”, she responded.
Ok. Now I’m starting to worry again. Thanks a lot, phone-lady.
She pulled up the schedule and asked me to come in the next day.
During my three weeks of ignoring-the-lump slash poking-at-my-own boob-to-see-if-it-was-still-there phase, somewhere along the lines I decided to give it a name. Naming random inanimate objects has always been an odd habit of mine, but it’s one that makes me smile so I doubt it will be a habit that ends soon. For the lump, I went with the name Pal.
Pal was the name my son gave his tiny dinosaur toy he got from a quarter machine when he was five. Pal sounded like a not-too-scary name that helped with the Do-Not-Panic plan I’d initiated. Saying “lump” was scary. Saying “Pal” seemed quirky and fun.
Little did I know, the name Pal would have an even more appropriate connection after that first doctor’s visit.
Part 2: Yep, there’s a lump.
On the day of my doctor’s appointment, I was super-nervous but ready to get some answers. The doctor performed the typical breast examine where he moves his fingers all around in a circular motion while we both avoid eye contact.
After less than two minutes, it was over and he agreed that something was there. I got dressed and he whisked me away to the front desk so he could have them call and schedule an imaging appointment.
On the paperwork they sent over, he referred to the lump as a “palpable mass” which made me sigh because the name Pal now had an even more appropriate tie in. The appointment was set for an ultrasound and mammogram for the soonest time available – three weeks.
Can I just say that three weeks can feel like forever when you’re waiting for something like that? During this three-week span, I let the beans spill one-by-one to more friends, family members and even my boss, because it was feeling more real and I had to juggle stuff at work to accommodate the appointment. The waiting sucked. Pal stayed in the same place and even started feeling tender towards the end of the waiting period. Not cool, Pal.
On the day of the appointment, it took about two hours for the whole process. Luckily, I had to work later that night for an event so I was free and I knew I’d have something else to focus on no matter what the imaging found. Events to the rescue!
I was the youngest one in the waiting room and a few people stared. I was given a tote bag with the word BREAST screen printed on it. I laughed. (That will be a fun one to use at Trader Joe’s.) You get a fun cape to wear after they take you back and I couldn’t help but think of my 10-year-old who has a passion for all things “CAPES!”. I took a picture and planned to show him if the results weren’t scary.
Not wearing deodorant for these tests is understandable and I know many of my blog readers have gone through the whole mammogram process before so I’ll spare you the details, but man, when you’re nervous about what the tests will show, have worked before your appointment setting up an event AND have your armpit in the technician’s face, it’s a recipe for more anxiety and the perfect trigger for more sweat. #SuperClassy
The mammogram was followed up with an ultrasound. Images were shown to a radiologist in a different room. Then more ultrasound images were grabbed. At the end of the appointment, the grouchy technician from South Africa told me that they weren’t worried about the lump but they found some other cysts in a separate location they want to keep their eye on. I was told to come back in six months to recheck stuff.
Crises averted. (See? I told you things were all good.)
Cyst is another word that’s super gross. And I’m still unsure what it means to really have those chilling in your side-boob, but there you go. They didn’t seem to think I was dying or that they needed to do a scary biopsy on the 7mm lump that I originally went in for, so I grabbed the free tote bag, gave them back their cape and bounced. (Tenderly – Ha! Boob-joke.)
Here I am #werking the cape.
This is me trying to stay light and focused on fun things like making the mammogram technician take a photo of me after she smashed the living daylights out of my front parts. At this point, I had no idea what the results would be and I was irritated with the way my too-long bangs were getting in my eyes. I tried to ‘choose joy’ despite my inner monologue screaming “HOLYSHIT-HOLYSHIT!-HOLYSHIT!” because the people around me who loved me weren’t screaming at all.
They were chill and calm and collected. I’d love to be just like them. They are priceless and help me not go crazy.
I’m a very lucky and thankful gal. Or woman. Yeah. I’m a thankful woman, damn it. Here’s to a smooth sailing next six months!
**For the record, I now understand that God really doesn’t care about the whole touching-your-own-body-to-make-sure-everything-works-OK thing. Like, at all. Please feel free to conduct your breast exams and anything else you’d like to do with your entire body with the truth that no lightning bolts will come from heaven to zap off your filthy hands. Yay for the amazing human body and yay for the weird slash wonderful design of all our pieces and parts. Go forth and enjoy them.