You Know Your Body Better Than Anyone Else
I found a lump in my right breast on the night of June 15th, 2011. My breasts are relatively small and as I lay there alone, lying on my back, I felt a tiny lump on the bottom left side of my breast. It was so small that when I stood up I could not feel it. I wondered if it was my imagination, but as I lay back down and felt again, it was definitely there.
And I started to panic. Could it possibly be breast cancer? Surely not. It was such a tiny lump. I had no other symptoms. In fact I felt great. I was 34 years old, fit, strong, healthy and most definitely not sick. There was no history of it in the family and realistically, was I not too young to have breast cancer? Yet, I still could not sleep. I just had this bad feeling that would not go away. I keep feeling the lump. Was it really breast cancer? Was I sick? Was I going to die?
I tried to think of other women with breast cancer and I could only think of older women whom I had known who had died from it. I tried to think positive and convince myself that it was nothing. It was so small; surely it could not be serious. But I could not sleep that night. I did not cry but I was worried. I was not scared but I was frightened. I wanted everything to stay as it was. I did not want my life to change. Yet, somehow, I felt that it already had.
When I woke up in the morning, I knew the lump was most definitely there. I went to the doctor that same day.
He immediately examined my breast and after a few minutes assured me that it was nothing at all to be worried about. He believed that it was a fibroid or a cyst. He said that it was very common and not serious at all. He said that I was young and fit and healthy and that I had nothing to be concerned about. He said that if I was still worried about it or that if it was still there in 3 to 6 months that I could come back to him again and maybe get a mammogram. Yet he gave me the impression that it would be gone by then and that a mammogram was really an over-reaction at this stage.
And I was delighted. He was a doctor and if he said it was nothing, then it was nothing. I would not panic over this harmless lump. I continued on as normal with my life. On a daily basis, I got the children to school, I went to work, and everything seemed just fine.
Except for one major problem. The lump was still there. Doing nothing, sure, but there nonetheless. I became obsessed with checking it. I often wondered if it would disappear, but it did not. Neither did it seem to be growing. Yet it was hard and small and ever present. One day, my friend Suzanne told me that I should get a second opinion and to not just go with what one doctor said. She was adamant that I should not accept his answer.
I decided to ring my local doctor and I insisted that I wanted a mammogram as soon as possible. I do think that they felt that I was overreacting and perhaps being a bit of a drama queen but I made no apologies. When I went for the mammogram, I remember thinking "What am I doing here, surely I'm being ridiculous ". I could feel the tension and worry of the other people in the waiting room. I could see it in their faces. I felt sorry for them, those people that had cancer. I wanted to cry because I did not want to be one of those people.
After the mammogram, I truly believed that I would now be able to put it all behind me. I thought when the results came back clear I would be able to relax and get back to normal life. How wrong I was...
Things never went back to normal. I knew that sunny Friday morning in July that I had breast cancer. And I was right.