Clean Bill of Health

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Happy PandaI believe that most of us take our health for granted and don’t seem to truly appreciate our bodies and the condition they’re in until we find something potentially critical. Just before Christmas I discovered something in my breast and thought it might be nothing and it would go away, especially since I had to leave the next morning to be with my family in New Jersey. However, it didn’t go away. Please note this is slightly graphic.

One thing you don’t think about until it happens is if you have cancer. I woke up one morning with a strange sensation in my left nipple accompanied with a discharge. It scared me and once it started to go away on it’s own, I let it be. At first I didn’t think to go to the doctor, as I thought it was a random occurrence. While in New Jersey, it started to heal and go away so I was relieved; however, a few days after returning to Chicago it happened a second time. This time I was on my way to Indiana to see my mom and stepdad in from South Carolina and didn’t have time to set up an appointment. While in Indiana, I decided to tell my mom about what was happening, as I wasn’t sure how common this was. Could it be genetic? The women in my family are genetically predisposed to fibrocystic breasts and since I had yet to have any discovery at my exams, I thought I’d find out if I had something to really worry about. She said it wasn’t normal and that I should get it checked out and prayed with me. It’s scary when you’re not sure what’s going on in your body and you want to try and keep a positive attitude.

Of course, as any red-blooded American would do, I looked my symptoms up on WebMD. I know none of us would be shocked to know one of the things I could possibly have was cancer. Many of the possibilities had to do with women who were currently breast feeding or were about to get their milk. Well, I knew I did not have a baby and I certainly wasn’t being hooked up to a milking machine, as far as I knew, that is; I’m a fairly deep sleeper. So, I thought that it could only be one of three things:

  • Mastitis
  • Fibrocystic breast disease
  • Paget’s disease (that dreaded C word!)

The Mastitis I could handle, the Fibrocystic breast disease even! Although, I’d hate to have any drainage or surgery to remove the cysts, but the rare cancer stuck in my mind like it would with anyone else.

I finally made an appointment when I returned and had a mostly positive outcome. I didn’t have cancer as far as the nurse practitioner could tell based on my exam, although I had swollen lymph nods. She wrote me a referral to see a specialist and get a mammogram / ultrasound. I felt slightly relieved to know that I did not have cancer, but I wanted to be fully certain and, at the very least, know what was going on. The following week I was in the oncologists office for my second opinion. It was “very very very very very unlikely” that I had cancer, but there would be no guarantee until I came back for my follow up four weeks later, and having to apply hot compresses to my breast four times a day for the entire month. There went my social life, and for once in the past year, I was thankful that I was only working freelance gigs from home, so I could manage the compress every 6 hours.

The one thing I learned from my referral appointment is that there are so many things that can possibly be causing the same scenario. For one, I forgot how clumsy I am and that running into something or getting hit hard in the breast can cause the same type of symptom as Paget’s disease. It was also possible that I had a blocked milk duct, again I don’t see how that was possible. Was I getting milked in my sleep? If that were the case I’d still have to go under the knife to remove the blockage. I reluctantly made my follow up appointment for the day before my birthday. I wanted to not have to deal with the issue on my birth-week; who would! However, if it turned out to be good news, then I could really celebrate my good news and my birthday without as many cares in the world.

March 12th came and I woke up dim and early to get dressed and on the train to my appointment. I waited what seemed an eternity in the waiting room and then I was in the exam room, disrobed from the waist up and reading “People I’d Like To Punch In The Throat” while waiting. I got the pleasure of having TWO doctors examine me and confirm that I am in fact healthy! I did NOT have cancer! I didn’t even have a lump anymore AND my breasts were perfect. I left the office with a massive weight off of my shoulders. I was ready to celebrate my birthday without that burden over me. It’s better than crying in my scotch on my birthday!

All I can say is if you think there is potentially even the slightest problem with your breast, PLEASE go have have it checked out sooner than later. You never know if it could be nothing at all or something huge! Don’t assume it will go away and have the good sense to have it looked at. I’m 32 and still 8 years away from needing my first mammogram, but younger women can get cancer too and it’s better to be a bit paranoid and safe than to put it off and be super sorry later down the road. For now, let’s just cheers for no cancer or surgery!

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