As You Read This (Continued)…

Confession: I’ve been trying to write this post for over an hour.

I am touched. All of your comments, tweets, and e-mails on my ‘As You Read This…’ post have completely blown me away.

I’m usually pretty good at putting my thoughts into words. Not tonight.

I don’t know where to start. So, maybe I’ll just start from the beginning…

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…I enter the exam room. The door closes. I wait…

The room is dark. My gaze is immediately drawn to the decorative fluorescent light covers that makes the ceiling look like there is a beach on it.

The door opens. The technician walks in and tells me to lay down on the bed.

She asks, “what side is it on?”

Nervous and embarrassed, I point to my right breast. She is a few years older than me. I wonder what she’s thinking.

As I lay down, she asks me to pull my right arm out of my medical gown. She pumps her foot down up and down on a pedal several times and the bed rises. Then, she rubs a cold gel over the spot I just pointed to.

I try not to feel awkward. This is her job. She does it every day.

Suddenly, I feel the pressure from the transducer press onto my breast. It hurts a little but I try not to think about it.

I stare at the ceiling. I stare at the beach…

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I turn my head to look at the monitor. I see the black mass that is inside my right breast. I watch as the technician draws circles on it on the computer screen. I can’t help but feel like a test object.

She works in silence. It feels like forever.

Finally, she seems to have what she needs, and says she’ll be right back with the doctor.

She leaves. I lay. I wait. I stare at the ceiling. I stare at the beach…

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The technician returns with the doctor. I feel even more insecure because the doctor is a man and I was expecting a woman.

He jokes briefly with the technician about the way she mispronounces his name. Then, he turns to me and gives me a serious look.

“Your tumor seems to be about the same as it was six months ago,” he tells me. He says that a biopsy doesn’t seem necessary and that he’s pretty sure it’s a fibroadenoma.

“You’ll have to keep coming back for follow-ups so we can track its growth,” he says. “In another six months, and then once every year.”

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And that’s it. I’m free to go.

I take one last look at the beach on the ceiling before I breath a sigh of relief, and head out of the exam room.

It’s over. At least for now.  (Note: I have an appointment with a breast surgeon in two weeks to confirm the results)

******

I think one e-mail I received said it best:

“Even knowing something is non-cancerous doesn’t make it any less scary”

I cried three times this morning.

  • The first time was while hugging Jeff before we left for my appointment.
  • The second was when I overheard the receptionist say that I might need a mammogram (If you read my last post, you know that I don’t do too well with mammograms)
  • The third was while I was waiting for the technician and doctor to come back in the room, just for the pure incredulity of the situation.

I chose to finally talk about my experience on my blog because I know I can’t be the only one who has ever gone through or who will ever go through something like this.

This is a very real thing that can happen to anybody.

I am only 23. I was 20 when I first found the lump.

It’s better to detect these sorts of things early on.

  • Please, PLEASE go to yearly check-ups at your gynecologist.
  • If you find any type of abnormality on your body, don’t ignore it! Get checked out!
  • If you are a man reading this, please make sure the women in your life are taking care of themselves.

Thank you for reading, and please spread the word!

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As You Read This…

I am sitting in the waiting room of the Breast Center at Albany Medical.

My body is pressed firmly against the back of the chair. My arms are straight down beside me. My elbows are locked. My hands are grasping the sides of the seat cushion. My finger nails are scratching. My legs are shaking. 

Jeff sits beside me and rubs my back, as I try to breathe in, out, in, out, in…

My name is called.

I walk into what looks like a clothing store fitting room. I remove my shirt and my bra, and wrap a medical robe around me.

I exit the ‘fitting room’, and enter a room full of women. Women who are sitting, waiting, and wearing similar robes. They are much older, and flash sympathetic smiles in my direction. They think, she is too young to be here. Or, maybe that’s only in my head.

I sit. I wait. I stare at the wall. My feet are tapping, as I breathe in, out, in, out, in…

My name is called.

I stand, my arms wrapped around my stomach to keep my robe closed.

I enter the exam room. The door closes.

I wait.

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A Guest Post I wrote for Fit Chick In The City. Originally Published July 21, 2010.

At an annual check-up in May 2007, my OBGYN found a lump in my right breast. “That’s a cyst,” he said very seriously, and handed me a referral to have a mammogram and ultrasound done. That afternoon, while shopping with a friend for an upcoming beach trip, I couldn’t bear to try anything on. I didn’t want to take off my shirt. I didn’t want to think about it at all.

A week later, I had an ultrasound done, and the technician determined that it was a false alarm. There was nothing there. Relieved, I moved on and forgot about it.

In February 2010, while doing a self-exam in my shower, I felt the lump again. This time it was more noticeable. It had always hurt to touch, but this time it felt bigger and hurt more. So, I made an appointment with a different doctor. I got another referral for a mammogram and ultrasound, and cried the rest of the night.

My boyfriend,Jeff, took me to my 8 a.m. appointment at The Breast Center in St. Peter’s hospital in Albany. Unlike my appointment in 2007, where the doctors decided that a mammogram was unnecessary, the mammogram was the first test I walked into that day. Wearing a paper robe, and sitting vulnerably in waiting room with women 20 to 30 years older than me, I wondered what they were thinking. Were they asking themselves “why is this 20-something year old girl here to get a mammogram?” I had no idea what to expect. Thinking back now, I remember my mother telling me in 2007 that mammograms were supposed to hurt, but I wasn’t thinking about it then.

My name was called.

I walked into the room, and took off my robe. The woman explained that she was going to squeeze my breast between two plates and that it might be uncomfortable. That was an understatement. The pain was unbearable. Not only am I an A-cup, but my right breast hurts all the time without having two plates squeezing it together. I started to freak out. I have anxiety problems, and I suddenly felt light-headed, and couldn’t breathe. The plates were the only thing holding me up, and I said to the lady, “I think I’m going to pass out.” Next thing I knew, I was sitting in a chair with my head between my legs. Then, a nurse came in and took my blood pressure. When I finally calmed down from my panic attack, I went on with the test. The nurse handed me a cup of water and told me to eat something as soon as I was done with my tests.

After the mammogram, I was sent back to the waiting room. My ultrasound was up next. When my name was called, I stood up, crossed my fingers behind my back, and walked into the exam room.

“There is something there but I can’t say anything for sure,” the technician said. She left the room with my results, and came back what seemed like a half hour later. In reality, it was only 10 minutes. But 10 minutes is a long time to wait when you’re expecting the worst. She came back and told me there was an abnormality in my breast, and that nine times out of 10, it’s benign (non-cancerous) tumor.

With that news,an appointment with a breast surgeon, and no appetite whatsoever, I left the hospital with Jeff and went to a cafe for brunch. The week between that appointment and my appointment with the breast surgeon dragged. Scared beyond belief, I walked into that appointment fully expecting the worst. “I have breast cancer,” I thought, even though the ultra-sound technician told me it probably wasn’t the case.

The breast surgeon walked in with a nurse and they both stood over me examining my breast. It took him ten minutes before he admitted that he couldn’t find the lump. He left the room to check my films from the ultrasound. I was topless and vulnerable when he walked back into the room with not only the nurse, but another doctor. “We’re pretty sure its a fibroadenoma,” he said. “It has all the characteristics of one.”

A fibroadenoma is a benign, noncancerous tumor, that is firm, movable, rubbery, and painless, he explained. Painless, I asked? Turns out the pain I was experiencing was something completely different. Even if he removed the tumor, I would still experience breast pain, he said. The cause? Non-cyclic Mastalgia, breast pain and tenderness that occurs in women because of hormones. (Note- I’ve since read that a fibroadenoma may, in fact, cause this pain- but doctor knows best, right?).

The doctor gave me a few options. I could have a biopsy done, or I could wait six months to see if the tumor changed in size (as they often do). I chose the latter, and my follow-up ultra-sound and breast surgeon appointment is scheduled for the end of August. I left the doctor that day relieved, but not without doubt. Although fibroadenomas are noncancerous, having one slightly increases the risk that I may develop breast cancer.

I am still healing from a running injury, but I want to run the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in October. It’s more important to me than anything. I just hope my ankle is healed by then. I’m a newbie runner and have never done any races before.

I’ve only told a handful of people my story and only briefly referenced it on my blog. I never wanted people to feel bad for me or think I was not a healthy person. I am the last person any of my friends or family would have expected this to happen to. But, then I realized that something like this could happen to anyone, and there’s no reason to feel ashamed.

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I am strong. I am beautiful. Things will be OK. I know it.

Thank you for reading <3

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