“I have a bad feeling about this.” Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace
I have never had a major health issue in my life. Sure, when I was younger, I had many ear infections, got strep throat like once a year, and was easily affected by the hot summer heat. But once I graduated college, I grew out of that and rarely visited the doctor except for my annual gynecological checkups. I always knew that I should be consistent in doing a self breast exam but so much of me is just not consistent! But every year, I’d go see my gynecologist and everything would be fine. I started to get better at routinely checking my breasts, and boy am I glad I did.
In early 2016, I was lying on my bed and examined myself. I thought I felt something out of place, but it wasn’t in a spot that I expected to find a tumor. In fact, it just felt like part of my rib. So, every week I would check it, and it would still be there and would get a little sore. I assumed it was from me messing with it. I have sensitive skin and can easily bruise, so it didn’t seem out of the ordinary, but eventually I got worked up about it and called the nurse at my doctor’s office. I knew I had an appointment coming up but I wanted to make sure it was okay to wait. She told me to wait…
The day arrived and I informed my doctor of my concern. He did the exam and stated that it was NOT a lump and that it was just a ligament in my chest. He asked me to feel the opposite side of my chest to show that it was similar. It made sense. I believed him… And I was relieved.
Did it then occur to me to go online and find an image of the human body and the location of the chest ligaments? It sure did! I don’t remember what I found, but it appeased me.
As the months went on, I would think about it and feel it… And then think and feel and think and feel. Only my husband and a friend knew I had a concern when I first asked my doctor, but otherwise, I had told no one. And I had never brought it up again, but it was churning in my mind.
2016 had already been a difficult year dealing with other personal issues and deaths in the family. My uncle died of cancer, and I decided I should see my primary doctor.
The statistics were in my favor: in my thirties, no immediate family history, good health, etc… There are many other things that it could have been. A ligament like my gynecologist said, a benign cyst… So, after seeing my primary doctor, he thought it was best to have a mammogram which was something I never had before because “in my thirties, no immediate family history, etc, etc, etc…” I had to wait three days to do that. While waiting for the radiologist to look at the images, they gave me a brochure on breast cancer. Yay, something to make it not remotely less scary in any way! And then the call came that I needed a biopsy done. I knew. I could kid myself and the nurses could say that the chances were slim because “in my thirties, no immediate blah blah blah blah blah.” And I had to wait again because that was a Thursday and it took two “business” days. All weekend I had to wait. Monday I knew I was getting that call but I had to be at work all day and I REFUSED to answer that call at work. So, I had to call Tuesday morning because all the doctor said in the voicemail was to call him back.
And it was cancer.