I never thought I’d be in this position at 25. I’ve got an amazing husband, three amazing children, a lovely home, friends that I can actually count on and I’m finishing up my bachelor’s degree… Yet here I am, researching every night until the early hours of the morning, “early breast cancer symptoms”, “Paget’s disease early symptoms”, “can a single bleeding duct be benign”, “itching nipples with discharge”, etc.
2 weeks ago, I bent over in my bathroom to pick up the roll of toilet paper that I dropped and blood dripped on the floor. I couldn’t figure out where the blood came from so I didn’t think much of it. A few days later, I wore a white bra for the first time in ages and, at the end of the day, there was a circular spot of blood where my nipple sat. My heart rate quickened. I had a strong family history of cancer, breast cancer ranking at the top of the list. But this was just a little blood. It could be anything.
I calmed myself down and began a breast self exam. I don’t do them as often as I should but I usually do 7-8 a year. Over the years, I’ve learned that I have naturally lumpy breasts. While I was feeling my breast tissue, I noticed there was some changes to my skin. Some dimpling on the underside of my breast. I started thinking about things that had been happening recently that I chalked up to hormones. Itchiness in particular. My nipple was constantly itchy. There had been some burning sensations that had gradually gotten worse.
Then I felt it. A small, lemon seed-like lump on the right side of my left breast. It was deep in the tissue. But it was there. My heart sank. I immediately thought about my girls. The youngest just barely 6 months old and very dependent on mommy. The oldest, 9. And starting the “change”. My middle child is starting school this year. Here I am with a lump, itchy, burning breasts and bloody discharge from a single milk duct.
I called my doctors office to make an appointment with my OBGYN. The lady at the appointment center asked why I needed an appointment so I explained about the bleeding and subsequent lump. “Can you please hold for just a moment?” Sure… 5 minutes go by “Mrs. _____?” Yes. I’m still here. “Mrs. ___, I’m not going to be able to schedule you for the OBGYN for this. I spoke with the office of our breast surgeon and they would like you to speak with you about your symptoms before any appointment is set. Are you okay with this?” Um. Yes? I mean, I – Yes. That’s ok. “Thank you Mrs. ___. Someone will be calling you before the end of today. Is this the best number to reach you?” Yes ma’am. “Great. I’ll make a note of that in your chart. And Mrs. ____?” Yes. “Good luck.”
The breast surgeon? Why was this necessary so quickly? I tend to be a bit of a hypochondriac. So I stay away from Dr. Google otherwise I’d be a bundle of nerves on a consistent basis. So I paced. For 2 hours, I paced. A million and one thoughts flashed through my mind. When my phone rang, I answered it without hesitation. “Mrs. ____?” Yes. “Hello, my name is Sheryl. I’m work in the breast specialists office. Do you have a few minutes to discuss your symptoms?” Yes ma’am. “Ok, can you tell me what happened, when it started and what your concerns are?” For the next 10 minutes, I explained in detail what had happened and when it did so. She was silent the whole time. When I finally took a breath, she began “Mrs. ____. Based on what you have told me, I think we need to get you into the radiologist as soon as possible. The symptoms you have described can be a few different things but they are most commonly associated with malignancy. I will be sending a message to your doctor to request orders for an ultrasound and a bilateral diagnostic mammogram to be completed as soon as possible. They have 48 hours to get back to you but be expecting a call by tomorrow morning at the latest. Do you have any questions?” Um. I’m sorry. Yes? Maybe. No. It’s ok. I’ll wait for the appointment. “Mrs. ____, I realize this is a lot to process. And as hard as it will be, try not to worry until after the testing is completed. Your symptoms sound like trouble, but you could be one of those women who just have a benign condition. If you have any questions or concerns or just need to talk about what you’re feeling, this is my personal cell number, feel free to call me.” Thank you Sheryl. I really appreciate it. “Good luck Mrs. ___.”
Dr. Google became my best friend after that phone call. I felt the only way for me to not freak out would be to read as much about the possibilities as possible. Knowledge is power. And I wanted as much power at this point as I could get. I didn’t sleep that night. All I could do was research. Photos of breast cancer, photos of skin changes, forums of survivors, questions asking about the same symptoms I had.
The call from the appointment line came early. “Mrs. ___?” Yes. “Mrs. ___, Dr. ___ has sent orders for an ultrasound of your left breast followed by a bilateral diagnostic mammogram. When is a good time for you to come in?” Um, as soon as possible. “Ok, I can get you in Monday at 9am, or Friday at 1pm. Do either of those work for you?” Friday, please. “Ok, great. On the day of your appointment, don’t wear any perfumes, body sprays, lotions, powders or deodorants okay?” Ok. “Alright. Your appointment is set for Friday at 1pm for your ultrasound and 2pm for your mammogram. Good Luck Mrs. ___”.
It’s been 4 days since my appointment was set. And 4 days full of searching, reading, worrying and dread. Last night, I had a dream that I woke up and found a dark purple bruise like coloring on my breast with a large dimple and puckering. It fast forwarded to a doctors office where I was informed that I did, indeed, have breast cancer. Normally this kind of dream would leave me in panic but I woke up and was oddly at peace. All day today I have been… serene. I opened up my computer this evening and found several cases where women have had dreams about being told they had cancer before it was diagnosed. A few where the dream was the sole reason they went to be checked to begin with.