Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Breast Betrayal

I've wanted to start a blog for a long time but being a new mom, and working full time, I had never gotten around to it. I definitely never thought when I did start one, the word "jugs" would be in the title and it would revolve around the happenings of my chest. But then again, I never expected to hear the words "your test results came back positive for cancer" at the age of 33.

Or maybe I did. I've always felt like I was going to get it was hot on my heels. I thought that feeling just made me a hypochondriac. Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely a bit of a hypochondriac and over the years I've had all types of cancers in my head. Brain tumors, lung cancer, bladder cancer, ovarian cancer, skin cancer at least 3 times each year, leukemia, lymphoma, and I've even dedicated a good amount of time to non-cancer terminal illnesses like ALS. But I never once worried about breast cancer. I feel like if I spent a few weeks back in '05 obsessing about it, I wouldn't be where I'm at right now.

I didn't worry because I'm way too young and I have no family history. This is a common misconception about breast cancer as only 5-10% of women with breast cancer have family histories. And the risk of a 30 year old woman developing breast cancer in the next 10 years is about 1 in 227 or 0.4%. While I was waiting for biopsy results something occurred to me-I think I have 500+ friends on Facebook and the majority of them are women. Odds are, 2 of us are going to be diagnosed. Would one of them be me?

I never did breast exams but having just breastfed my daughter for 7 months, I was certainly very familiar with these backstabbers. Before getting into the shower on February 12th I absentmindedly ran my hand along the underside of my left breast and there it was. It came out of no where and it made my blood turn cold. I actually almost passed out from the horror of what I discovered. I could barely make it through the shower due to the panic attack I was having. I immediately called my OBGYN when they opened and was able to get in at 3:15pm that day.  When I got to the appointment I walk into a waiting room of women sitting in the dark with the emergency lights around the ceiling glowing. The electricity had gone out and they were sending everyone home. How great would that be if it was just your annual pelvic exam? These ladies looked like they won the lottery. When the nurse came to take my name to reschedule me, through tears I whispered "I found a lump in my breast" and the nurse made sure I was able to get an lamp light. My doctor examined me, announced that the lump was smooth and moveable, two good characteristics. But to be safe, he would be sending me for an ultrasound. It was set up for Valentine's Day and he assured me he didn't think I should worry about it.

I calmed down. On February 14th, I was anxious to get to my ultrasound appointment and have my breast cancer fears squashed. It didn't go quite how I had hoped. The ultrasound took too long, the tech looked confused, and she told me to not get dressed and stay there in the dark room while she went to talk to the radiologist. In walks the radiologist, which is never a good thing. He looks for himself. It doesn't meet the criteria of a cyst, he says. He will need to do a biopsy. I ask him if it looks like cancer and he says he can't rule it out until a biopsy is done. I go back at 2:30 that day for the biopsy. I can't tell you the details because I had my eyes closed the whole time but I'm told that a core needle biopsy involves a very big needle which they stick into the tumor and then there's a loud snap and it sucks up a piece of the tumor into the needle. They do this about 6 times. Then they put a titanium marker into my breast so that if it is something bad, they know where to look for the area if surgery were needed. The doctor tells me he will call me tomorrow with the results between 3-4 pm.

I am not able to shower for the next day or lift anything so I decide to take the day off work. I spend the whole day googling benign solid breast lumps. I find something called a fibroadenoma which looks like my lump did on the ultrasound. It's common in women in their 20's and 30's. Whew, that's gotta be it! I also google breast cancer statistics and find I have a 0.44% chance at developing breast cancer at my age. So surely that isn't it.

Except at 2:30 pm my phone rings. And it is IT. I can tell right away from the radiologist's voice. Invasive ductal carcinoma and ductal carcinoma in situ. He gives me a number for the Pinnacle breast clinic, at my OBGYN's recommendation. I write down the number and hang up. I can't dial the breast clinic, my fingers cannot find the numbers. Eric takes the phone and calls them for me but then I grab the phone and am able to talk. I set up an appointment for 6 days away. 6 days away?! I was just diagnosed with breast cancer, this is an emergency!! But that is the earliest I can get in. I hang up the phone and begin to cry and I don't stop for days.