When You Feel a Lump…

Sunday, February 12th started off as a normal day. I worked, hung out with family, and relaxed on the couch until everyone fell asleep. I am always the last to fall asleep, so it was nothing out of the ordinary. After catching up on recorded TV, I grabbed my laptop and sprawled out on the couch. It was then, when I tilted to my side and went to relax on my arm, that I felt something out of the ordinary in my left breast. It was a hard lump.

I fail to do any self-exams, so didn’t know how long it was there prior. All I could think about was if this was really happening? Was it really a lump or was I just imagining things? My instant reaction was to Google…which was the worst decision.

In the morning, I woke up and confirmed it was still there and that I didn’t just imagine it. I was embarrassed to say anything to anyone, even my husband. I told him that I was going to pick up some coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, and would bring him back some. I drove there and parked, took out my cell phone, and called my OB/GYN, hoping for a same day appointment. Instead, I got the soonest appointment, which was 2 days away.

I called my mom to see if she would watch my son, so I could go to my annual, and made no mention of the lump. Inside, I was full of fear and ‘what ifs”. I kept silent and to myself, then cried at night while Googling. I tried to convince myself that it was fine, but I couldn’t take my mind of of it.

That is when, at 1am, I started crying and shaking so hard that I snuck downstairs to call my mom. It was almost as if I was admitting to her about something I did wrong. I thought, why me? At only 30 years old? With my mom being an RN, she was very calming and supportive. I think we talked for about 2 hours, until I was finally laughing again. She agreed that she would go with me to my appointment to be supportive.

I was a mess. I couldn’t sleep, my mind wouldn’t stop racing, and I was a hormonal bundle of tears. My doctor checked the lump and stated that she thought it should be fine, however sent an order for me to get an ultrasound and mammogram. I made the earliest appointment that I could, which was the following day.

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My imaging center attire.

Still embarrassed, I only told my mom. After hearing horror stories of how bad mammograms hurt (it didn’t at all), I was just concerned if I was going to die. Call me a hypochondriac, but my mind would only direct itself to the worst case scenario. The mammogram and ultrasound showed that, indeed, it was a solid mass and not a cyst. I tried to listen to the doctor, but just broke out in tears. Although they stated that 80% of solid masses are benign (non-cancerous), it was not the confirmation I needed to hear to calm my nerves.

Next step was a biopsy. Still not focused, they ran through a list of what would happen during the procedure.  The first available appointment was six days away. After I went home, I finally told my husband. He wished that I had told him sooner, however I was just scared.

My anxiety ran on fear. Since I work online, Dr. Google was always on call in my search bar. I have a chronic cough from allergies, so convinced myself that I had cancer and it was spreading to my lungs. I sometimes get swollen lymph nodes under my eczema, which is normal, however in my mind, it wasn’t. My insomnia resembled fatigue during the day, so I marked that off as a symptom. I was running my body down on thoughts.

Tuesday, February 21st had arrived…the day of the core biopsy. I wasn’t scared of the procedure, I was just scared for the results. Yet again, I broke out in tears, due to fear. I couldn’t even think about the 3 huge needles or the piece of tissue they had to remove to test. Afterwards, I was prepped on what I had to do at home and was told I would get results in 3-5 business days.

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Marks the core biopsy left behind on the side of my breast.

By this time, my muscles became very tense and my body ached, convincing myself that it was moving to the bone and I only had 2 years to live. Should I start making a bucket list? What would happen without me there? This is what happens when you obsessively search every symptom online.

On Thursday, February 23rd, I finally got the nerve to feel the lump again, which was bruised from the biopsy. I felt in the place that it was, but it seemed significantly smaller, which gave me some hope.

On Friday, February 24th, I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize, however it was from my doctor’s office. The woman on the other end stated that they got the results early and wanted to let me know before the weekend. When she said “it is benign”, it made my weekend, my year, my life. Turns out, it was a Fibroadenoma, which is a benign tumor that comes and goes from hormones, and happens to be common with young women.

As “common” as it was, I never heard of it and always associated a breast lump with cancer. I blamed myself and was embarrassed, however, if I had opened up and told more family and friends what was going on, I would have had more support, which is something I definitely needed. If I wouldn’t have raised Google’s stock by typing in every symptom, question, and concern, I may not have been as stressed out.

There are a lot of “ifs”, but I can’t imagine what would have happened if the results were not what I wanted to hear. I can’t imagine what the people on the many message boards were going through. They are so tough, so brave, and stronger than I ever could be. Some just finding out, some fighting, and some battling numerous battles. However, although they list out their diagnosis, procedures, and stages, not once did I see anyone being harsh or rude. They were a supportive bunch who were optimistic through everything. It was empowering.

I have always supported finding a cure for this awful disease. Every October since high school, I have participated in breast cancer walks in support of my great-grandma, who was a breast cancer survivor. Although she is no longer with us due to unrelated causes, I know she was watching over me. I wish I could give her a huge hug right now and tell her how much I admire her strength.

Last year, I signed up for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk, however failed to raise enough funds. I volunteered for the event a few years back, and the women who walked inspired me. How can someone, who is battling for their life, be so uplifting and optimistic? This could be you, this could be me, this could be someone you know in the future. You will never really know.

This year, I am determined to raise enough funds to walk in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day in San Diego in November. This is for those who fight for their families, who fight for their self, and fight for their lives during their grueling battle. This is for those who sat in the waiting room to receive news that their life was about to be changed forever. This is for the families that have to endure the battle as well, and be there for one another. This is to awareness…it doesn’t matter how old or young you are. Early detection is important and self-exams are pertinent and annual scans are important. This is for my great-grandma. This is for everyone. This is for the fight. This is for hope. This is for a cure.

If you would like to walk 60 miles in 3 days, I would encourage you to walk with me!

If you are unable to walk, but would like to help me raise donations to walk, click here or let me know.

Lastly, I apologize to family and friends who are just now reading this, wondering why I didn’t tell them prior or why I have been so distant the last couple weeks. I didn’t want to block you out, I was just scared. I want to thank my mom and husband for being so supportive and caring. Also, thank you to my 4 year old, who didn’t know what was going on, and thought I had “something in my eye” because I was crying. He was a huge support, making me smile, telling me that it was going to be okay, and to just breathe. I am thankful that everything is okay, however seeing how precious life is being put into perspective, I want to continue to help and support others.

written-by-nikki

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