There are lots of routine, boring things you do every month or week or day to just keep things going. Since I was 18 and learned how to do a self-exam of my breasts at a Pride event, that’s been a boring monthly thing I just do without much thought. My grandmother had survived breast cancer once 25 years ago and is now battling it again. It’s spread all over her body now, recently showing up as a giant tumor in her brain. We found out about the brain tumor about a month ago. I scrambled to get things together to go down to Virginia to help my family and most importantly, Grandmother, during a very tough time. We talked and talked about pictures I was finding in boxes. I figured out how to push her wheelchair as we went in for her radiation treatments.
So last Tuesday I jumped in the shower, and without much thought, starting giving myself an exam. It took all of 5 seconds for me to feel it. A lump. My thoughts just stopped. Can’t be. I felt again. It was still there.
Do you really want to keep feeling for it? Maybe it will just go away? I suddenly didn’t want to do the exam anymore. I didn’t want to feel that weird thing sitting in my body. Whatever it was. I went to bed not wanting to think about it. Be overwhelmed by it. But the first thing I did when I woke up was to feel for it. It was still sitting there.
Honestly, my first thought was “Fuck. It’s really still there?”. I thought maybe it would be absorbed into my body. Or hormones. Or the fact I’m so exhausted from working that I just was feeling normal breast tissue and I was doing something wrong. I know a bit about breast cancer and knew the chances were super slim it was anything dangerous. But it was a lump. I called my mom to see if she had ever felt a lump. She hadn’t. Which made me feel extra horrible. But she tried to reassure me with all the stats I already knew.
Then I had to call my doctor. That made it official. Yup, I found a lump nurse and I’m not totally freaking out. Yet. So that’s where I found myself, in my socks and exam gown. My biggest hope was that she would not feel the lump. Or feel it and be like, ‘Silly girl, that’s just *insert normal thing you find in your breast*’. I had been thinking about my own boobs way too much at this point and just wanted to be told the issue didn’t exist. But she found it right away. Again, my thought was, “Fuck. It’s really still there?”. I’m lucky to have a level headed internist that actually talks to me. She talked to me about cysts and various other things. And she told me point blank she wasn’t worried. We needed to get me a ultrasound but it was such a slim chance it was cancer.
Walking out of the office, I got a little freaked out and felt a little scratchy in my throat. I wanted her to say it was nothing 100%. I wanted her to not even feel the lump. I wanted it to be normal. But the ultrasound appointment reminded me it was something I needed to actually get checked out. Even if it was a small chance.
So right now, this lump is just sitting with me. I’m waiting till my appointment to get the ultrasound. Whatever it is, I’m darn glad I do self-exams. I’m darn glad my grandmother fought her own breast cancer so bravely. And I’m darn sure that there are other young women who are waiting to get their own test results. Are finding their own lumps. Whatever it is, it’s ok to get that scratchy feeling in your throat. To start being afraid of your own breasts. Like they are not your own body parts. Don’t wait- call the doctor. Get it checked.
This post was written before my ultrasound appointment. I’m blessed enough to have wonderful technicians and doctors walk me through the appointment and results. My lump is a cyst, not cancer, and I don’t have to get a mammogram. My grandmother waited 6 months after finding her lump to go to a doctor. Fear consumed her and then she had to be brave and fight for her life. Don’t ever wait. Don’t let fear paralyze you. Reach out. Do self-exams. Be aware.