Sunday, March 21, 2010

What I always knew

Since I have several relatives that have had breast cancer, I have always been vigilant about checking myself and going in when things don’t seem right. This has not always been easy, because every month when I checked, I felt a “bag of marbles”. Once I felt one that seemed not to fade as the others periodically did. I called my regular doctor who ordered a mammogram. A week later I received a card in the mail that said “your mammogram shows that you do not have cancer”. I wasn’t really worried, yet that particular lump still did not fade.

After a couple more months, I called the Breast Care facility to see if I could get an appointment with them. I went in and saw a Nurse Practitioner who, upon pulling up my file, asked why I hadn’t consulted earlier. I was confused. She informed me that my mammogram had showed several areas of concern and that I should have had them checked out. After much discussion, I realized that the insurance company sends these cards out automatically and I should have asked for a copy of the report.

Then we talked about my family history and she asked if my mother, sisters or aunts had any history of breast cancer. Well I don’t have any sisters and neither does my dad, and my mom and her sister were just fine. She said not to worry since only 10% of the breast cancers are genetic. Then she did an ultrasound and said that, yes there was something there and let’s just get it out. She set me up with a surgeon for a lumpectomy.

The surgery went well and every thing came out benign. I was scheduled for checks every six months. Usually when I went in she did an ultrasound and then drained whatever cyst was bothering me at the time. After three years of this she said it was time for another mammogram. I argued with her saying that I didn’t see the point since they automatically sent out cards saying that it did not show cancer. Finally she prevailed and I went in for one. This time I received a handwritten note from her saying that everything was fine. This was April 1, 2008.

About four weeks later I found a lump in the shower that was very different than all the rest. First, it was very painful and, second, it was right behind my left nipple. I knew immediately what this was, but didn’t want to believe it. After all, I had just been in last month. I tried to ignore it but it got more and more painful. After a week of denial, I called to get another appointment. At the appointment she did an ultrasound and then said I needed to go in for a digital ultrasound. I asked why that was needed and she said it would show things more clearly. They would call to set up an appointment.

Two days later they called and asked if I could come in on June 20th. Well, that happened to be the weekend that I had signed up as a chaperone for my daughter’s trip to Colorado with her choir. We had planned for months and invested quite a bit of money into the trip. And, my daughter wouldn’t go without me. The next appointment was on July 1st. I didn’t really want to wait that long, but I took it. In the meantime, we finished the school year, went camping (twice), started the summer session (I’m a Math teacher), and went to Colorado with the choir. All the while I knew I had a time bomb ticking away.

On July first I went in, by myself, and had the digital sonogram. Afterward, they called in a doctor who said I needed a consult. He said I needed a biopsy done and one was scheduled for the following Tuesday. When I got home I told my husband that the doctor gave me the creeps so I called back with the excuse of wanting a female doctor and was given another doctor who could see me that Tuesday also.

The next week I was volunteering at my church’s Vacation Bible School but my appointment was in the afternoon and the kids went home at 1:00. This time my mom decided to go with me. So we went and they took several core samples of the lump and a swollen lymph node. Then they wanted to take another mammogram. Again I argued, saying I had just had one and didn’t want another. They said it was necessary for the surgeon to be able to locate things. Now I knew, but was still holding out hope that it was not what I thought it was.

On Friday, right after my husband got home from work, the doctor called my house and confirmed that it was indeed cancer and said the surgeon would be calling on Monday to set up an appointment. I told my husband, and we cried together. Then we made dinner, told our two kids and went to the musical that the VBS kids had been preparing all week.


  1. Thanks for sharing!!

    I am, once again, shocked to read that your cargiver notified you by PHONE!! I am starting to appreciate how caring my radiologist is!

    One thing that struck me while reading about your experience, and reflecting on my own, is the fluidity of time. We feel so pressured about every day and every hour. But cancer does not usually move so fast. So, statistically, waiting a week or two does not really affect anything.

    That said, your insurance company was negligent and there should be some ramifications for sending out a false negative report.

  2. I was amazed that so soon into your cancer life you were able to just continue to go on with life. I'm glad you did, it helps the family try to maintain normalcy.

    But, your story still made me cry. I HATE CANCER and I hate it that that is what drawing us together, but I am still thankful that we are together.

    Stay strong, friend!