This past Monday, Mint posted about her very moving experience at the Madison Race for the Cure. Not only did Mint discuss running the race with her sons, but more poignantly, she spoke of a friend who is a six-year survivor and a dear (YOUNG) family member who has been recently diagnosed. Wow, did these stories hit home – for me, with gratitude and survivor’s guilt at that same time.
You see, I was just “nominated” for the disease last year. I was lucky; my lump was not cancer and as a result, I experienced only a few days and only a portion of the fear that so many of our sisters have to face. I had merely had a “scare,” and after a few horrible days, I was released to go about my life as I knew it. But your perception changes. You simply can’t find a lump in your breast without thinking “what if?” And “what would I do?” And “what is our action plan if?”
Those are long days, no matter what the outcome.
What’s most scary, though? To me, what was most scary was that I found this lump during a monthly self-exam, at virtually the same time certain medical and media outlets were beginning to advise against self-exams. They were saying that they created unnecessary fear and anxiety for women; that they were a drain on the health insurance system because unnecessary tests were being ordered due to things women “found” during self-exams. Really? Thanks for the advice, but I’ll gladly trade five minutes of fear and anxiety each month for the benefits of early detection – and the increased odds of successful treatment and years being added to my life.
Mint reminded us all to do our monthly self-exams. Mint reminded us that breast cancer does not discriminate. It doesn’t care if you’re young, old, rich, poor, pregnant, infertile, athletic, overweight, educated or a dropout. Your number one risk factor for breast cancer: being a woman.
My story had an easy ending, and I share it below. Because just being nominated is scary enough, and we women here at Salty Running can’t let this opportunity pass by.
Two Fridays ago, I found a lump.
A real lump, not something I was poking around at or being an obsessive-compulsive hypochondriac about.
It started out simply enough, I was doing my ab work on the floor and needed to do the monthly check. And boom. There it was. A lump.
So I kept trying to convince myself I was imagining it or something similar. Then I had Darris check it.
He immediately started trying to tell me that I had been doing a lot more upper body work this summer, and he was sure it was just a muscle or something related to that.
I asked him if he felt a lump. He did.
I had to wait until Monday to make an appointment with my doctor; I was able to get in on Tuesday. I was trying hard to be convinced by my husband’s conviction that it was some kind of muscle issue and they would just send me home. Right away, though, she felt it too.
She did tell me that she didn’t think it had the standard characteristics of a breast cancer, and that she didn’t have the “pit in her stomach” that she does when she feels some things. But, she said, not only was this a new lump, but I was over 35, which meant I was going for a mammogram and an ultrasound.
Luckily, they were able to get me in for that the next day (I specifically asked if there had been any cancellations), and the clinic I went to has same day, in office results. It turns out to be some fibrocystic tissue, and the reason it seemed to appear so suddenly is that I had some significant weight loss this summer (training for BR) – and of course, most of it was up top. Which made this little ridge of tissue more evident.
So I was very, very lucky and I am very, very relieved. But I beg of you:
Feel yourself up. Every month. No matter how young you are, no matter how low your risk factors, no matter how scary. Feel yourself up. Whether you’re pregnant, nursing, or think you don’t have enough boobage to speak of. Feel yourself up.
Luckily, this was something literally and metaphorically benign. But if it hadn’t been, and I hadn’t found it on a Friday night in August, I would not have been due back for my annual check-up until late January. So if it had been something, and I hadn’t found it, it could have sat there and done extremely dangerous things for almost five more months before it was found.
Feel yourself up. It might be the scariest five minutes of your month, but in the worst case scenario, it could save your life.
And your life is worth it.