The news wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I don’t think I was ready to accept anything but “Benign! Congratulations!” so when the call with my pathology was taking a while, I started to worry. I fucking knew it.
“This isn’t just a lipoma or fibroadenoma. It’s actually a very rare tumor and we need to make sure it doesn’t come back. We found some irregularities and will need to do another surgery to take bigger margins.”
Twenty minutes later I asked myself why I was ugly-crying by myself in the bathroom, and I think the answer is that, ready or not, I knew it the whole time. I was overwhelmed by the mixture of frustration and relief.
Throughout the process, I sought the opinion of several different medical professionals, most of whom told me it was nothing to worry about. They go away at menopause. I had to ask for a referral for a mammogram, despite being a 23-year-old with a 4cm lump. I even made the imaging specialist physically show it to me. She pointed to the “hamartoma,” like it was a piece of gum. Nothing to worry about. You’re young.
Now, imagine if I would have waited long enough for those irregularities to metastasize, to fester into a bigger problem. I don’t know why I was so stubborn about it, but I wanted a biopsy, damnit. I wasn’t satisfied with some lady pointing to a picture and telling me that this enormous mass was no big deal. And thank God, because she was wrong.
As I’ve been perusing the breast forums lately (not the fun kind), I am nowhere near the first to encounter this. I’ve probably read about a dozen stories already of women who “just knew,” and getting a second, fifth, or sixth opinion saved their lives. My hope is that my persistence (and theirs) will teach you to be an advocate for your own health.
Here’s what I want you to take from this, right now.
- Squeeze your boobs. Learn what they feel like at different times of the month. Learn what they look like, nips and all. What you’re looking for is something out of the ordinary. The best time to check is right after your period. Do this every month (Gentlemen, learn what your breast tissue is like normally, and check regularly).
- Pay attention to even small changes. I found the mass when it was quite small. When it was removed, it was a small apple. An organic apple, if you will.
- Trust your intuition, and get a second opinion. Or a second second opinion, and so on, until you know definitively what you’re facing. Knowing is much less frightening than wondering.
- Doctors are human, and they can be wrong (refer to number 3). If you feel that a doctor isn’t listening to you because of your age, or isn’t giving you all the options you want (in my case, I didn’t want to be malformed, so I found a surgeon who respected my wishes), get a different doctor. It’s a pain, but it sure beats finding out too late.
Thank you for giving me a place to sound off about this, and I wish you all health and happiness.
Stupid Person Looking at Cassie’s tattoo: Is that a bird on your wrist?
Cassie: WHAT?! OH MY GOD! GET IT OFF! IT WON’T COME OFF!