In August of 2012, while I was walking, I felt a strange sensation of pressure near the surface of my left breast. Odd, but I didn’t give it much more thought until a couple of days later when I found a not-so-small mass.
Intense fear. Pappa, please don’t let this be cancer. I’ve lost too many people I loved to it. Seen so much pain. Not me please.
Eventually, I gathered myself together, did what I always do in a health crises. I sat down to research the possible causes, checking off symptoms, descriptions. Remembered how during the months previous I’d been drinking a lot of ginger ale to deal with nausea, dizziness. Increased fatigue. I’d been showing signs of trouble for some time. As I read, I felt/hoped that it was likely a fibroadenoma, a non-cancerous hormonally-related tumor.
I left it for several months in hopes that it would shrink, disappear on its own. When it didn’t, I found out more about a non-invasive, radiation-free scan called thermography. I looked up where I could have one done locally, found a doctor who knew how to read them, someone who would be able to recommend alternative follow-up treatments.
In January, I had the scan. It showed wide-spread inflammation and acute where the mass was. My doctor recommended an MRI for further information. Had that. Got a call from the diagnostic center the next day saying they wanted me to come back in for a sonogram. That scan revealed two nodules. One about 3cm in diameter by nearly 1cm, which showed signs of a blood supply. A concern. The other was about 1/3 the size, no blood supply. No lymph involvement. The diagnostician wanted to do a biopsy right away. Sitting across from him, he was talking to me about risks, that they’d leave two small pieces of titanium behind to mark the spots, making it easier to locate/monitor them in future tests, for surgery. He handed me release forms. I signed them.
I was caught in the machine. More information. More information. Probably would have gone ahead immediately if it hadn’t been after 5p. The staff had gone home.
My husband, not caught, feeling more pushed at than anything, thought it would be a good idea to talk with my doctor first before proceeding. I slowly came out of my fear-induced compliance.
Right. Better idea. I didn’t call the clinic back to set an appointment.
When I saw my doctor, she reviewed my results and recommended a lumpectomy, no biopsy, let them examine the tumor afterwards rather than going through two procedures.
There are not many things that scare me more than the idea of being in a hospital. Visiting others, fine, but not me. Didn’t have my son at the hospital. Home birth, highly trained midwife. Rather deal with the full-on pain than be at the mercy of some doctor’s schedule, agenda, signing my rights away, losing full say about what’s done with my child. No privacy. I’d never sleep. No thank you.
I’d rather face this on my own terms than become another nameless test case for the invasive, often incorrect (“The Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that 26 percent of cases were misdiagnosed while, according to The Journal of Clinical Oncology, up to a startling 44 percent of some types of cancer are misdiagnosed.” Seattle Times, 4/27/12), slash/burn/poison machine of the medical industry. Please understand, I’m not a complete anti-medicalist. In the case of an accident, immediate, life-threatening situations, I’m very thankful for the training, expertise and dedication of doctors, the care available at hospitals. Wounds stitched. Broken limbs set so they can heal. But this, to me, was different.
Aside from all that, there was also the reality that our insurance coverage is a catastrophic plan in conjunction with an HSA. Deductible is $10,000 before copays go into effect for elective procedures. Only wellness care is covered before the deductible is met.
I was determined to uncover the source of the tumor, discover what I needed to do in order to heal, to find a reset button. The tumor became a gauge. It’s so close the surface, I can measure it with a caliper. If it grows, I need to change what I’m doing. If it shrinks, I’m on the right track. If I have it removed, it wouldn’t change what’s going on inside my body that caused this in the first place. I have to repair the damage. I want to heal for real.
Next part: Fast forward to the summer of 2014…
(image source: freepik)