The post of many feels

I found a lump in my breast.

It could be nothing – Dear God, I hope it’s nothing.  Please let it be nothing! – but it could be something.  And if it’s something, then it will be my very worst fear come true.

My mother died of breast cancer at the age of 31, just one year after diagnosis.  Hers was an advanced and aggressive cancer; her doctors offered her little hope.  But she took what little they offered her and fought bravely for a year for us, for my dad, my sister, and me.  She battled hair loss and weight gain and nausea and everything else that goes with being a cancer patient, and when she finally succumbed to death, she was smiling.

I am not as brave as my mother.

Finding a lump in my breast – and worse, finding I had cancer – has always been my deepest fear.  I grew up without a mother and I don’t want that for my own children.  I know that even if I did die before they were grown that they would not face the same challenges I faced, but that is of little comfort to me.

I want to see my children grow into happy, responsible, productive adults.  I want to see my grandchildren someday.  I want to be able to enjoy my retirement years with my husband and do some of the things I’ve always dreamed of doing.  I want to travel.  But if, like my mother, I succumb to cancer at an early age, I won’t get to do any of those things.

***

I went to the doctor this morning; I found the lump on  Saturday, so I had to wait till today to get in.  Talk about a long weekend!  I love my doctor; she and her nurse both took my concerns very seriously.  The doctor found some thickening and decided that I should have some tests done, so she set me up for a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound on Friday morning.  She didn’t detect the lump that Seymour found, but even he said that it was so small he almost didn’t find it. She said that pain is good, because it could just be a cyst, which would be nothing, and that cancer doesn’t usually present with pain.

I hope she’s right.  If it has to be anything, a non-cancerous cyst is something I could handle.  I think.  I mean, it’s better than cancer, right?  Right.  So.

On the other hand, she told the nurse to refer to the thickening as a questionable mass when scheduling my tests, and that freaked me the hell out.  Questionable mass?  That definitely sounds bad.

I don’t wait well.  I’m trying not to give myself an ulcer.  It’s not working.

***

Well, trying to keep my mind off things today has been…interesting.  It’s the second day of my new job; you’d think I’d have all I can handle.  And I do.  But there are those down times, and moments where I’m not as busy, and then it’s the first thing to pop into my mind.  I want to talk about it, yet I don’t.  I want to call up my sister, who won’t talk to me under normal circumstances, and say, “Look, I don’t care how you do it, but you need to be checked out.  Get the test done and figure out how to pay for it later.”  But that won’t happen; she’ll never speak to me again.

I’m so tired.  I want to just sleep straight through till Friday so that I don’t have to think about this anymore, or at least not until I know something more and know whether or not I should really be worried, or if I’m just completely overreacting.  Every time I look at my kids, I just want to hug them and squeeze them and never let them go, never, never, never.  I think how my mom must have felt looking at my sister and me and knowing that her time with us was growing short, and I wonder if I am in the same boat – am I nearing the end of my time with my children?  Dear God, I hope not.  I can’t bear the thought of not seeing them grow up.

***

I managed not to think about things too much yesterday. Well, except for an email I sent a friend about what’s been going on.  And a phone call from another friend, one of my oldest, where I spilled the beans.  And a text convo with another friend who I was going to tell but didn’t because we were talking about her abcessed tooth.  But otherwise…

Today, though?  This morning I was listening to my George Strait station on Pandora while I fixed food to take to a Fourth of July party.  Every other song seemed to have me thinking about it.  I found myself almost in tears on a couple of occasions as I tried (and failed) to get the deviled eggs right.  It’s been just at the back of my thoughts all day today, even as I tried to enjoy myself with family.  I just can’t stop thinking.

Maybe I’m just massively overreacting.  Maybe it really is nothing; it doesn’t hurt anymore, at least not like it did Saturday.  I’m glad it stopped hurting, but it hasn’t stopped me worrying.  Thank goodness those tests are in the morning – I don’t think I could stand having to wait any longer.  I hope the results will be in quickly.

***

Everything came back normal!  I went to the hospital this morning and had the mammogram and ultrasound that my doctor ordered Monday.  It seemed to take forever, and I don’t know if it was because they were actually that busy or because I was so nervous.  We had to wait for the doctor to finish a biopsy on someone before she came to see us and in the end, she recommended that I have an annual mammogram followed up six months later with an annual MRI, just to make sure everything is on the up-and-up.  I’m at high risk for developing breast cancer, which I already knew, but the doctor told me that according to my history, my risk is at 43% and anything over 20% is considered high.  She also said that if I have the BRCA gene (which I don’t know and don’t care to know), then my risk jumps into the 60-80% range.

Sobering statistics.

But our camping trip started today and I decided that we were going to have fun if it killed us, so I bought a bottle of bubbly and we opened it after supper. Seymour gave the best toast ever: “To negative results.”

May my results for these sorts of things always be negative.

***

I don’t normally get into issues here.  And I struggled with the decision to post this.  But this is a very personal topic for me and it affects so many women around the world.  I hope that by sharing what I spent a couple of weeks dealing with, it will inspire people to do regular self-exams and see their doctors annually.  I hope I’ve at least encouraged someone, somewhere to educate themselves on what to look out for.  After all, it could have been so much worse and for too many people, it is.

May your results for these sorts of things always be negative, too.

(c) 2013. All rights reserved.

28 thoughts on “The post of many feels

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      Thanks, Will! Nothing kicks off a camping trip like a bit of great news. And this news was definitely great.

      Of course, when we got back and told everyone the results, my mother-in-law said, “See? I told you it was probably nothing and not to go borrowing trouble!” She kills me. 😀

      Like

  1. M T McGuire says:

    Blimey that sounds like a tough week! I absolutely understand how this feels having had a similar experience. Both on the lump front and the prospect of shuffling off before your kids grow up.

    For what it’s worth, there is a lot of hope in the fight against cancer. Forget the Cancer Research hype about finding a cure. We can already cure cancer, the problem is finding it early enough.Luckily, the detection process is improving drastically but it’s worth keeping an eye on this.

    So, when cancer starts certain antigens appear in your blood; different antigens for different cancers. These appear up to 4 years before a visible tumor. There are blood tests coming on stream, now, that make it possible to see some of these antigens. I know there’s one already in use to spot Lung Cancer in the States. There are several companies out there working on a similar test for breast cancer. It will come and when it does, your doctors will be able to keep an eye on you and with a combination of that test and regular scans, they can act the minute anything occurs. ie, at a time when they can cure it, with far less draconian measures.

    Sadly, my scientific knowledge is piss poor but McOther works with inventors and scientists so he has met a bunch of people who are working on this kind of stuff.

    Good luck and god bless.

    Cheers

    MTM

    Like

  2. M T McGuire says:

    Dammit all I wrote you a long post about this which disappeared.

    Delighted you got the all clear! I absolutely sympathise, I’ve been there myself. Horrible, horrible, horrible.

    Also, be assured there is hope. The biggest problem with cancer is not that it isn’t curable but that often it doesn’t manifest any symptoms in the early stages and therefore, it isn’t found until it’s very hard to treat.

    When cancer first appears, it causes an antigen to appear in your blood. This antigen will be present up to 4 years before a visible tumour. As I understand it, each cancer has different antigens. There is a big area of research into blood tests which will spot these antigens. A lung cancer test is already out there, in use, in the States and there are many companies working to produce a similar test for Breast, Prostate and Ovarian cancers which are the next biggest killers – the guys who came up with the lung cancer one for starters.

    There will come a time, soon, when with a combination of a simple blood test and a CT scan, they will be able to spot any potential problems, treat you early and cure it.

    Now, go enjoy your holiday! 😉

    Good luck and god bless,

    Cheers

    MTM

    Like

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      I found both your posts in my spam folder…Hopefully un-spamming them will alert silly WordPress that you are not a bot. 😀

      Thank you so much for sharing that information about the antigen test! I hadn’t heard of that. Isn’t it wonderful the things they’re coming up with? You’re absolutely right about the hardest part of cancer treatment being early detection. So many of the stories you hear involve people who didn’t realize something was wrong until they felt some sort of pain and, from what I’ve read, by the time you feel any pain, it’s all but too late. That was certainly true for my mom, but I know things have also come a long way in the last 19 years.

      And I know that a lot of the hype about research and a cure is just that – hype, but what I want is a better cure, one that doesn’t involve ingesting a bunch of deadly chemicals in the hope that you’ll be strong enough to survive the onslaught. A girl I know who’s younger than I am nearly died of a rare and aggressive form of lymphoma about a year ago and, while the chemo saved her life, it left her with brain damage to the extent that she at one point couldn’t be left alone with her five-year-old daughter because her short-term memory was completely shot.

      Stories like that just make me so sad and I want to do something to help. Sadly, I’m no chemist, though, so I’m constrained to writing about it and hoping for something better down the line.

      And I’ll do my best to enjoy our vacation! 😀

      Like

  3. lindseyjparsons says:

    Kay, I’m so glad to hear your results were negative! This post brought back memories for me, I found a lump in my breast around 18 months ago and it was a very scary three weeks while I waited to find out it was a benign cyst. I think such cysts are fairly common, but it’s very frightening waiting to find this out. I had many similar thoughts to you about my children, not seeing how their lives would go and not being there for them in the future. I think you’re very brave to post this, thank you and well done.

    Like

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      Thank you, Lindsey! Wow, I’m so glad your cyst was benign! I think you’re right about them being fairly common, and they never definitively said if it was a cyst or just a fat nodule or something, but they did say for sure that it was nothing malignant, so that definitely took a load off my mind. The waiting is always the hardest part, I’m sure, but this nearly killed me. I don’t wait well. 😀

      Like

  4. *tara says:

    I’m glad you decided to post, this, because it’s good to share your fears sometimes, but also because it could help another person remember to do frequent breast exams. I’m not at high risk for it but that means I need to not let myself get complacement and not do checks. I was so relieved for you. I think you’re doing the best thing you can do, which is be vigilant, observant, and prepared. *hugs*

    Like

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      Thank you for listening when I needed someone to talk to! I need to sit down and answer your email now that I’m finally caught up on things. Lots of good advice therein. 🙂

      I think complacency is the biggest thing we have to fight. So many people think, “Oh, it won’t happen to me,” or “I’m too young to get it, so I don’t need to worry about it till later.” But anyone can get it, and without vigilance, it can happen to you.

      I really hope that I’ll live to see the day a cure is doscovered. Until then, though, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.

      Like

  5. Sammy D says:

    Very relieved to hear of the negative results, Kay. And yes, self-examination is just as important as scans and blood tests. Education and awareness are key. And it can be very distressing when waiting on results. Just remember to use those around you for support, and that includes your doctor/ other healthcare workers.

    Like

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      Thanks, Sam! I’m really grateful to have such a wonderful doctor; my mom had to fight to get a doctor to authorize the necessary tests that caught her cancer because they thought she was too young to be at risk. And good friends are worth their weight in gold. 🙂

      Like

  6. Roger says:

    You must have been very frightened to go to the doctor. After a week’s cajoling I finally forced my wife to do the same thing. The fact that a lot of lumps are just cists, means nothing. I’m glad you’re okay.

    Like

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      Thank you! “Very frightened” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Scared out of my skin, I think, comes closer to the truth. But I knew I had to go, because if I didn’t, the not-knowing would kill me.

      I think some people think that if they don’t know it for sure, then it can’t be true. But not knowing doesn’t make something any less true, it just makes you out of the loop and unable to properly combat the problem. That’s simply not an option for me.

      I hope your wife is okay!

      Like

      • Roger says:

        It was just a cist but I admire her for going. We men are such wimps when it comes to stuff like that. We’d rather stay at home and hope it goes away.

        Like

        • Kay Kauffman says:

          That sounds about right. And I’ll confess to doing the same for some things (like the pain in my fingers that is apparently the beginning stages of arthritis, or the pain in my knee that probably stems from my general lack of physical activity). But where this was concerned, I just couldn’t. The uncertainty would have killed me.

          Like

  7. Andrea Baker Author says:

    Kay

    I wish I’d seen this last week but I didn’t and I’m so sorry.

    I’ve been there, five times to be precise so feel everything you went through

    I am so pleased you’ve been given the all clear

    massive hugs

    Like

  8. Sophie E Tallis says:

    Oh Kay! I wish I’d seen this before. Honey, what a horrific ordeal! That was so so brave of you, and incredibly brave of you to share this too. You need family and friends around you, but scares like this only serve to remind us of what is really important in life. Ye gods. So SO thrilled you’re okay honey. You and your family must be so relieved that it’s negative? Congrats on the all clear sweetie. Cancer is such an insidious disease, my best mate I’m afraid, has a recurring form of Ovarian cancer and needs check ups every three months. With the amount they’ve had to cut away, the likelihood of her being able to have kids is now pretty slim. Dear dear. It really makes you hold those you love, just a little bit tighter doesn’t it? So pleased you’re alright sweetie, please take care we all love you kiddo! 😀 xx

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    • Kay Kauffman says:

      Thanks, Sophie! That was truly a week. I’m sorry about your friend; my grandma had ovarian cancer when I was in high school and didn’t survive. I hope your friend will have better luck. You are absolutely right about cancer being insidious. If only we could wish it away…

      Like

      • Sophie E Tallis says:

        Absolutely, so many people are touched by it, let’s all hope that a cure us around the corner. Take care sweetie, okay? As women, we’re great at looking after other people but not ourselves…so, much needed pamper care is needed. 😀

        Like

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