I’ve been living by the motto “you only live once” for quite a while now. I’ve dealt with my fair share of deaths in the family, and when Angeline’s father died five years ago, it was a tipping point for me.
Life is short.
So Chris and I saved every penny we could, we paid off as much debt as possible, and two years later, I left the workforce in order to be more present for Angeline – for Chris too, but mostly to be 100% available to my daughter.
For the past three years, we have lived a very happy life. Sure, we’ve faced struggles and things haven’t always been as wonderful as they could be. But we’ve been happy.
I’ve been happy.
As often happens in life, when things are smooth sailing, disaster strikes.
It struck me last weekend in the form of the discovery of a lump in my right breast.
Since I’ve lost 35 pounds in the past 6 months, my body has changed – and you can imagine how that change has presented itself in my breasts!
Why is it that we always lose weight where we LEAST want to lose it?
As I was laying in bed last Sunday night, I was feeling sorry for myself because of the state of my breasts. The thought of getting a breast lift flitted through my mind and my hand instinctively flew to my breast to feel how much sagging there really was.
And I felt a lump. A rather large lump.
For a second, I couldn’t breathe. I think my heart must have stopped; it was as of all of the air had suddenly been sucked from the room.
After almost 20 years of battling my cigarette addiction, the first thought to form in my mind was BREAST CANCER.
Of course it was.
Every smoker, no matter how young or old, has that deep, dark, lurking fear of developing cancer. I think that every woman almost expects to find out that her boobs have turned against her at some point or another – breast cancer is all around us. It’s on Facebook, we see the pink Twibbons on Twitter, we see a sea of pink yogurt labels before us at the grocery store. So as a woman – a woman who has smoked off and on (mostly on) for almost 20 years, I’ve always been apprehensive.
I’ve done self breast exams since I was 20-something. I do them regularly…which is what had me so frightened when I felt that lump last Sunday – I’d never felt it before.
As we don’t have health insurance, I quickly realized the financial impact this would have on us – I don’t even have a primary doctor anymore, how was I going to deal with this?! I spent half the night alternating between quietly sobbing and running budget calculations on my iPhone to figure out how I would pay for the doctors appointments I needed to make in the morning.
I don’t know how, but I eventually fell asleep. When I woke up Monday morning, I didn’t even remember having found the lump right away. I was feeding the dogs and it suddenly came rushing back to me. I sat down and began Googling Free Mammograms in Miami – which resulted in a ton of Breast Cancer Awareness programs…that were only available during October.
I found out that the low cost clinic not too far away had a Mammogram department and went in to find out how quickly I could be seen. I had to see a doctor to have a breast exam done first, but I didn’t have to wait very long. I’m guessing that the fact that I walked into the registration department in tears hurried things along.
As the nurse took my information and we chatted about my finding the lump, she was so optimistic that she actually lifted my spirits. After the doctor came in and we discussed it, he was equally optimistic! However, while he was performing the exam, he told me not to tell him where I’d found the lump – so when he told me he felt it and it wasn’t the lump I had found? I immediately began crying.
There’s nothing more pathetic than a grown ass woman, half naked and crying on an exam table while a strange man has her boob in his hand.
What I thought was one lump was actually two, and he’d found a third. His demeanor changed when he felt the first lump and I immediately felt the atmosphere in the room change.
He told me that he wanted me to have a mammogram and a breast ultrasound after my menstrual cycle was over and then left the room.
The nurse came back in once I was dressed and gave me paperwork for my visit and a referral to the Mammogram department. She told me that I needed to be seen as soon as possible, and that if they wouldn’t fit me in right away, to come back to her and she would refer me to another place.
They didn’t have an appointment available for two weeks – which I could not handle. So I went back and she referred me to a diagnostic center, which was able to get me in a mere 6 days later. It was the longest 6 days of my life!
Once I went to the diagnostic center, I found out that not only did the doctor not print out the referral for the ultrasound, but that the diagnostic center wouldn’t give me my results of the mammogram for at least a week – and that they’d send them to the referring doctor when they came in. So I would have to make another appointment to see the doctor to get the referral for the ultrasound, then make another appointment with the diagnostic center after waiting…and waiting…
I couldn’t wait.
Chris and I left the diagnostic center and I Googled “Breast Ultrasounds in Miami Without Prescriptions” and found a place in South Miami that had state of the art equipment, doctors on staff – and they went over results immediately after doing the exams RIGHT THEN AND THERE.
They made me an appointment for the following Monday – still a week away – but I asked if they had any cancellations, to please call me. Within a few hours, my phone was ringing and they asked if I could come in the next day at 11:30, because they’d had a cancellation. Thank the heavens that I thought to ask for them to call me if they had a cancellation!
That appointment was today.
I was terrified, sitting in that waiting room in my robe, with three other women also waiting for their appointments.
When it was my turn to see the doctor, I explained to her what I felt, we went over my family’s history of cancer – there is none – and we got down to business. The ultrasound machine was right there next to the exam table, and she poured a bunch of very cold gel on my boobies and began to check them out.
Right away, I saw the big black circles on the screen. I started to cry (what can I say, I am a huge crybaby) and she stopped and patted my arm, telling me, “These are cysts! They are nothing to worry about!”
And I cried even harder.
As it turns out, I have a lot of cysts, so many that the doctor recommended that even though I am only 34, I begin getting annual breast ultrasounds.
While these cysts are just regular old run-of-the-mill benign cysts, and have no potential to become cancerous, I have so many cysts in each breast that if I do develop any kind of abnormal growth, I won’t be able to tell the difference between the cysts and a potentially cancerous growth! She said that these cysts can’t hurt me and that they will not need to be removed, but if they begin to grow or hurt me, that I can come in and have them drained.
It’s almost funny, this entire situation. I was SO HAPPY before I found this lump, and I have had two amazing things happen to me since I found it – I won a $5000 Delta Vacations sweepstakes and I was invited on my first Disney press event – the Hollywood premier of Iron Man 3 – yet I couldn’t really find the joy in those things because, well, I had convinced myself that I was dying of cancer.
But I’m not. I am okay – I am better than okay!
And while I am okay, I wanted to share this experience with you because I learned something very valuable through this experience. The doctor told me that I have probably had these cysts for a very long time, but I never felt them before because while I was overweight, my breasts were much fuller…so if this was a cancerous growth, and I hadn’t lost this 35 pounds in the last six months?
I would not have felt it.
Granted, everything ended up okay…but it could have very easily not been okay. There are a million reasons to get healthy and lose weight, but this isn’t one I would have ever imagined.
Go check your boobs. If you feel anything suspicious, get it checked out. If you don’t have insurance, Google “low cost clinic” or “low cost mammogram” in your city. If you need help finding an affordable option in your city, email me and I will try to help. I feel like the expert on Googling boob stuff right now.
Also? Never ever, under any circumstance, Google “Breast Cancer” and click on your images.
Trust me, you don’t want to see it.