Tuesday, November 16, 2010

So, How did you find "it"?

Everyone asks.  Well, mostly everyone, especially women.  I don't mind.  "So, how did you find it"?  Always looking very expectantly for me to say yes after the first question, "Self exam?" then the second, "Mammogram?"  I say no on both accounts.  Then, there is usually a pause, a look of confusion and a little fear.  Because, if it wasn't found like it was "suppose" to be, then how are any of us safe from it?  My first response would be to say:

But, I think that's an overstatement and somewhat reflective of my current mental state.

THE REAL ANSWER:  Know your body.  I mean, know-your-body.  What it looks like.  What it feels like.  What is normal, what is not. When something doesn't feel right, CHECK IT OUT.  Go to the doctor.  If the doctor dismisses your concerns or provides treatment that doesn't clear up the problem GO BACK.  If your think or feel that your concerns are not being addressed or the doctor keeps doing the same treatment with the same results. FIND ANOTHER DOCTOR that listens to you, provides testing or treatment that clearly identifies the problem and/or clears it up.

THE OTHER CRITICAL PIECE: Listen to yourself.  Your inner voice. Put the pieces together, if they don't add up, what needs to happen next?  Second opinion?  Talk to a friend or another professional?  (P.S. Not the friend who want to make you feel better, the one that tells you your butt IS to big in those pants.)  Don't dismiss your concern or fear by allowing yourself to get distracted by all of the busy stuff you have to do.  Because guess what?  It could be something serious. I have met many women in the last few weeks, who didn't listen to their bodies or took the word of someone else, that everything was ok.  Some waited over a year to follow up on concerns and their journey is much more difficult because of it. 

Please know I am not saying that everyone who has metastatic cancer procrastinated and it's their fault.  Cancer is mean and sneaky.  There are many different types that present differently.  There are no guarantees.  But ignoring changes in your body ESPECIALLY your breasts, can cost you dearly.

So, in a nutshell, (ha), here's how I found "it"...

Nipple discharge.  No one ever asks about it.  In July I noticed a small spot (a little smaller than the diameter of a pencil eraser) on the inside of my bra.  I was overdue for my mammogram by about two months, so, I scheduled an appointment.  Over the course of my adult life, (rare, but it did happen) I had occasionally had a small amount of discharge, so I wasn't overly concerned.  I actually thought, it was probably related to some pre-menopausal symptoms or hormonal changes.

I do self breast exams regularly.  I know the terrain very well, and had never found a lump of any kind.  My breasts have always been just regular and boring;  no lumps, no bumps, no family history.  Yey.  

My mammogram was fairly uneventful.  The only exception to this was when they asked if I was having any problems.  "I've had no problems, but I did recently have a small amount of discharge."  (I did not consider this a problem at this point-I thought it was their job to help determine if it was a problem. Right?)

This did stop the presses for a moment.  FYI...when you say "nipple discharge" in a breast health center, it's kind of like saying "bomb" in an airport.  Everyone stops, asks who you've told/seen about this and insists you talk to your Dr. about it. Immediately.

I left the mammogram center and went downstairs to my Dr.'s office.  The nurse said they could refer me to a breast surgeon for follow up.  "Surgeon" seemed a little extreme to me and while nipple discharge seemed to be a big deal, it only happened once and it wasn't very much.  I had talked to several friends about it.  It had happened to almost all of them at one time or another and was usually just an infection. 

I didn't ask the right questions or they didn't give me the right information to make me feel talking to a surgeon was warranted.  I did not listen or pick up on the not so subtle cues regarding nipple discharge. No one said it could be serious or that it could be cancer.  Even if they did, I don't eat meat, I exercise, don't smoke, no birth control,
Every time a new study comes out about how to lower your risk for breast cancer,  
I don't even try and I fit most of the categories.  HA.  Take that cancer.  I said no thanks.


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