eggroll's Story: A Delayed Mammogram Came Just in Time
eggroll is a member of the Breastcancer.org Community.
I was horrified to learn that my sister's cancer had returned, 12 years after her first diagnosis. She was scheduled for a mastectomy. The thought crossed my mind, "What about me?" I was exactly the age she was the first time around. And I was a year overdue for my mammogram. After my allergy shot, my husband maneuvered me into the women's clinic just downstairs. They had an open appointment immediately. Within 48 hours I learned that they found a "small developing spiculated mass." This description of a star-shaped tumor is most often malignant. Nevertheless, a core biopsy came back...benign! I celebrated until morning brought me another new vocabulary word: "Discordant." So a wire was inserted in my breast and then I walked across the room with the wire sticking out of me, a smear of my blood on the mammogram machine. They bandaged me up for the drive across town for the surgery. As cancer goes, I won the lottery I guess. They call it a "sleepy little cancer."
But a month later, they took six nodes out. And while all of them came back without any evidence of metastasis, my arm was slightly swollen and the pain of working at the computer for hours on end was excruciating. I saw a lymphedema therapist and received a sleeve. A week before radiation, my affected breast swelled up and turned pink. I saw a different doctor every day for three days. On the third day, I told the nurse, "I'm not leaving until someone tells me what this is." We have fancy names for bruises and scrapes, yet no one likes to say "Lymphedema."
Even now, I'm not diagnosed [with lymphedema], yet I will need lymphatic massage two weeks after radiation. I confess that at first I felt like my life was a house of cards falling down around me in slow motion. I worried about my risk of infection. At times the bills would come in and I would feel guilty. Caregiving for a developmentally disabled family member had failed and I was having to appeal for a public guardian. Six friends and family were also fighting cancer. My home had become an empty nest. I was battling sleep apnea, arthritis and menopause.
The clinic introduced me to a nurse navigator, a social worker, a chaplain and a masseuse! Now my attitude has completely turned around! I have gained knowledge and made friends at Breastcancer.org. Last Sunday, I went to church and feel steadied by faith. I soak up massage treatments without a trace of guilt, and work a couple of Suddokus every day. I can now write, cook and clean with my non-dominant hand, which I'm very proud of. The elliptical is my friend, healthy food tastes good! My clients have been gracious to give me time off, so I can heal. Best of all, I finally feel like I'm worth going through so much treatment and expense to save my life. For me, it was all about getting the structure of support built around me and learning to lean on it. Troubles may come, but so does joy. Both my sister and I return to life with new exuberance and appreciation.