***DISCLAIMER*** I do not have a medical degree (shocker), so I cannot give you sound medical advice. I can only share my experience and encourage you to talk to your doctors if you have concerns. There is no substitute for amazing doctors. Also, TMI warning. I will be talking a lot about breasts.
On Friday, September 18, I worked a full day at the office and then I helped in the Concession Stand at my daughter’s high school football game. I was on my feet all day and night and by the time I got home, I was exhausted. Let’s get honest here, ladies… what’s the first thing we do when we get home after a long day? We take off our bras, am I right? There really is no better feeling. Only, this time, as I removed my bra, I noticed something. It was a very noticeable knot, right on the top of my left breast. I had never noticed it before, but it was so apparent I felt like it had popped up overnight. It felt like it was about a centimeter in size. I had my husband feel it too, because that’s what husbands do, right? He said what I was already thinking, “We need to get that checked out.”
My 40th birthday was coming up in a month, so annual Mammograms were in my near future. I also had been down this road before—back in 2016, a small mass was found in my right breast during a CT of my abdomen. That finding led to a diagnostic mammogram which led to an ultrasound guided needle biopsy and a diagnosis of “Fibroadenoma”—a benign breast cyst or tumor.
So, when I felt this lump I was not stricken with fear. I had been down this road before. I figured we would get a mammogram and biopsy and find out it was another fibroadenoma.
After a quick exam with my OBGYN, we scheduled a diagnostic mammogram on 9/24 and decided that day to schedule a ultrasound guided needle biopsy on 10/6. On 10/5, I developed a random low-grade fever. This happens to me sometimes, I think because my immune system stays suppressed. It’s not uncommon for me to run a 100.0 temp from time to time. But, because of new COVID regulations, my biopsy had to be rescheduled for 10/21.
On Friday, 10/23/20, I received a call from the hospital stating that the pathology was inconclusive. They could not tell for sure if the tumor was a fibroadenoma (benign, harmless cyst or tumor) or a phyllodes tumor. And because they couldn’t determine, the recommendation was surgical consult. Immediately the nurse asked what surgeon I wanted to see and she would set up the apt. I was a little overwhelmed to say the least. I had never heard of phyllodes. I didn’t know if they meant cancer and chemo and radiation. I had no idea what surgeon I would want to go with. I just asked if I could have the weekend to think it over and then I would have my OBGYN write a referral for me. She agreed.
I called Brian. I went into management mode and let my boss know that surgery would be happening and apologized as November was shaping up to be the most stressful of the year and I knew having me be off would make things more difficult. He thankfully reminded me that our health and family come first.
I did a quick search of phyllodes tumors online and was somewhat comforted that they are benign 75% of the time. Still, knowing there was a potential for cancer was enough to make my stomach in knots.
I texted a few trusted friends who had been anxiously awaiting my biopsy results. When I get bad health news and have to relay that bad news to friends, I typically find myself in the position of comforting and reassuring others. I’m so thankful for my close friends at the moment, though. They let me grieve. And they grieved with me. My friend Emily waited until she knew I would be driving home and she called me and we just cried on the phone together. Folks, get you some friends who will sit and weep with you when you need to grieve.
I spent the weekend researching surgeons. I thankfully had trusted people in my life who had walked this road before me who I could ask advice. They pointed me to their trusted surgeon and my OBGYN confirmed they were one of her favorites as well and she would get the ball rolling on the referral. All was moving right along until…
COVID. On Wednesday, October 28, I found out I had been exposed to COVID-19. On October 29, I tested positive and was ordered to self isolate for 14 days. My surgical consult was pushed out until December 10 to give COVID plenty of time to leave my body. That month and a half was soooo long. I wanted to know when surgery would be. I wanted this thing out of me. It grew. I checked the tumor daily and over time we noticed some slight growth.
But I have to tell you something. While I was scared and worried, I was not consumed with fear. I was more frustrated at my lack of control over the situation (remember, I’m a control freak). I wanted to know what the end result would be. Would I be going through cancer treatments or would I be moving on with my life after surgery? The not knowing was so hard.
On Monday, December 21, I walked into the hospital alone and checked myself in for outpatient surgery.
I’ve had surgery before. This was actually my fourth surgery. But this time, I was older and had seen too many medical drama shows. There’s been too much talk of intubation and ventilators lately. I found my mind wandering to thoughts of if they would need to intubate me or not for this surgery and I decided I was better off not knowing and hoping that I would just wake up after it was all over and never know for sure :). Spoiler alert, unfortunately my first conscious moment after surgery was the recovery team saying “Nora, open your mouth” and them pulling the tube from my throat. My thought was “you’ve got to be kidding me”, but I also think I chuckled a little. The one thing that gave me anxiety about the surgery, and that’s the first thing I experience after surgery 🤣. FYI, it was not bad. At all. The worst part was the taste in my mouth from that tube which was quickly cured by the sprite the nurse gave me.
Side note: Y’all know I don’t drink soda. But let me tell you, there has never, ever been anything in this world that tasted better than that sprite in recovery. I am sure I was meant to sip it. But I guzzled it. It was gone in 5 mins.
The worst part post surgery was the drive home. I was so groggy and every bump hurt. I just wanted to be home.
After lots of cuddles from my kids and mashed potatoes, I felt like a new woman. I was on Tylenol for pain by the next day and I’ve only felt better when better with each day. My incision looks amazing and I am thrilled with my recovery so far.
And sorry for keeping you in suspense, but turns out my little tumor friend was a fibroadenoma (benign tumor) after all. I got the call on December 23 and it was the best Christmas gift!!
You all know I love to share my experiences with you. If for no other reason, than to encourage you if you are going through something similar. The moral of the story here is this:
- Check your breasts. Monthly. So you will know when something feels different.
- Get your mammogram. If you have a history of breast cancer in your family, you will likely need to get regular mammograms earlier than 40. Talk to your doctor. Be vigilant! Be an advocate for your health!
- If you feel something abnormal, talk to your doctor and get a mammogram!
- Don’t hesitate to get the biopsy. It’s always better to know 100% what you’re dealing with.
- Know you’re not alone! Many, many women have walked this road and most the time, these things turn out to be benign and if they are not, you will want to know ASAP so you can take care of it!
So thankful this chapter is behind us and we can look toward 2021 when renewed hope and joy. Thank you to all of you who have loved on my family and prayed this fall. And thank you, Jesus, for always being exactly what we need. You bring peace and comfort and joy and hope.