A registered nurse with a family history of breast cancer, Rita Amerio knew it was important to act fast when she discovered a lump. This is her story in her own words.
It started out as just a normal day. Little did I know that it would be the last “normal” day for a while.
Every summer, we live in a Wisconsin cottage not far from the Illinois border. We had planned to drive to Illinois to visit family and friends and a stay overnight at our daughter’s home. There would be a routine cardiology appointment for my husband. As we like to make the most of our time when visiting, a golf outing was planned for my husband and his brother, while my sister-in-law and I celebrated my belated 75th birthday at lunch.
I found a lump that morning, as we were preparing for our trip. Who would think a simple task such as taking a shower could change the course of a life? Lathering up, I felt something different in my left breast. I don’t have to explain to any woman reading this that feeling of a medicine ball hitting your gut that comes over you.
I thought, this just can’t be happening to me, and then: Why not me? My grandmother and my daughter both have had breast cancer. So as the initial shock passed, I just continued with my “normal” day.
Initially I didn’t say anything to my husband and just continued as though nothing had changed. During the car drive my mind was spinning in many different directions. The Wisconsin home is just our shelter from the brutal Nevada heat. For the past eight years, we have spent seven to eight months in Nevada, the rest of the time at our cottage in Wisconsin. My first thought was to just wait a month until our planned return to Nevada.
However, my anxiety and gut knowledge nixed this plan of action. I decided to contact a doctor in the Wisconsin-area that I had consulted before with for some minor aches and illnesses. My thoughts were to at least start the process that would lead to a diagnosis as soon as possible.
Well, as anyone familiar with the medical world knows, nothing moves swiftly in a situation such as mine. I was fortunate to at least be able to get an appointment for the next day. This, however, would necessitate canceling our golfing and lunch plans for the next day. I explained the situation to my very understanding husband, who agreed with my decision.
At my appointment the next day, the doctor confirmed what I had feared, there was a small palpable mass in my left breast, even though I had a normal mammogram just four months prior. The next step was to schedule a diagnostic mammogram on the left breast with a breast ultrasound to follow, depending on the findings of the first test. Oh, how I wished they said I could do that the next day; however, the next available appointment was 11 days away. No amount of drama I could concoct would change this fact. It just was what it was.
So, what did I do during my 11 days waiting in the land of in-between? I prayed every day, but that’s just about what I do every day. Spiritually, I was able to place my situation in God’s hands, which brought me peace and allowed me to use my waiting time effectively, rather than just sitting around and pondering my fate. I decided to plan some specific activities for each day. I spent time with friends, worked on some do-it-yourself crafts that I never seemed to have time for and took day trips I always wanted to do but never did. I wrote these activities down for every day and did not allow myself to put anyone off.
The day finally arrived. I walked through those hospital doors. Tests are done and then the technician comes back through the door. She knows that I am a health professional and have been eagerly awaiting these results. She beckoned me over to the computer screen and there it is, a small, well circumscribed, encapsulated bubble called an oily cyst……not cancerous. They did a breast ultrasound of the area to confirm the diagnosis. As I’m ushered into another room to wait, I quickly pull out my phone to research an oily cyst. Another technician directed me into the ultrasound lab, where the diagnosis is confirmed. It is not cancer.
It was only 11 days in my life that were less than normal. Eleven days that I spent living as though each was my last day. An important lesson was learned. Each of us should plan to live every day and enjoy that time as if it were our last “normal” day. Get your regular mammograms, follow-up when something seems unusual. In my case, the growth was benign. But if it had been cancerous, I was ready for the next step.
Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.