Just a Lump in the Road
Big ass lump
When I turned 40, I distinctly remember thinking that I should get a mammogram. But I didn’t because COVID, kids, work, you know…life.
A year later, as part of my work for a public health organization, I reviewed a report about mammograms, and how some women are less likely to get screened. I made a mental note to finally get myself checked. But again, I didn’t.
The following New Year’s Eve, I resolved to live a healthier lifestyle (like everyone else 2 years deep into the pandemic)—lose weight, drink less, go to the dentist, get a mammogram. I did none of those things.
Finally in February 2022, a few days after my 42nd birthday, I completed a self-exam, like I had done so many times before. Left breast, nothing, just as I expected. Right breast, nothing…nothing…nothing…big ass lump.
Nothing to worry about
Like every other person born in the 80s (and every decade thereafter), I turned to Google for a diagnosis. Turns out, I was either dying and soon (the Internet is a deep, dark rabbit hole) or totally fine (most breast lumps are benign). I chose option B but made an appointment with my doctor anyway.
My physician—a handsome Canadian in bright green sneakers—was concerned enough to order a mammogram and ultrasound. The techs and doctors who completed these screenings were even more concerned and ordered a biopsy.
Despite all the worry around me, I wasn’t pressed (except about those green sneaks—I wanted a pair). I was young and felt healthy: I had been working out for a couple of weeks (hey, it’s a start), drinking lessish, and even managed to squeeze in a dental cleaning.
But all this goodwill toward my body felt meaningless when I got my biopsy results: I had breast cancer. Nasty, gnarly, Earth-shattering breast cancer.
Something to worry about
To be technical, I had stage 3 infiltrating ductal carcinoma with lymph node involvement. My tumor biology was ER positive, PR positive, and HER2 negative.
Embarrassingly, I’m not sure what all these letters and symbols mean exactly. My doctors explained everything, but all I heard was, “Wah…wahaw…wah…wahaw…wah.”
Thankfully, my husband—who continues to redefine unconditional love on a seemingly daily basis—got the gist: I had a common, curable type of cancer. But the size (7 centimeters), stage (3), and lymph node involvement were bad.
Truth be told, I was less worried about the peach-sized tumor in my breast and more worried about the cancer in my armpit. Afterall, my mother was just a few years older than me when she died from skin cancer that had spread to every nook and cranny in her body. I could not fathom the thought of sharing her fate.
The days leading up to my full body scan were grueling. Everything moved at a snail’s pace, which left more time for my mind to visit bad places: My youngest child was only 7. If I died, would she even remember me?
A thousand other equally morose thoughts entered my brain during the actual PET scan. How I was able to lay stone still (doctor’s orders) while my mind was under attack still amazes me. It almost felt like a betrayal.
More memories to come
The scan came back CLEAN, and I cried big, loud, ugly tears of joy. My reaction was so raw and visceral, I’m sure my oncologist thought I misunderstood her message. But this time I heard every word—I’m going to live, and I’m going to make lots of new memories with my friends and family.
I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of euphoria ever since I received this news. Chemo starts next week, so my bubble will probably burst, especially when I lose that first thatch of hair. But in the meantime, I’m reveling in the news that my nasty, gnarly, Earth-shattering cancer is just a lump in the road.