Well, moreso than usual anyway.
You probably know that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It also happens to be the month when I get my semi-annual mammograms, the second of which took place two days ago.
Public Service Announcement Break:
- Get your mammograms!
- Do your self-exams and really pay attention!
- Don't forget that men and younger women can get breast cancer, too!
It's not an overstatement to say that my working life for the past half-decade has been steeped in breast cancer awareness. I've worked on two different clients whose sole focus was fundraising for breast cancer prevention, awareness, early detection and research. I have conducted personal interviews with breast cancer survivors in all stages of treatment, and met many more as they worked to do everything they could to help others fight the disease.
However, none of that prepared me for the scare I had over the past two days. (Spoiler: I'm fine. Really.)
My first mammogram two years ago was the traditional kind, but the imaging center had upgraded to a much higher resolution digital system in the meantime. After my scans this time, the technician mentioned a distinct spot on one side that she identified as a probable cyst. She asked if I wanted to see it, and of course I did.
The image showed a large, white, perfectly round area that looked like a marble. On the much-blurrier baseline image it was harder to see, but there was still an evident white area in the same spot.
The next day, my husband called to say that the imaging center had left a message to call them back. Uh oh. I told him I'd call him back as soon as I found out what they wanted.
It turned out that they wanted to follow up with an ultrasound of what they described as a 3-cm cyst, just to make sure everything was okay. Fortunately, I was able to schedule it first thing this morning.
I called my husband back and calmly told him I'd be having an ultrasound in the morning. I even breezily assured him I wasn't worried and that even if the worst case scenario were to occur, it would all be fine because breast cancer is so treatable. Tra-la-la. I even consulted Dr. Google and sent him a link to a reassuring article about how it was all perfectly routine.
Then I got mad at myself for being such a giant liar. Truth is, I was definitely freaking out.
One of the things the woman said as I was scheduling my ultrasound is that she was sure I'd be able to feel the lump. She was right, I could definitely feel it. The question I kept asking myself was why hadn't I noticed it before?
I thought was was being pretty conscientious about self-exams, but apparently I had no idea what I was supposed to be concerned about. In fact, that area has chronically been a bit sore for some time, but I'd chalked it up to an ill-fitting underwire.
I didn't sleep well last night, even though all signs really did point to the lump being a cyst. On top of that, I started coming down with a cold, possibly due - at least in part - to the stress I was doing my best to suppress.
The ultrasound was at 7:30 this morning. It occurred to me that going to the appointment by myself might be a mistake, but I did it anyway. After the ultrasound was finished, the technician told me to wait and she'd be back with the results right away. I'm sure I only waited about ten minutes, but it felt like hours as my mind raced through all of the possibilities and scenarios.
It turned out that I have a lot of small cysts and one large one. That's all. They want to recheck me in six months, but for now I'm in the clear. Whew. Oh, and I could probably keep the pain down by staying away from caffeine. Bad timing for that, since I just re-caffeinated myself again.
So that's my way-too-close-to-home breast cancer awareness story. I hope you'll all heed my public service announcement and follow the suggestions all year 'round.