Sunday, October 11, 2009

Friends of Pea?

...aaaaaannnnnnd we're back! Can I just summarize the reasons for my absence with 'I've been really, really busy'? With what, you ask? Well, for one I've been dealing with some health issues. You see, I have a cardiac arrhythmia. I've had it since I was in my teens, but it's never been captured on any sort of monitoring device until recently. My electrophysiologist ordered another 21 day monitor, but thanks to the magic of HMO, I had to see my primary care physician in order to get the test ordered. While I was there, I decided to get my annual girlie exam out of the way. So, my fabulous doctor is doing her thing, feeling the girls, chatting away, and suddenly she says, "Wait what's that?"

"What's what?"

"Have you felt this before?"

She takes my hand and puts it on my right breast, just over the lump she found. I say the F-word and a few other unprintables.

"Are you okay? Do you need a minute?"

"I'm fine."

She goes over to the other side of the table to check my left breast. She's making the familiar concentric circles and my mind is suddenly on Jupiter. And then she takes my hand and puts it on the lump she found in my left breast. More F-words and a tear or two. How much do you suppose tears weigh on Jupiter?

"You need to have a mammogram as soon as possible. And an ultrasound."


She leaves the room so I can get dressed and comes back in with my referrals, one for the heart monitor, one for a pelvic ultrasound (to confirm suspected uterine fibroids), and one for my mammogram and ultrasound. I honestly don't remember what I did when I left her office. I don't know if I called anyone--I assume I did, I just don't remember.

I do remember some things. I remember it was Friday afternoon and I couldn't make any of my appointments until Monday. I remember getting ready to go out and looking in the mirror and thinking I might be very, very sick and wondering what business I had going out and painting the town. And I remember thinking, if I am sick, I'll be angry that I didn't go out and enjoy myself while I could, so on went the lip gloss, the silver hoop earrings and the show.

And that's pretty much how it went until the night before I got my mammogram results. Then I paced. I got that awful cold, clammy, chest collapsing, pins and needles feeling whenever I would let my mind get lazy and drift. I felt sad every time I looked at my son and wondered how much of his life I'd actually get to see. I felt worse when I thought about getting so sick I needed his help and being a burden and a major downer when he is supposed to be having the time of his life.

Well, that was all for nothing. I think. It turns out, what my doctor felt in my left breast was absolutely nothing--fibrocistic breast tissue. It also turns out I have a pea-sized tumor in my right breast. The doctors that read the mammogram and ultrasound believe it is a benign mass. I have taken to calling it Little Pea when I discuss it with others. It's an affectionate term--I'm grateful to it for not being cancer and I'm hoping that if I make peace with it, it won't ever become cancer. I have to get another mammogram and ultrasound in 6 months. If the mammogram and ultrasound show any changes, or if I feel any changes while I'm doing my monthly breast self exam (which admittedly, I hadn't been doing), then it's time to discuss further testing.

I left the doctor's office feeling relieved to the point of elation and the whole ordeal is starting to fall out of the forefront of my consciousness. A few days ago, a friend contacted me about Little Pea. She is a breast cancer survivor and she urged me to ask my doctor to remove Little Pea immediately. She had a Little Pea (only hers was named George) for 3 years before she was diagnosed with cancer. One day George got really big and my friend got really sick and she was afraid that would happen to me. Talking to her made me realize that I'm a teeny, tiny bit afraid that will happen to me. A few other people who are close to me have expressed concern over the seemingly lax attitude my doctors and I are taking about Little Pea and when they do, I get a little worried myself.

The decision I made was to trust my doctors and leave Little Pea where she is, nestled quietly in my mammary splendor. Of course I'll do monthly breast self exams and and get all of my follow up mammograms. If there are ever any changes, Little Pea is out. 99% of the time I am completely comfortable with this and the other 1% of the time I can redirect my thoughts to something less terrifying, like rabid, wild dogs.

So there you have it, my breast cancer scare. If you have any experiences you want to share, I encourage you to do so. Also, if you have ever named one of your own tumors, please chime in. I'm wondering if this is common or if my friend and I are complete weirdos. And finally, ladies, please cop a feel. Regularly.