In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I thought I would share my story of how being mindful of my breasts helped me to find the courage to go to the doctor and say the words I was too scared to say, "Doc, I two lumps in my right breast."
I am forever lucky and grateful for the turn of events which subsequently followed. Courage, a doctor actually named Faith, and finding people who were willing to help. My story has a happy ending.
It turned out the hard masses which had formed in my large breasts were in fact Fibroids. Never heard of this term? Me either until then. A Fibroid is a non-cancerous hard rope like mass which can form due to several factors, like hormonal change, in a woman's breast tissue. The statistics state most of half the women in the world have fibrocystic breast disease at one point in their lives. But somehow it never makes it into the brunch conversation. It's something women should be more aware of.
I was around 19 years old when I first discovered I had a lump. Ten years later I remembered thinking I was just being a hypochondriac. But then after going on the pill and a few years later I realized I had a second lump which had formed underneath the first. They felt like golf-balls firmly in the place. The second one was deeper but I could feel it...I knew it was there. I'll never forget the fear in the look of my best friend's eyes when I told her to feel the right side. Feel them so I knew I wasn't crazy. She told me to go to the doctor but somehow I couldn't. I was afraid.
When I went to my gynecologist at the time, he didn't feel them. They were left undetected. I remember thinking "Whew I passed", but it was wrong to feel that. I should have said something. I have D cup breasts and looking back if the doctor found the lumps it would be because he pressed hard enough to make me hurt or would have felt me inappropriately. They were in an awkward place in the fleshy part of my right breast. It was my place to say, "Can you feel harder? I felt something in the shower." But I laid silent.
I can't remember what was the final straw that made me come clean about my problem. Four years later, I was sitting with my mom watching something on TV and I blurted it out. At first she said, "It can't be. You don't have lumps. It's probably a pulled muscle or a lymph node." I let her feel them and she too had the same reaction as my best friend, but this was my mother. I knew I had to go to the doctor. The hiding was over.
We did the research and found a breast health doctor in Englewood, NJ. Her first name ironically was Faith. When she walked into the room I cried. She calmly handed me a few tissues and let me compose myself. She instructed me to take off my shirt and I laid back on the table. She pushed hard enough to feel them, but I told her where to look. I came clean. She said the term I had never heard before, "Due to the hardness they're probably Fibroids. But we need to do a biopsy." I asked her about Fibroids and she knew it all.
The Biopsy hurt like hell but it was a necessary step. My fibroids had spaces in them. Spaces, which the doctor feared would grow cysts that could be cancerous. The jury ruled and the fibroids needed to come out.
The next few weeks were a blur of amazing people, especially women, who calmed my fears every step of the way. The lady at the sonogram place, had fibroids at a young age. The lady at the hospital the day of my first surgery had fibroids removed too. I cried when she handed me the gown, but then she hugged me. She told me everything would be okay. Faith was an amazing surgeon. She was so positive when she came over to me before the surgery.
After the surgery I found out I was more lucky than I thought. The Fibroids had not formed into the breast mass but were merely sitting atop the muscles. She was able to remove them without removing a layer of breast tissue. They were not cancerous, and I should be able to make a full recovery.
Looking down, seven years later at my barely there scar, I'm so happy I told my mother and got the push to find out about the lumps. In the years that followed, some of my friends asked me what happened and I told them. They didn't know what a fibroid was so it was my turn to pass the torch of knowledge. It was my place to be the person I didn't have way back then.
I decided to share my fibroid story to influence and encourage you readers to do your self breast examinations, be truthful to your doctors, and know you can get help. For the male readers, the same thing goes for your body. My husband has a fibroid lodged between his ribs and lungs. He gets it checked out at the doctors at every check-up to watch it. =)
Forever lucky & grateful,