I still can't believe it almost happened to me. It's one of those things that happens to OTHER people.
Think about it... We all know someone - a mom, a sister, an aunt, friend, coworker, mentor - who has battled breast cancer.
I never thought it'd be something that I would have to walk up to since there is literally no history of breast cancer in my family. Stomach, colon, lung, and brain cancer - we've got it, but not breast cancer.
Here's my story (warning: this may be TMI but it's necessary, I promise!):
It all started at the end of May/beginning of June this year.
Just like 99% of women in this world, I came home from work one ordinary day and immediately took off my bra to get comfortable. I don't care what any company says, there is no such thing as a comfortable bra after 8 hours - heck not even after 2 hours.
Anyway, after dinner, I sat down with my family for a round of board games (we're nerds, that's what we do) and as I went to move a piece I noticed that my shirt was a tiny bit wet on my left boob. I didn't think too much of it at the time, just chalked it up to dribbling a little bit of my lemonade, which happens way more often than I should admit.
Then later that night, after games, I noticed it again but this time I hadn't had anything to drink for a while. So, I went to the bathroom to investigate. Sure enough, if I put a little bit of pressure on my breast, a clear liquid discharge came out.
See, I've never been pregnant (we adopted) so stuff coming out of my nipple was a bit alarming. I was due for my yearly check up with my primary care physician and my gynecologist so, I scheduled appointments for both. When I called to schedule with my gynecologist, I asked the scheduling clerk to make a note for me to talk to the doctor about the discharge when she said, "Oh, no, that's a problem. We'll need you to come in immediately." Thankfully, I was able to schedule both appointments for the same day.
That last conversation was pretty jarring and really made me wonder what in the heck was going on. So of course I ran to the Google, where I learned that it could be anything from a simple infection, a brain tumor, to cancer. My mind immediately went to brain tumor - because of the chronic migraines, you know.
Two days later I was in my gynecologist's office where she poked, prodded, and took some fluid samples. She didn't seem overly concerned but still referred me to have a mammogram and ultrasound.
I was only 32 at the time so having a mammogram 8 years early freaked me out a little bit. BUT, it wasn't so bad! A little awkward but not horrible. I'd say the ultrasound was the most uncomfortable part of the process.
They didn't see anything on the mammogram that concerned them but they did find something in the ultrasound. Without doing a needle biopsy, she couldn't tell me exactly what it was but it was enough for me to go to an oncologist.
That's when all of this became really real. But, I shoved those feelings down where they belonged and kept trucking. I still hadn't said anything to most people in my life, just my husband (duh), our parents, by best friends, and one or two people from church.
My oncologist was AMAZING! She was warm, friendly, bright, adorable, and I was determined to make her my newest best friend. She was honest with me and laid out all that it could possibly be: an intraductal papilloma or a calcium build-up; but clarified that the only real way to know is to do a needle biopsy. This is when we let Ethan in on what was going on.
The word "biopsy" always makes me think of this scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding:
The biopsy went waaaaay better than I imagined, it was actually kind of a cool experience to watch needles moving around on the ultrasound screen (it was an ultrasound guided biopsy) without me being able to feel it at all. The recovery process on that though - way more difficult than I anticipated. The bruising was almost impressive, actually.
The pathology on the biopsy came back with atypical cells, but no cancer. Because of this, it was necessary to perform an excisional biopsy, which we scheduled for July 7th. This is when we let everyone in our circle know: all of our friends, family, and church family.
I expected surgery and the recovery time to be waaaaay worse than the needle biopsy. It wasn't bad at all. Had the best nap ever during surgery, which was awesome. I woke up to find that someone had put me in a very strange and uncomfortable bra, which was REALLY weird and not awesome. And while I was super drugged up I had a full conversation with my pastor and his friend at the hospital all while I was holding my boob (fully clothed, mind you).
The best part though, was the support we received from everyone in our circle. Our church family even brought us meals for 3 days since I couldn't cook. A few even came to keep me company the day after surgery when my husband had to work and my son was at church camp. I learned that when I'm really out of it on pain meds, I'm obsessed with M&Ms, which was a surprise. Heck, my BFF even took my drugged-out self to dinner for our church's women's fellowship night (she's super brave) so I didn't miss out (I'm an extrovert and FOMO is real). I recovered so well and so quickly, I'm still impressed. Don't get me wrong, I can't do jumping jacks and there's a little bit of pain occasionally but that's part of the healing process.
Thankfully, I found out a couple of days later that it was definitely an intraductal papilloma but that there was NO cancer just some atypical cells.
I couldn't believe that after two months, it was finished. I had prepared myself for the bad news and had started making plans for time off work, how to let Ethan know the details, whether I'd do a single or double mastectomy if it came down to it... so many decisions.
For some reason though, the Lord had me walk right up to breast cancer, stare it in the face, and then saved me from it. Biblically speaking, I shouldn't have been spared from it but God had mercy on me and only He knows why. That's when "survivor's guilt" started to set in as other people I knew had been diagnosed with cancer and other life-altering medical conditions.
I can only come to two conclusions:
1. For His glory. How this is working out, I'm not sure but I know I and everyone around me praised Him for His mercy constantly and I still do today, almost 4 months later.
2. To let women (and men!) know that sporadic nipple discharge is a SERIOUS problem. Experts and commercials always tell us to look for lumps but I never felt mine and neither did my gynecologist nor my oncologist. The only indication that there was an issue was the discharge.
Here's the PSA:
If you notice random, sporadic, unexplainable nipple discharge (no matter how much or how little or whether it's clear, milky, yellowish, redish, whatever!) get to your doctor as soon as possible. Early detection is KEY.