Tuesday 21 January, 2020

Feel Yourself Up – breast cancer

Lindsy, based in the US, a mother and breast cancer survivor.

Saying tata, to my tatas. Breast Cancer. Turns out that is a thing that can actually happen to you, at a young age, out of nowhere. No matter where I am in the journey, it will always feel incredibly surreal that this happened to me. To top it all off, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing all that Cancer has to offer! I’ve had multiple surgeries, leaving me with a body that will never be the same, 8 lovely rounds of the very famous chemotherapy, followed by 25 rounds of super cool radiation and 18 treatments of targeted hormone therapy to wrap it all up… let me tell you, it’s been a treat.

Over the course of my treatment plan, it has become a full time job to get out of this situation in the best shape possible. Visits to the Cancer centre, hospital, and clinics have been a part of my weekly – and often daily routine. Arranging for childcare, staying on top of related administrative work, dealing with insurance companies, home care, and managing symptoms all became a part of my new lucrative job that I didn’t ask to be hired for! And although I’ve had better career moves in my day, I have most definitely never had a more important one. My job was to get out of this alive, and do everything in my power to prevent it from coming back. One day at a time, positive mindset with me at all times.

I’ll take this opportunity to answer one of the first questions I get asked when people hear about my diagnosis. And that is yes, I found a lump in my breast. And to be totally honest, it took me a very long time to realize it could actually be something to worry about, so it took me way too long to go and get it checked out. You see, I’d rest my hand on the side of my breast at night before falling asleep, because it was a random position I felt comfortable lying in, and that’s when I first started to notice it. I remember eventually starting to wonder if that is what a lump felt like… could it be a lump? Imagine if it was a lump… But it obviously wasn’t, and I’d fall asleep.

Cue life. I’d forget in the morning, and forget until the next time I slept in that position again. The time frame isn’t clear, but I’m pretty sure I repeated this cycle for at least a year, maybe longer. It just didn’t feel like what a lump would feel like – so I couldn’t imagine it was anything to worry about. The chances of it being something crazy like Cancer…

The lump was a soft mass, in the shape of an oval. It didn’t move at all under the skin, and the shape of it wasn’t super defined. It was at the side of my right breast, along the curve that moves towards my armpit, and I know that it was getting bigger in size, because I had started noticing it a lot more, and I couldn’t help but let my mind wander more and more into what it could be.

I just finished breastfeeding my son, it’s hormones.

But breast cancer does run in my family…

Hormones. It’s always hormones. Blame everything on hormones.

But I’m pretty sure that is what people would consider to be a lump…

That’s not what a lump feels like.

What the hell does a lump even feel like…

There is no way this is Breast Cancer.

But what if it is…

Back and forth. My mind was starting to debate what it could be more and more, and this is what made me finally realize I needed to get it checked out by a doctor so I could move on and stop thinking about it. Plus, this part of my breast was starting to hurt, like physically ache. Not all the time, but often enough and strong enough that it was becoming impossible to ignore.

I finally went to see my family doctor and she did a breast exam. She explained that lumps are common in women my age, and they’re usually hormone related (see!) or cysts… and there is usually nothing to worry about. Then she told me she was slightly concerned because it felt rooted in it’s spot, and my skin dimpled around it when she put pressure on it, so because of these characteristics only an ultrasound would be able to determine what it was.

An appointment for my ultrasound was quickly made at the hospital, and I was actually looking forward to it because I just wanted to put this whole thing to rest. But, unfortunately that would not come. The day of my ultrasound my doctor phoned me and told me they’d need to look into it further, and I’ll get getting a call from the hospital with the next steps. I was very disappointed, and upset, mostly at the fact that it wasn’t nothing but also because now I was starting to get worried. My rational side was beginning to lose against my emotional side, and that is something that makes me very uncomfortable. Positive mindset Lindsy… positive mindset.

The next phone call I got was from the Breast Clinic at my local hospital. It was very succinct, and very thorough. They had lined up everything for me as if it was something to be very worried about, which naturally made me a little anxious. But I still focused on being positive and tried to appreciate how quickly everything was moving, and at any point during the process they’ll realize it’s nothing to worry about and I won’t have to see all these appointments through.

Mammogram two days later, biopsy the following the following week, appointment with a nurse to find out the results of the biopsy the week after that, and if surgery is required it’ll be three weeks from that day. Spoiler alert,I kept all my appointments, it was Breast Cancer.

Before I get into my story further, the one thing I want to point out is that I FOUND IT. I felt a lump, I got it checked out, and the doctors all did an amazing job of taking care of me. If I didn’t know what felt normal and what didn’t – if I didn’t regularly FEEL MYSELF UP then it could have been much worse. It would have been much worse. I am grateful every day that I got it checked out when I did, just in time. I would later find out that my cancer was aggressive, and spreading, and the timing is what made all the difference for me and my chances of being a cancer survivor. You heard me, a freaking cancer survivor. There’s something I never imagined being on my resume!

DO A SELF EXAMINATION. Even if you don’t know what you’re looking for. If it feels like something you aren’t sure about – get it checked out. If you have a family history of breast cancer – ask for a mammogram or an ultrasound. If your gut is telling you that you should get checked out – just do it.

Day of diagnosis, November 7 2018

Follow and connect with my @lindsymatthews in the War On Cancer app
 

Radiation for breast cancer, June 2019
Lindsy, based in the US, a mother and breast cancer survivor.

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