7.06.2008

It's a thickening, not a lump.

I have been contemplating this post for awhile and it feels like I've been keeping a big secret from you blog readers. This is my blog: I get to post about my life or whatever is on my mind and there is one big issue hijacking my brain lately. Posting about it makes it even more real but I feel like I have to share.

I found a lump in my breast.

I was hoping it was all in my head, and when I went to the doctor she would tell me, "You are crazy, there is absolutely nothing there." But guess what? It's there and about five strangers have felt me up in the past week to verify its presence. I've told them all about Keri and how I'm probably overreacting in light of her story---because I realize her case is a rarity and not the norm. Most of the time when a mammogram and ultrasound come back negative, you don't have cancer. Most of the time women in their 20's don't get breast cancer. But one of my best friends just so happens to be the exception to the rule. A year ago she was told her mammogram and ultrasound were negative, after she found a lump. Six months later: same results. One year after finding the lump [this past March] Keri followed her gut and demanded a biopsy. And now she has stage III cancer-- talk about a wake-up call.

I suppose you want to know details, right? Shortly after Keri's diagnosis, I started doing monthly breast self exams [and I hope you are, too!!] About a month ago I noticed a weird lump in my right breast. I felt it over and over again, wondering if it could be a lymph node, or a milk duct, or maybe even my pec muscle. Its shape is quite odd and is best compared to a tootsie roll. Just hold onto that mental image for a second: a tootsie roll is lodged inside my boob. Got it? Okay.

So I scheduled an appointment with the doctor, who referred me to get a mammogram, ultrasound, and a blood test. I was so incredibly nervous before my tests I almost broke down about three times, and my inner hypochondriac took over my life. What if it's cancer and it's spread throughout my whole body? Is that why my back hurts lately? If I die who is going to take care of my boys? I'm not ready to die yet, I have WAY too many things on my 'to-do' list!

Needless to say, I've been a bit distracted lately. I think I made that abundantly clear to Nate when I washed a load of laundry with the lid up----meaning it did not wash at all. He let that one slide without a sarcastic remark which means he loves me, in his own way. Well that and the extra hugs and kisses I've been getting lately, along with 'no reason flowers.' I NEVER get 'no reason flowers!'

The mammogram: the technician, Paula, is my new best friend. Seriously, she is a pimp and I love her. Immediately after feeling me up she said, "I feel it, but it's not scary to me. And I'm not going to call it a lump because it's more of a thickening." And this chic feels a lot of boobs for a living. As she smashed my girls into teeny little pancakes I asked her, "Don't you have a junior size machine for me somewhere? This one doesn't seem to fit right." But apparently transforming your womanly appendages into whoopie cushions is the goal and boy did she succeed. I swear to you, if I attempted to lower myself to the ground I would have hung by my boobs and died a slow death. But really, it wasn't so bad:) The results? My breasts are so young and densely fibrotic, they couldn't see anything. Which I guess means the test was negative for a mass but then again, I'm not sure they could see much anyway. Curse these young fibrotic breasts of mine!


The ultrasound: next came 'the dude whose name I don't remember.' He had an earring and has been in the business for thirty years, meaning he's seen a lot of boobs in his life, too. As he ran the probe over my suspicious area he said, "This is normal breast tissue. See here? This is glandular tissue and here is your fat pad." Okay, if you say so, dude. All I see is a bunch of black and white spots that all scream CANCER to me. But maybe that's just me being delusional again:) I told him that since my mammogram was null and void due to my 'young breasts', I was hoping the ultrasound would be more helpful. To which he responded, "Well yeah, but by the time we see anything on ultrasound it's usually really big." Great. Fantastic. Fabulous. The results? Ultrasound dude called in the doctor, who had a wicked lisp, to go over my results right then and there [my sanity thanks you for that one, doc]. He told me that both tests didn't show abnormal tissue. He suggested I keep a close eye on the area to watch for changes over the next few months. I think he could tell by my facial expression that I was still unsure, so he added, "You could always make an appointment with a general surgeon to discuss further options." When I straight up asked him if he suggested a biopsy he said, "No. The thickening is so large it would be difficult to assess without removing it, which would leave you without a chunk of your breast." [in laymens terms, I don't have much tissue to spare, so taking out a huge portion would leave me rather mangled.] What makes this statement really creepy is that Keri's original doctor told her the exact same thing after her negative mammogram and ultrasound last year. A little eerie, no?

I think the mammogram lady said it best: "If it wakes you up at night, and you can't get peace of mind, talk to a surgeon." After consulting my breast care counselor [a.k.a. Keri] I know I have to take the extra step and visit a surgeon. Keri's take home message has always been "You must biopsy every palpable mass" and it would be incredibly ignorant of me to stop after these tests. I realize that it's 'probably nothing.' I know that everything is going to be fine. But honestly, even if there is a 1% chance that it's 'something' why wouldn't I investigate it further?

So that is where we are now: I'm deciding which surgeon gets to deal with me:) Nate wants me to go to the big reputable hospital in our area, to find the best of the best surgeon around. And I have to agree---even though I was pleased with the staff at my little hospital---I should probably find a top dog to ease my mind. I'd prefer the general surgeon be a 'breast care specialist' so that they have lots of boobie experience, and if any of the Milwaukee girls have recommendations for me I'd gladly accept them.

As a side note, my inner tight wad and inner hypochondriac are battling it out in my head. On one hand I'm incredibly thankful that we have good medical insurance because this is exactly why we need it. There will still be some out-of-pocket costs [finishing out our deductible for the year] but Nate is being supportive and tells me this is some of the best money we'll spend. I suppose he's right because you can't put a price on peace of mind, or hearing that I DON'T have cancer. I know that is dramatic but that's me right now:)

Are you still with me after this mega post? Am I even making sense at this point? Thanks for hanging in there and wish me luck finding a surgeon! Now go and feel your boobs, for heaven's sakes!

[I promise we still had a fun holiday weekend, posts to follow. But this needed to come first.]

38 comments:

  1. Keep your head up Julia!

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  2. hey julia, it's brittany (mike and lajuanna's daughter). just wanted to let you know i'm sending good vibes to ya! you can NEVER be too careful when it comes to stuff like this!

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  3. I'll be thinking about you! And praying too... :)

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  4. You are right, this will be money well spent. My mom had a similar operation recently and all the tests were negative (thank god), but it needed to be done so that she/everyone would have peace of mind.

    My best friend is a pathologist at froedtert, I'll ask her if she has any doc recommendations.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this post with your readers, Julia! It's a message every woman needs to hear over and over again. I'll be praying for good results and peace of mind for you!

    Just Another Day...

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  6. I'm glad that you shared this experience with us. Maybe one day I'll share my irrational fear of doing the exams on myself. Keep your head up and I'll keep you in my prayers.

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  7. Wow girl.

    That's got to be really, really freaky. Thanks for sharing, and you'll surely be in my thoughts and prayers. It's probably nothing, but I think you're really smart for not taking any chances. Keep us posted.

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  8. you're absolutely doing the right thing and we're all so proud of you for being proactive.

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  9. Yikes Julia. That's scary. But I 100% agree that you should get the biopsy. I'll be thinking of you.

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  10. Definitely get the biopsy - it's a good thing for peace of mind. And don't worry about being a hypochondriac! It's better to know for sure than go around worrying all the time. I'll keep you in my thoughts :)

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  11. Julia -- thanks for sharing. I hope everything is okay. The wait must be really scary. Please let us know when you get the all-clear!

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  12. How incredibly ironic! I'll be thinking and praying for you. I agree that you should go all out and get every single test done that you possibly can. There is no price for piece of mind. Please keep us updated on the results!

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  13. I'm sorry to hear that you're going through this Julia!!! I will be thinking about you and GOOD LUCK finding the best doc around!

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  14. Wow....yes, definitely get the biopsy and definitely find the best doc you can. I'll be thinking of you...definitely keep us updated.

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  15. Uck...so sorry to hear this. Hate it hate it hate it. You are a very smart girl and you are doing the right thing to talk to a surgeon and get it biopsied (hum...is that how to spell it?!). The best thing that you can do it be proactive! See...being a hypocondriac comes in handy sometimes :) I will be thinking about you!

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  16. People tend to consider it to be a "waste of money" or "unnecessary expense" when a test comes up negative as though the test yielded no results or was pointless. But negative is a result and a quite excellent one. I would totally go for the biopsy.

    Thank you for sharing this. My thoughts are with you!

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  17. Oooh, that is a very scary experience. I have always dreaded breast exams, self and otherwise, for fear of finding something. I, too, have lumpy ones, so it makes it even harder to figure out what is a scary lump and what is not. I would do exactly what you are doing. I think your peace of mind will make you feel so much better. And most likely, it is nothing, but that doesn't make you feel better until they tell you for sure it is nothing. Thanks for sharing this!!

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  18. Good for you for not ignoring this - facing it head on is the brave thing to do! You're in my thoughts...

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  19. Quite a distraction that it is. I'm glad for the friendly psa to touch myself, but even more to hear that you are taking the necessary steps to hear Cancer Free.

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  20. I check myself weekly- I'm super paranoid. Sounds like you are trying to keep things in perspective and you're obviously staying hilarious-- go get checked out so we can all breathe a sigh of relief!

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  21. That is scary, you are definately smart to have the biopsy for your peace of mind. I'll definately be thinking of ya! :)

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  22. I'll be thinking of you in the next few weeks and praying that it's nothing. Best of luck!

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  23. Julia-- best of luck. I will be thinking about you.

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  24. You know my story, so I won't go over it again, but I'm really glad you're being so proactive! I had all of my appointments Froedtert's Breast Health Center. Dr. Mary Beth Gonyo did my biopsy and she was absolutely fantastic. Good luck in your search!

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  25. I just saw this post or I would've commented earlier. I think you're definitely doing the right thing. The peace of mind is worth the money any day. There's a reason we have intuition and it's better to check it out!

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  26. i'll keep you in my prayers!!!

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  27. Wow, Julia. Kudos to you for doing regular self-exams and for sharing this experience with your readers. Get the biopsy-it is absolutely worth the peace of mind. Good luck and I'll be thinking of you.

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  28. Julia, you are absolutely doing the right thing!!! I'll definitely keep you in my prayer.

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  29. Just like everyone one else has said, you are 100% doing th right thing. I will be thinking about you...please keep us updated. And thank you for sharing this!

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  30. I would probably be taking the same approach if I were you. You can't put a price on your health...mental health included so if it turns out to be nothing at least you didn't give yourself an ulcer worrying about it for the next 6 months. Good luck!

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  31. I'm so sorry Julia. I would get a biopsy too just to be sure- Nate's right, it's worth spending the money.

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  32. Thank you ladies, it helps to be supported virtually and in real life.

    I've started a list of referrals and I'm going to get something set up asap. Will keep you in the loop for sure.

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  33. Sounds like you are doing everything you need to do. While it will probably turn out to be nothing, peace of mind is worth every penny. And you are doing a great service by sharing your story. Not everyone has a happy ending to finding a lump in their breast, but people need to learn not to be afraid to look into it. So many are afraid to get it checked out because they are more afraid of hearing something is wrong. Good luck to you and keep us posted!

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  34. Julia, you are definitely in my thoughts! Try to stay positive about it, but definitely see it through. Better to go overboard and have it be nothing than to let it go and have a problem later.

    Again, I'm thinking of you. Keep us posted!

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  35. I know that this must be unnerving, especially in light of Keri's situation...but you're right - if her story has taught us anything, it's that we need to take our health SERIOUSLY. Good for you for seeing this through to a conclusive answer right away. I'm thinking of you!

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  36. OMG!!! I am so sorry you're going through this! Keep a positive attitude. Chances are OVERWHELMING that it's nothing. Positive vibes go a long way, and I am sending mine to you! Good for your for persuing a certain answer.

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  37. Julia, I was 25 or 26 when a doctor diagnosed me with "fibrocystic disease", which really isn't a disease at all. It's a condition in which thickening occurs, leaves, and comes back again. Now, 21 years later I still have it. Yes, it makes mammograms a little harder to read IF the thickening happens to be occurring on that particular day. I have never had to have any type of operation. My advice...if a doctor suggests an operation, get a second opinion. For me, I was very anxious about the situation when I first realized it was happening. I talked to my doctor who referred me to a surgeon for his opinion. Since then I've talked to other doctors about it. I've found out this is way more common than I ever knew. Do you think there is something in the "Baker" genetics here? :) Anyway, I'm praying for you, Julia, that God will give you His divine wisdom as you proceed with looking for answers. It's going to be fine. Aunt Beth :)

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  38. Julia you are in my thoughts and prayers and I know you will be just fine.
    I have fibrocystic disease as well and my mom mas it too (probably who I inherited it from)But the first time I felt something weird I freaked out as well. Piece of mind cannot have a price put on it so do what you feel is right for you and what your doctor recommends.

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