By Danni Moss
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I thought I couldn’t get breast cancer. I was young; I was not quite 40. There was no family history of breast cancer and only one person in my extended family had cancer of any kind. I had no known risk factors for breast cancer.
So when I found a lump while nursing the end of 2003, I knew it had to be a clogged milk duct. No big deal; happens all the time. But a few months later I had to admit to myself the lump was getting larger and I was worried. So the best way to put my mind at rest was to go to the doctor.
My OB/GYN agreed it was probably a clogged milk duct but wanted me to see a specialist to check it out. She gave me a phone number, but after repeated calls I could not get past the specialists’ answering machine.* A few more months passed. Finally, shortly after my 40th birthday, I went to my regular doctor for new routine prescriptions. I happened to mention the lump and my difficulties with the specialists’ office. She checked me out and had her office call the specialists. Doctors have a different phone line and I had a first-available appointment within minutes.
When I went for my appointment at the specialists I remember looking at all the other women waiting and I thought, “Some of these women here will find out they have breast cancer today. Some of them already know they have cancer. I’m so glad the worst I have to look forward to is having a duct aspirated or something.”
The first inkling I had that something might be wrong was during the ultrasound. I saw the lump – but I expected to see that. But then there was another lump in my lymph nodes. I knew about the enlarged lymph node, but had never connected it to the breast lump. Even I knew the implications of a breast lump AND a lymph node lump. But still, I thought it couldn’t be.
A few minutes later the radiologist walked into the room followed by a nurse with a tray. Before I knew it, she was doing a needle biopsy and told me it didn’t “look good.” I screwed up my courage to ask what “doesn’t look good” meant. She said it looked like cancer. But she said any other questions would be answered after we got the biopsy results back.
In spite of this, I spent the next week convincing myself that doctors are wrong all the time and it was probably just nothing. So it was still a shock when I got the call from the radiologist telling me I had breast cancer. Fortunately, she got me an appointment with the surgeon that same afternoon so I could have all my questions answered.
I’ll continue my cancer story in bites and bits in later posts.
* When I told the surgeon I was unable to get past their answering message for a few months, they changed their system so patients could reach a live person when they called in to the practice.