Guest Post | Stephanie’s Brush with Breast Cancer

Throughout the month I am featuring some fabulous writers – some I’ve met in real life and others just around the blog – to guest post about an experience they’ve had with breast cancer.  First up, the adorable Stephanie from Binkies and Briefcases.  I can totally relate to Stephanie’s panic when her doctor insisted she have an ultrasound the very day she was seen.  

Binkies-and-Briefcases

Hi ladies. I’m Stephanie from Binkies and Briefcases. I’m honored to be sharing with you, but I feel a bit like a fraud because my story has a happy ending and I know that so many do not. I am humbled by your stories of courage, faith, strength, and survival. I don’t know what it feels like to go through chemo or radiation. I do know how it feels, though, to discover the lump.

I found mine a few years ago in a most unglamorous way; one day I was scratching my left armpit. It makes me giggle a little, but that really is how I found it. It felt like a tiny, hard little pebble at the top of my breast. I kept picturing the scene in Finding Nemo when they clog the filter with aquarium gravel.

I was immediately terrified. I was only 25 and had two very small children. I had an appointment two days later for my routine pap smear, so I waited to ask the doctor because I had already lined up a babysitter that day. Waiting for that appointment was horrible. I kept asking my husband to touch it to verify that it wasn’t just my imagination. It was tender to the touch and most definitely there. How could I not have noticed this before?

Stephanie-from-Binkies-and-Briefcases

Stephanie and her precious baby daughter, Penny.

I called my aunt, who is a breast cancer survivor, and told her all the details. She calmly told me about all of the tests they would probably want to run. I was so glad to have her knowledge, mentoring and support.

My kids were only 3 and 10 months at the time. I started thinking about all of the things we didn’t have in order. All the things I should have done. We should have made an appointment sooner for a good life insurance policy, we should already have a will, we need to get a power of attorney for my husband. Why? Why didn’t we already do these things? It was going to be so much harder to try to do them now.

I need to start letting myself be photographed more so that the kids have memories of me in case something happens. I should start a notebook for each one of them full of letters from Mommy. I should have eaten more broccoli and drank orange juice every morning.

I hadn’t even seen a doctor yet, but the fear and guilt were overwhelming. I couldn’t leave them alone. I couldn’t be sick and miss out on these important early years of their lives. I also knew that it wasn’t really up to me and I didn’t handle that well either.

My mom came the morning of my appointment to stay with my kids. I went to the appointment alone. The doctor confirmed my worst fear. She agreed there was “something palpable” and said it needed to be looked at right away.

“Should I make an appointment for later this week?”

“No, today. I’m sending you to the surgery center now.” I was not prepared to hear that.

“Um, but, my kids are with my mom and she had other plans this afternoon.”

“You’re going today.”

I owned a child-centered business at the time that was right across the street from my doctor’s office. My mom was waiting there for me with the kids.

I walked in and lost it.

“She said there is a lump…and…{sobs}…”

We called my husband to get my kids and an employee to take over at work. Of course, my mom agrees to cancel her other plans and she went with me.

We went to the surgery center and signed in. I was the youngest person in the waiting room by several decades. I was surprised to learn that the first test they wanted to do was an ultrasound. I had had plenty of those during my pregnancy, but it was news to me that they could also be used to detect breast cancer.

Less than a year ago I had the same cold gel on my skin, turning my head in the same direction to look at the same kind of fuzzy black and gray monitor, but that time I got to stare in wonder at the baby swimming in my belly and listen to the swooshing, fast rhythm of her heart beat. This time the mood was somber, the sounds were hushed, and we were looking wide-eyed at the monitor hoping not to see “something white.”

My mom was in the room with me, staying calm and positive and asking the ultrasound technician questions like if her birthday was in the fall because her name was Autumn. Or maybe it was Summer. It was good that my mom was there, because I was too distracted to pay very close attention to anything Summer/Autumn had to say.

It’s hard enough to decipher an ultrasound when you are looking at something as big as a 9 pound baby in your belly. Is that a foot? Maybe it’s an elbow, etc. It’s even harder when the thing you are looking for is so tiny and you don’t know exactly where it is.

“I can feel it, but I can’t see it.” Summer (or Autumn) said matter-of-factly. “That’s a good thing. Cancer will usually show up as a white spot, but since there is most certainly a lump, you are going to need a mamogram.”

So at 25 years old, half the age that I had heard recommended, I had my first mammogram. I thought it would be painful, but it wasn’t that bad. Granted, I still had fresh memories of childbirth for comparison. The woman running the machine was so nice and supportive that I almost forgot how awkward it was to be standing there topless and  have a stranger squishing my naked breasts into unnatural positions so that she could take pictures.

It was difficult for them to get clear pictures with the mammogram machine because of the location right next to my armpit.

They sent me downstairs to the lab to have blood drawn.

2 hours and 4 vials later, I was finally allowed to go home exhausted, but with hope.

They hadn’t found anything in the mammogram or the ultrasound. I was surprised that they told me that right away. I was expecting to have to wait a long time for those results.

Eventually the doctor’s office called and said that they blood work was also negative, but I still have a “palpable lump” in my left breast.  The doctors decided that it is most likely a problem with a milk duct.

We watch it very carefully, because there is still a possibility that it might be a tumor, although it is benign.

I’m relieved every day that it doesn’t grow.

It’s so important that we all be familiar with our own bodies and I’m so glad that we have this month every year to remind ourselves just how valuable we are, to our families and to eachother.

I wish the very best to each and every one of you.

Thank you Stephanie for your story!  Please take a minute to head over to Binkies and Briefcases to read a few of my favorite posts from our guest poster today!  I really love her series on building a dream home (I covet her choice in kitchen design!) and the girl is crazy talented in the crafting department. Check her video for ideas on how to have Christmas on a zero dollar budget!

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for having me. You are doing a great job bringing awareness to such an important cause!

  2. Thanks for sharing your story, Stephanie. Sorry you had to go through this at all, but so glad that it doesn’t appear to be anything of concern. This is a wonderful reminder to do those regular checks!

  3. Ninja mom says:

    What a really lovely anecdote. It was simply told and with honesty. A powerful reminder to do breast self-exams as well as one that we are, none of us, immune to fear of breast cancer.

    Glad it turned out well for you. Maybe someone will catch a lump of their own early because of your story.

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