I found a lump in my breast, now what do I do?
My best friend and me
Is it cancer or just a cyst?
A couple of months ago, I went in for a routine check-up at the local free clinic. At the time, I was just getting checked out because I had ended a relationship a couple of months before, and that person had lied to me about pretty much everything. Because of his track record of deceit, I decided it was best to make sure he hadn't lied to me about other things as well, namely his extracurricular "activities."
They didn't find anything related to that. The interning doc did find something, though. The resident doc came in to check it out and told me it was nothing he would be concerned about.
I wonder if he'd feel the same if he found a lump in his balls.
Like most Americans, I don't have health insurance. Although we are supposed to have gotten universal healthcare, the bill when finally passed had been so hacked up and watered down that it did not do what it was intended to do, namely provide health care for all Americans, so no one has to live without a safety net.
It boggles my mind that there are millions of people who don't want the rest of America to have health care coverage. I bet most people opposed to it have some sort of health insurance. Politicians don't have to worry about it. They're covered. And somehow, they snowballed their supporters to agree with them.
So now I wait. I have an appointment at a low-cost clinic for a mammogram sometime in November, months after the lump was found. This is eerily reminiscent of when, five years ago, my mother found a lump in her breast in the summer of 2009. In November of that year, she learned she had breast cancer.
I hope that this is not a repeat of that scenario. Luckily, my mother had health insurance. Now she is cancer-free. She also did not have a three and a half year old son that depended entirely on her for survival, as I do.
Me and my reason for living
He's too young...and so am I.
This past August was my 35th birthday. Since learning about the lump, I've done what I can to treat it. I found a Tibetan breast massage video that teaches you how to massage the lymph nodes in your breast in order to decrease the size of cysts and make them go away. I cannot tell if the lump has gotten softer. It seems to have, because I cannot pinch it in between my fingers the way I could before, but that could also mean it has grown. Putting it to the back of my mind every morning is a daily ritual. It's always there, this nagging shadow, this irksome worrisome threat to my survival. It tears me apart to think I could leave this world so much sooner than I ever planned to, that this could be more than something harmless.
I hope. I pray to gods I do not even know if I can believe in that my son will be taken care of should anything happen to me. His father has never met him and lives in another state. My mom is retired and a widow. She is in her 60s, and parenting a toddler is not typically part of anyone's retirement plan.
Tibetan breast massage
It's really the only option I have. I work part-time for several people--a doctor, a lawyer, a coffee shop. There is rarely a day when I am not working--if I am not at work, I am being a mom, which is a job in and of itself. It's the most exhausting and most rewarding job, where your boss is much younger than you, you work for free, and sometimes get physically abused by your "employer."
My son is the best friend I have. I've learned as I have gotten older that true friends are truly rare. Sure, I have old friends who are happy to hug me and laugh with me, but it's rare to find someone who wants to comfort you when you're feeling alone and lost. My little boy does that for me. He's the sweetest, most amazing soul. He's as stubborn and obstinate as his mother sometimes, and that's a good thing. I hope he always stands up for what he believes in and asserts his opinions. I tell him every day "you're my favorite person ever."
My son and I
40,000 women will die of breast cancer this year
- Breast Cancer statistics, 2014
See the American Cancer Society's most recent estimates and statistics for Breast Cancer in the United States. Learn more…
Breast cancer survival rates
Hurry up and wait
The free clinic that could not get me in until mid-November managed to get me in to see a Nurse Practitioner on Oct. 17, thanks to a friend who works there and was appalled by the fact that I was basically "dismissed" when I spoke with the call center representative to set up the appointment in the first place. It is thanks entirely to him that I was able to be seen a month sooner.
The NP who saw me had seen me briefly when I was pregnant a few years ago, before I had a supposed miscarriage that left me with no doctor for a month before being seen at another clinic (that's another story of a botched ER diagnosis and of another rude call center employee who, when I called to be seen after I was told I miscarried, told me "there's no point, you're not pregnant anymore" and then hung up on me). But I digress.
At Friday's appointment, my NP, a lovely woman from Grenada, said the hard lump in my right breast felt like an adenoma to her. In laymen's terms, that's a benign tumor. That is just what she thinks, though. After exam, she instructed the nurse to schedule an appointment for me to get a mammogram and also to set up a surgeon visit with me. They were able to see me sooner because of a program that was implemented under the Affordable Care Act.
Why I am thankful (somewhat) for Obamacare
"Obamacare" is the Affordable Care Act. Included in that 2K+ page tome of legislation is something called the BCCS program. The Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening program covers the cost of the breast exam, mammogram, sonogram and biopsy for abnormal cells..
I have to tell you, I cried with relief to learn that so much was covered under that plan. However, that just gets me to a confirmed diagnosis.
The next step is paying for surgery, hospital stay, anesthesia, testing and a hundred other things that are going to cost me more than I could possibly pay. I can barely pay my rent and utilities.
It's getting better
More and more women are surviving breast cancer diagnosis, and that's awesome. It's a ray of hope for those of us still waiting to learn what we are facing.
I hope. I hope this is nothing.
Please, let this be nothing.