When a mom finds a lump

I was looking forward to my annual appointment. On my doctor’s recommend last year, I lost quite a bit of weight, and walked in proud. Everything was going gangbusters until the breast exam. She found a lump.

My granny died of breast cancer, and more recently so did a mom I greatly admire. I couldn’t breathe. She reassured me that it was probably nothing and sent me for some tests, but I couldn’t get in for a week.

Dave and I have been talking about what a huge transition year this is: turning 40, celebrating a decade back in Milwaukee, knowing we’re a complete family and hopefully finalizing our last adoption. We’re so excited to watch our kids grow, and focus all of that paperwork time elsewhere.

I don’t want to add “breast cancer survivor” to my list of achievements. I don’t care if it makes me stronger. I’m strong, and have gone through enough other painful crap. Fodder for growth has already been provided. But we had a week to contemplate what this could mean for our family. And I assure you – even if this was benign (which statistically it would be), I needed a game plan for my own bus factor.

I had moments all week where I’d completely forget. And then I’d remember and chastise myself for taking this lightly. I’m not; but how could that slip my mind? All of the scenarios flickered through my mind’s eye as I made sandwiches, got the grocery list ready, and dressed the kids for swimming. While laughing with a friend, I wondered how funny things would be in a few weeks. Do you give up laughter when you get cancer? I even find myself mourning my hair, the curly stuff I’m finally starting to figure out will probably never look good again. How could I be overreacting and under reacting at once?!

And the best part is how banal this panic inducing issue is. I know multiple women who’ve had this scare, who after a few poke and prod visits have been told it’s nothing to worry about and were sent back out into their lives, ostensibly to pick up right where they left off, in blissful disregard for what horrors may be sprouting in their bras. I didn’t realize hitting 40 would have such immediate card carrying results.

Somehow, knowing 85% of lumps are benign helped me downplay my fears. I rolled my eyes at my own hysteria and settled in for a week’s wait until the mammogram of truth. But I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to trust my boobs again, no matter what. So what happens next?

Thursday morning, I was at the imaging appointment before Dave even got out of bed. Nervous to the point of nauseated, I sat quietly in my robe, following directions for boob squishing from every angle. Too nervous to read, I flipped through a trashy magazine that I’m sure a hundred other nervous women had not read before me. Then the ultrasound, which took forever because they couldn’t find anything larger than a tiny cyst. When the radiologist gave me the all clear, I was so visibly relieved he asked if I needed a minute.

I do not have breast cancer. Who knows what will happen down the road, but this year I am in perfect health. And for at least the next little while, I will remain profoundly cognizant of that good fortune. As terrifying as that appointment was, at least I know there’s nothing sneaky lurking under my clothes, taking over my body. So consider me a breast health devotee, because I will be getting those mammograms religiously. Please do the same.

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