I found a breast lump
A few weeks ago, Scott found a lump on the side of my breast when we were in Port Douglas. We were just lying on the bed chatting, and he had his hand resting on my breast (lol) and said "I think I can feel a lump." I insisted "no you can't. No way." And I felt it myself and I couldn't really make out anything, but then my finger tip did feel something hard and it moved away so quickly and I couldn't find it again. I completely spiralled. So so terrifying, to imagine your mortality, to imagine the worst. Nothing could take my mind off it, I was deep in anxiety and panic and we were flying back from QLD that day. It was a bloody hard day to get through. I made an appointment for that afternoon to see a GP - and he confirmed he could also feel a small lump, I've never felt sicker to my stomach and he referred me to get an ultrasound.
He said it was very small; so if it was cancer, I found it early. I cannot explain to you how badly my health anxiety flared up. I was convinced I had cancer, and I was quite literally debilitated with fear and anxiety. I could think of nothing else.
Ringing around to 8 ultrasound places, a lovely lady fit me in for the following day after I broke down on the phone to her. Can you believe the waiting time for every other ultrasound place was 2-4 weeks?! How could a woman with a breast lump wait that long to know what is happening? It's insane.
The ultrasound sonographer was SO lovely and could see that I was riddled with anxiety and she said at the end "I've seen thousands of these, this is nothing sinister." I burst into tears, but then later that day felt the anxiety flare up again and thought, well she could have got it wrong and I don't want to get my hopes up. The following day the report came back and my GP called me and said "most likely fibroadenoma - indeterminate grade 3". I was so praying it said grade 1, benign. So I would never have to think about it again.
My mind got so hung up on the word indeterminate, and anxiety of the unknown had to linger for days to potentially weeks until I knew what I was dealing with. I was convinved it was malignant, because otherwise they wouldn't have graded it at a grade 3. I didn't realise that all solid masses are graded at 3 or above, but many solid masses aren't cancerous.
My GP referred me to a breast specialist, and my mind truly went to some dark places. Health anxiety is utterly debilitating, it's entirely all consuming. I cried every day. Everything can change so quickly. I'd look at the girls and think, I might not even see you grow up. It was horrific, and I actually have tears in my eyes writing this now as I revisit how I felt.
The breast specialist didn't call me for an appointment for 10 days, so I tried to push it out of my mind and focus on the surgery that was coming up. The breast specialist was incredible, I went to Dr Elaine Bevington in Heidelberg - the most calming and assuring doctor I've ever come across. She was confident and so reassuring, and so I did feel significantly better because lumps is her speciality. She said it's always best to do a biopsy, but that she was sure it was a harmless fibroadenoma that likely grew during one of my pregnancies.
The biopsy on Friday (two weeks ago) terrified me, I was so anxious that after hearing it was probably a fibroadenoma that they would turn around and say sorry it's actually not. Mind you, I had to go the breast surgeon THREE days after my nose surgery and have the biopsy done four days post surgery. It was up there with one of the worst weeks of my life to be honest.
The biopsy was a core biopsy, so they had to numb the area with a local and I didn't feel that at all! I was so nervous for a needle in my boob but couldn't feel a thing. And then once the area was numb, I absolutely didn't feel anything and there was a little bit of pushing and two clicks (when they take the tissue biopsy) but it was entirely painless, fine and easy.
So this was a Friday, I had to wait until Monday evening to get the results. It was a really hard weekend to get through. I remember when my phone started ringing, I felt dizzy and like I could vomit. Dr Elaine said, "as we thought - fibroadenoma!" And I started balling my eyes out. I felt truly like the luckiest person alive. I was absolutely convinced it was breast cancer, and maybe because of the surgery I was in a much more vulnerable and anxious state so possibly I could have handled it a bit better if it were at a different time, but when it rain it pours right?
I feel so lucky, so grateful of good health, and through this I've now learnt how to do a breast check, and that women should be doing them once a month after their period finishes.
I'm 29 and I'd never done a breast exam. I was almost too scared to do it, doesn't all breast tissue feel a little lumpy?! What if I found something?
Well, I'm not thinking like that anymore.
If you're like me and weren't sure how to check your breasts, you can book a GP appt and they can show you how and what you're feeling for, or there's some really good YouTube videos! I'm committing to doing a check on myself monthly, so please make the promise to yourself that you'll also do the same.
Before I had the results back I kept telling myself that once I hear the lump is benign, my anxiety will entirely go away and I will feel on top of the world - and I did, but this didn't last long. My health anxiety is still just as present, but now it's moving to different areas. So I'm not stressed about my breasts, but stressed about every other part of my body. That's how health anxiety presents to me, I am going okay for so long, and then I get worried about one thing and it completely consumes me and then bleeds into other aspects of my health. And it always is about cancer. I don't have anxiety about anything else. I had a headache for 4 days this week (from a very stiff neck) but I was convinced I had a brain tumour, and I considered getting an MRI. And then my period only lasted 3 days instead of the usual 5, and I was sick to my stomach about "what does this mean? Could I have ovarian cancer or endometrial cancer?" Like it's so ridiculous, and not logical, and if you haven't had health anxiety before you may not understand it. So that's where the work lies for me over the next few months, is coming back to a place of feeling safe in my body and trusting my body to be well. I'm definitely visiting a counsellor also to talk this all through.