I have spent seven years wondering if cancer broke my gut instinct. With every ache or pain, or thought of a long-term life dream, I would consider recurrence. What if it comes back?
Because of that, I have been vigilant. When my surgeon wanted to release me after five years, I declined, saying I wanted someone’s eyes on me at least once a year (she was the only doc I saw regularly for this specific reason).
When I had aches in the chest on the right side last spring, I went in and had an ultrasound, they didn’t see anything.
When Quinn was born and I had insane swelling in areas of my chest postpartum, I went in to be examined.
Every time I have gone in, it has felt to me like a small battle. Typically there are comments like, “you had DCIS,” or, “you had a bilateral mastectomy, your chance is less than the average person at this point.” While I genuinely did not let it change the actions I took each time, it did make me start to question if it was my gut instinct guiding me or my fear.
Thankfully, whichever it was, it paid off, and any qualms I had about losing faith in my gut instinct were shattered this May.
I had a lump on my right side, just next to my implant (remember, I had my breasts removed in 2016), toward the lymph nodes. It hurt to the touch so I watched it for a couple months. After it had been long enough that I felt certain it wasn’t hormonal or some kind of injury, I battled to be seen.
A physical exam by one of my docs led her to believe it was likely just a swollen lymph node but she wanted an ultrasound to be sure. The radiologist was the same one I saw last spring so she was able to confirm it was not there a year prior. She was confident and direct when she told me that she wanted it biopsied, because it had qualities that could be benign, and it had qualities that could be malignant.
I was biopsied on Friday, May 12, the day after my 39th birthday. On Monday, May 15, the office called and confirmed, it was cancer…again. We scheduled my consult for Wednesday, May 24, the seven-year anniversary of becoming cancer free the first time.
All I could think was, what if I made this crazy, early catch and took control, only for it to sneak back as metastatic breast cancer and steal my life for real this time?
Spoiler alert: it didn’t and it won’t and I will take every last bit of credit for that.
Next time you feel a little sheepish arguing with a doctor who knows more about this than you, or pushing for what you want to rule out your concerns, remember they don’t have to live in this body, you do.