A year ago today, I went to see my primary care (family) doctor about a hard spot on my left breast just below the clavicle. I was sure it was nothing and that I was just over reacting, but figured that it was worth a visit to the doctor just to be sure. I didn’t know then that most breast cancers are not hereditary. That the majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a relative that has experience it. Cancer wasn’t something that was common in my family. I was more worried about heart disease, stroke or dementia. The thought of breast cancer never really crossed my mind.
So I told my primary care doc that I just wanted to have her check this out. I had not yet mentioned it to Scott. It was just something I had noticed the week before, and it didn’t quite feel like a muscle strain, but I figured that was what it was.
As she systematically examined my right breast first, and then the left breast she paused.
The look in her eye was telling. She asked Is this what you are feeling?
She examined it more detail. I now appreciate that she was feeling for the size of it. She told me that the next step was to do some diagnostic imaging. She said ultrasound and then mammogram (turns out they do it in the other order). She placed the order.
I went downstairs to the area where I could make an appointment for mammogram and ultrasound. I didn’t want to wait for them to call me. It was Monday morning. The earliest appointment I could get was Thursday afternoon.
I went home. Unable to focus on much, I decided to go on a long bike ride. I hopped on my bent and headed north. I ended up out near Shoreline and Scott’s office, right about the end of the day. I texted to see if he wanted to ride home with me (he had biked into work that day). He said sure, so I rode out to his office.
He came out with a couple of his colleagues who wanted to check out the bike. Since my recumbent is easier to let others ride than his (I have pedals that work better with street shoes). One of his colleagues gave it a try.
The delay was difficult. How do you tell your husband that you found a lump in your breast and your doctor is concerned? That is not easy. There is no right time. I knew I had to say something but didn’t want to say it in front of his colleagues. So, as we were pulling out of the parking lot at his office, both on our bikes, I blurted out to him:
I found a lump in my breast. [Family doc] is concerned. I have follow up imaging on Thursday afternoon so I’ll need the car.
He had the bike ride home (about 30 minutes) to process the information. We didn’t know anything yet. It still could be nothing. There was no point in getting worried if it was nothing.
At dinner that night he told me that I could have told him about the lump sooner. That I didn’t need to hide that information. That he would be there for me. That whatever it was, he would be there for me.
People often say that the not knowing time is the worst time. That time before you are definitively diagnosed, when you don’t know if your whole world is about to be turned upside-down or it is nothing. Looking back a year later, I’m not so sure I would agree. I’m pretty sure I’ve gone through some worse times. I was healthy back then. Feeling stronger than I had ever felt in my life.
That day, I resolved that until I knew for certain what was happening (I still didn’t really think it could be cancer), I would concentrate on getting stronger. I figured that if it was indeed cancer, then the stronger I could be going into it, the better off I’d be. Since I wasn’t really able to concentrate on work anyways, it made more sense for me to concentrate on bike rides and swimming. Exercise became my priority, but also my outlet. It was my coping mechanism. It kept me sane. It still does!