Being a woman in my thirties has not been easy. I’ve survived a stroke, have early symptoms of menopause, there’s silver threads in my hair on not only my head but also my chin, my chin! My sexual appetite is glitching. Sometimes I’m in dire need of Kasper’s presence; oddly enough, I’m usually alone when this happens. Other times…it’s like the work of rolling over and waving an eyebrow at him is just too much and I’m turned off by the idea of touching and being touched. And now that Kasper has decided that my life is too important to risk for another pregnancy, my uterus has made a few decisions of its own, like: seeing a kitten, feeling warm and fuzzy, and instantly needing to be it’s mother.
There’s a lot going on with aging and still wanting to live beyond the day of realization that everything deserving of marketing is now targeting grown people younger than you. You’ve moved down the list of priority consumer base. That senior discount better start looking good because it’s about to be the only advertisement I’ll enjoy in my future. Maybe I will be excited to try the newest Life Alert design (remember, I have actually fallen with the inability to get up before), but I don’t foresee myself actually enjoying it – unless you’re allowed to push for company; I doubt my kids will visit me once they’re grown.
Aside from discovering the toes of crow’s feet at the corner’s of my eyes, noticing bodily changes that feminist articles still fail to mention with all their “embrace your age and it’s body” bullshit, there’s also a paranoia inducing list of diseases to fear. Cramping between periods? See your doctor. Lower back or abdominal pain? Better go see your doctor. Tender breasts? Doctor. Bumpy knees? Get to your doctor! Apparently there’s a line somewhere in your early to mid thirties where the things that used to hurt because of too much sex, alcohol, food, or was described as your body “recovering” from something fun you did, is now a sign or symptom of something deadly. Add to that the constant reminder that breast cancer is a real threat to women everywhere and suddenly you’re one sandwich board short of being sent to a mental institution.
And that’s where I’m at. I found a lump in my left breast. It’s not the first one I’ve ever found. I found one in my early twenties but everyone said I was too young and just being paranoid. It was actually surprisingly easy to dismiss. When I got pregnant at 23, el Jefe, my first “real” doctor, had to do a breast exam and that’s when I remembered the lump. I didn’t think it would still be there, honestly. I hadn’t felt for it in a couple years but there was still discomfort. He felt it and sent me for a scan a couple weeks later. I was minimally concerned. I was not very educated about breast cancer; I never knew anyone directly that had it, survived it, or died from it. It’s what took my mother’s great grandmother but I didn’t know her and am still unsure of the full details.
The scan is a basic ultrasound. I remember laying there on the table with the woman putting the wand over my breast, pressing hard into it, and thinking, why is this a sonogram and not the big, hard metal plate boob squisher thing? Why am I at a radiology specialist across town? Why didn’t el Jeffe send me upstairs in his office to do this? And then I get the results and they are so confusing that it takes an additional nurse, the doctor herself and another specialist from the facility to explain it to me and the original nurse in the room with me.
So, I’m not going to do all of this high talk on an issue I’m not very educated in but this is what I’ve learned since, apparently some lumps are cysts and some women get frequent cysts. I don’t think I’m in the latter category. Cysts in the breasts are usually filled with a clear fluid but sometimes they’re cloudy and when they’re cloudy it’s a sign of possible infection within the cyst. I assume, something you shouldn’t do for anything medical, that if you have an infected cyst in your breast it means the fluid is thicker, possibly chunky. This might explain why the lump I felt was “firmer” than an average cyst and more similar to what I was told a breast cancer lump feels like. Unfortunately, or probably fortunately, the cyst had broken up between getting the referral and going to the appointment. So now I had “chunks of debris” in my breast, and they could barely be felt. I didn’t even notice the lump was gone– my paranoia wasn’t very strong then, apparently.
I was left with the question: how exactly does one go about getting debris inside of their boob? They explained the cyst possibility but amazingly, I got more shrugs than answers. You shouldn’t have ‘specialist’ attached to your name if your answer to questions are more shrugs than words. But like everything in my life, my situation was different. There was a lump but now it’s gone and the only evidence remaining is fucking debris. Of course, I’m imagining little pieces of garbage, twigs, and literally random debris floating inside my boob like it’s a sac of Brazil’s finest water. I’m basically told it’s not worth the cost or the effort to find out what left the debris behind because it’s a pretty safe bet, considering my age and the fact it broke down on it’s own, that it was merely a cyst and nothing to worry about.
My left breast has always been the rebel of the pair. It’s bigger, rounder, fuller, even the nipple looks better than the right one somehow. Yet, it’s the one that causes me pain, discomfort and frustration. Cups can’t contain it like they do the lady on the right; it’s always up higher or trying to escape from the bottom in a very non-sexy way. And to make it worse, I can no longer feel it due to the stroke. So when I started to feel as if something inside of my nipple was trying to burn its way through, I became truly concerned. I felt lumps and bumps until I started crying. With one hand it’s difficult to compare one breast to the other and impossible to feel as though the exam you did was thorough enough. There’s a lot of bumpy things in there, hence the need to compare. There’s a disc-y feel-y thing, some ripple feel-y things, and then there’s uneven tissue which I assume is the result of having kids?? I really can’t tell.
The other night it really started to hurt around my entire breast. I did the only thing I could, I whipped it out and starting massaging my nipple. It just hurt so bad. Like a hot wire was being inserted through my nipple and causing a radiating burn to make the rest of my breast feel heavy, too heavy for my shoulder. And that’s when I felt the lump. Or bump. Or something. It’s like a small little hard thing right behind my nipple. Just talking about it makes it start singing up at me. I have to hold my breast to keep the pressure off of it every few minutes. My boob is not at all swollen, there’s no bruising, unusual chapping or leaking of the nipple; no dimples or even exterior pimples on my areola. But I’m still paranoid. The kind of paranoid that keeps you from calling the doctor. I know whats going to happen. My terrible doctor will give me that, “you again” look, feel for the lump, then tell me it’s nothing. If I get a scan, I’ll be told it’s a cyst. I’ve looked it up a dozen times this week alone, it’s all symptoms of a cyst, a very painful and inconvenient one. Kasper has felt it, admits it’s there but he’s not a doctor so his “I don’t think it’s anything” isn’t worthy of dismissing my paranoia.
I feel like I’m constantly looking for something to kill me. Maybe it’s because I lived so long with something in my brain, knowing it was there and dismissing it because everyone told me I was being a hypochondriac. It’s true I missed about 3/4 of the symptoms and only recognized half of those 3/4 in hindsight post stroke, but they were noted nonetheless. I had countless conversations with myself about brain tumors, wondering if I seriously thought I had one and if I believed it enough to bring my concerns to other people. Yes; I truly believed it but was still too intimidated by the thought of ridicule to do more than keep it to myself. I’m still afraid of that ridicule despite having experienced first hand the result of dismissal. I just want to be okay and pain free. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask.
I need to get a flu shot, maybe I can casually add in to that visit that I found a painful lump. That way I won’t seem delusional in my paranoia; it’ll come off as a last minute, “oh, hey, by the way” during check up. I should probably talk to him about my paranoia in general while I’m there; and my anxiety….and never-ending depression…
Maybe I should ask for a referral to a therapist
Also, please see your doctor if you have concerns. From everything I’ve ever read on this issue, no matter how much can be explained away, it is always best to consult your doctor. I found this site helpful and although it didn’t exactly “cure” my paranoia, I do feel less freaked out and will visit my doctor.
For a follow up to this post, click here