WARNING: EXPLICT LANGUAGE USED TO DESCRIBE SYMPTOMS which may be uncomfortable for some, my apologies in advance.
Actually, the last symptom that was noticed was what the doctors refer to as “oranging”, sections of the skin texture had changed to a dimpled surface. Other sections were getting pulled in, an almost concave occurrence with the nipple receding, nearly all of it was now inverted. The one breast was smaller, had shrunken and the breasts were asymetrical.
A small, oblong lump was now fairly close to the surface, a lump that a different doctor had told me years ago was simply a swollen milk gland.
I didn’t add 2+2 because I didn’t know the other danger signs and, these changes did not happen all at once. The problem was, I had not been examining myself routinely. Was I running from the possibility? I’ll probably never know; too late to puzzle it out.
We can not afford to wish-away ANY out-of-the-ordinary changes. Nor should we accept any brush-off reason for any lump by any professional. I have never heard of the “oranging” or of the “pulling-in” in any signs and symptom literature. I wish they would include the (apparently) rare symptoms for those of us who do experience them. So be forewarned. No head’s-in-the-sand, girls.
If you have just one symptom, don’t panic but please have your health care provider check it. Better to err on the side of caution, as they say.
After discovering my symptoms, the doctor first did a biopsy, then a needle-core lumpectomy. I remember wondering, “How will they fit that lump through a needle?” Well, I found out that the needle is inserted during a mammogram to “mark the spot” for the surgeon. Then the surgeon removed the lump in the surgery department. The fairly simple procedure did not get all of the cancer, so it was back to surgery for me. We decided upon a bilateral mastectomy due to a strong family cancer history.
My mastectomy was in time. It was difficult, and it irritates me for actresses to blithely describe their surgery as if they had a hard time at the dentist with a tooth extraction. Perhaps the bilateral mastectomy wasn’t difficult for C.A. but she really should not give the impression every mastectomy is a breeze. The reality was, (for me as an older adult) that I spent 6 days in the hospital rather than the anticipated overnight stay. I do NOT say this to frighten anyone, but the FACTS, whether unusual or not, should be out there. I believe in disclosure and preparedness.
I heard of one girl having a “going away” party before her surgery. Her gal-pals had this party, burned her bras, said “good-bye” to her twins & had fun! It’s a serious disease, but avoiding the doc because you don’t “want” to have it . . . that’s just nuts. And not all diagnosis’ are huge or drastic or big drama. So many lumpectomies do the trick with no big changes to the breast.
In my case it was a good thing we decided upon a bilateral mastectomy, since pre-cancerous cells were found in the “healthy” breast. A reminder, the decision was based on family history. Recovery was difficult for me, but I am so glad that it was done, that the cancer was discovered in time, that I was able to rehabilitate fairly easily once I got past that inital first week.
I did not opt for reconstructive surgery, and I remain quite happy with that decision. I was a heavy-breasted person and after the surgery I have had much less back problems.
Hindsight? Don’t procrastinate, don’t play mind games about any pain or symptoms with yourself. Get checked out. If you aren’t satisfied with your doctors demeanor or explanations, go to another! GET that second opinion. Routinely self-exam. If you’re not sure how, ask the doctor that you trust. And resist denial.
Seriously, life continues after cancer. For me, I’m thankful for my bout with cancer if that’s what it had to take for me to wake up and appreciate life. Not just my own life, but life in its totality.
There is so much to appreciate, so much to learn, and so very much to enjoy and to share. For those still working through cancer, that painful wilderness, it is my prayer that you get well and that you not go it alone. Whether you have family or not to support you, you do have Someone Who cares deeply. Let Him in. He wants to help, He doesn’t play “favorites” and He desires a relationship with you. His Name is Jesus, His Name is God. Get acquainted, you’ll be glad you did.
A cancer recovery resource for you, your loved ones or friends: Practical Pockets.com http://bit.ly/RdJ5b2 for post-surgical accessories and other related links.