The World around us. It’s a beautiful thing and full of not only inspiration but of healing elements such as the warming sun, the nourishing springs, and the light breeze across your skin. For a good portion of us, we’ve removed ourselves from this nurturing element that surrounds us every day.
Spring fever is creeping in with the warming weather and even my four-legged furballs are anxious to go for the first walk of spring. I have planted a few things which an unexpected cold snap killed one of them. I’m making an effort to get outside more this year and listen to the thing around me.
But it’s not just spring that made me think of this. It’s listening to our bodies. So many of us work, have families, deal with stresses and countless other time and energy sapping activities that we start ignoring when our bodies tell us to slow down and take time to heal, recharge, reconnect. One thing I’ve learned from working two and three jobs at a time was to listen to my body and pay attention when it tells me to slow down or sleep.
Knowing the norms for me is what spurred me to make an appointment with my doctor. I know there are conflicting reports out there about mammograms, but I’d only had one – six years ago – and my gynecologist kept asking when I was scheduling the next one. After feeling something wasn’t quite right, I scheduled a mammogram. I’ll keep this light for the sake of the men reading the blog – I had persistent skin irritation that wouldn’t go away and I wasn’t sure if it was normal, so I made an appointment.
I go in, have my lady parts gently mashed between hard plastic plates (warmer than the metal ones) and went on my merry way. Two days later, I get a call saying that a previously noted tissue mass has grown in size. Not significantly, but enough to take a closer look at. I went in the following week and had detailed pictures taken. The tissue ‘mass’ had grown from 8mm to 11mm in 6 years. Not significant growth in the world of cancer cells, but enough for the doctor to want to look closer at it. I was taken in the get an ultrasound done. First one in my life. Scary thing about it this whole thing? I saw the mass immediately when the tech put it on the screen, but I hadn’t felt the mass. I’d done a self exam before I made the appointment to make sure there was nothing else abnormal in there. And I hadn’t felt it.
Doctor looks at the ultrasound and comes in to tell me he thinks they should do a biopsy. I’ve heard of these, I researched it after the phone call asking that I come in for further scans. So I sort of knew what to expect. And was a little disappointed when they didn’t do it that day. Yeah, I’m weird like that. Anyway, I come in two days later and got the needle biopsy.
You know, it didn’t hurt. I felt pressure, but it didn’t hurt. You know what hurts now? The irritated skin AROUND the injection site where the damn Steristrips pulled at my skin. Damn bandages. And it’s at the spot where the edge of the cup and band of my bra meet right under the armpit. So it’s been uncomfortable and still a little achy but I don’t know if that’s because I keep moving around or because I’ve been thinking about it so much.
Here’s the strange part. From the moment I experienced the skin irritation (okay, itching, my breasts itched like a mother! and I scratched them…raw at times [now you understand why I called and made the appointment] but I digress), the hubby and I talked about the possibility of breast cancer. What we would do, what I would do, if it came down to radiation/chemo and/or mastectomy. We had this discussion a month before I made the appointment. It was almost like my body knew something had changed and was readying my mind for a possible severe consequence.
After two weeks, three sets of mammograms, an ultra sound, a needle biopsy, and two sets of lab tests, the mass was found to be benign. It’s called a Fibroadenoma. For now, it will be left in the breast since there were no pre-cancerous cells present. It will have to be watched and I am now the proud owner of a titanium “wing” which is located inside the mass and alerts future technicians that the area has been biopsied. Oh, and the tech assured me that I wouldn’t set off any metal detectors.
For me, this round of “Oh, you’re in your 40’s? Let the health scares begin!” had a happy outcome. But it made me think about what the outcome would have been if I hadn’t listened to my body or hadn’t known what was normal for me. I’ve seen doctors get irritated when patients question their diagnosis. I’ve seen patients go in and fib to doctors about their condition in order to get medications they really don’t need. But in the end, the patient (hopefully) knows their body best. And if you’ve been listening to your body and your gut instincts, alarm bells should go off when a treatment is offered that doesn’t quite sound right.
When the doctor said he wanted to do the needle biopsy, my first gut reaction was “Do it” and we made an appointment for two days later. I’ve learned to listen to my gut, though with matters of people I still let things override what my instincts tell me. I only thought about cancelling because of the cost but the cost of chemo and losing a breast seemed much more to pay than the bill for the biopsy.
I know some people will read this and think it’s a PSA for getting your mammograms done. It’s not. It’s simply a reminder to Know Thy Self. Know when your body is telling you something. Know your limits. Know yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror once in a while. I mean, really look – you know, without those blinders we wear that disguise the stretch marks, weight gain, cellulite and beer bellies – and see what’s changed. Take an inventory. Whether you write it down is up to you. But really think about your bodies. In turn, I think it will help connect you to the world around you and maybe you can help someone else.
I may not fully understand a cancer survivor’s battle, but I’ve been given a glimpse and it has helped me assess just what is really important to me. I’m a fighter and I’d always thought a diagnosis of cancer would send me screaming in panic. I hunkered down, put on my helmet and grabbed a weapon all while saying “Bring it on, bitch.” And my house is cleaner than it’s been in months!
The moral to this tale? Stop and smell the flowers. Or if you’re allergic, just stop and listen. You never know what you’ll hear.
Pictures from one of my lunchtime walks (an attempt to get out of my own head and worry while waiting for the results). My effort to pay attention to what’s around me.