Texas girl in the middle of Kiwiana

Amy Boatman

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The Lump

It all started with the lump on July 2. I'm very sensitive to latex and elastic so after wearing a bra all day the underside of my boobs was hot and itchy so I was soothing the skin. That's when I felt it. Inside my left boob was an enormous golf ball sized lump. In fact it actually felt like a golf ball, hard and round. I was immediately scared. I called for Shannon to come tell me if this had been there before. She confirmed it had not.

Well fuck! My imagination immediately started running towards the terrifying and macabre. If I'm honest, though, I really didn't expect it to be anything other than benign. I'd never had lumps or bumps in my breasts before but I also don't have any history of breast cancer in my family.

The weekend dragged by until finally Monday morning I was able to call my doctor. Happily enough she was able to fit me in that afternoon. She felt around a bit and then said "Yep, that's concerning." She gave me a referral for a mammogram and an ultrasound. Unfortunately they weren't able to fit me in for that for more than a week.

During that 10 days I still didn't think it was going to be cancer. The doctor had used the words "High suspicion of cancer" but she told me that was because she wanted me to get in for the scans sooner rather than later. I strictly avoided Googling anything. I didn't need any fuel for my imagination. And yet I still didn't think it would be cancer.

I had never had a mammogram before. The only thing I knew was that they squished your boob onto a plate and that it was quite uncomfortable. Well that turned out to be exactly what they do. I had to stand in front of the machine while they pressed my boob flatter than I thought it would ever go. To say that it was uncomfortable is an understatement! I can see why women don't want to do it. I wonder if men have to have their balls squished like that. Since the medical field seems to cater to men then probably not.

Anyway, the technician told me she thought it was a cyst. A cyst! I was cautiously optimistic. A cyst would be benign and would go away on its own eventually.

Next up was the ultrasound. By this point I was completely nonplussed walking around with a top on. Somewhere along the line I lost my modesty. The ultrasound was done with me lying on the table. Where the mammogram tech had been personable and friendly, the US tech was cold and business-like. She poked and prodded all over my chest and found not only the golf ball sized lump but also a weird lymph node in my left armpit and a dodgy bit on the right side. She told me it was not a cyst. It was a solid mass, still quite suspicious. I would not know the result until I saw the breast surgeon and I wouldn't get an appointment with him until I got a referral from my GP. Still more waiting.

I saw the surgeon on July 23 where he did a biopsy on the three spots. My goodness that's a thing! It was actually pretty interesting watching him insert the needles using the ultrasound. He took samples on all three spots. And then it was another 10 days of waiting. All the fucking waiting was awful! At this point I just wanted to know one way or the other so I'd know what I was dealing with.

I met with the surgeon again on August 3. On the entire drive over I was trying to prepare myself for the worst but to be honest I was still convinced it was benign. The scenarios playing over and over in my mind were almost all how I would laugh off the uncertainty. How I would go into work the next day and tell them it was all a false alarm, that I was fine! Finally inside his office he said the spot on the right and in my left armpit were benign. The big lump was cancer. I stopped listening at that point. I was shocked. The word "cancer" kept echoing in my mind. You know how when you repeat a word over and over again it stops making any sense? You begin to wonder if that's actually the right word and if it's really spelled that way. Cancer, cancer, cancer over and over.

The doctor and his nurse gave me some pamphlets and other information and said they'd book me in with a medical oncologist. Soon we were leaving the office. I managed to hold it together until we got to the parking lot. That's when it all came crashing down and I melted into a puddle of tears on Shannon's shoulder. I cried all the way home. By the time we got to the house, though, I was feeling better and a bit more optimistic. What can't be avoided must be endured or something like that. No amount of wishing it away would get rid of the cancer so the next step was to deal with it.