I gave myself a very special birthday present this year – I had surgery. Before you think it was to increase, decrease, or “lift” something, let me tell you it was not cosmetic (though I could probably use a few nips and tucks at my age; the infinite number of creams I buy OTC are not working their promised magic).
About four or five months ago, I discovered a hard lump about the size of a large marble in my left armpit. I had been feeling small pangs of pain in my left chest for several months, but I figured it was just my turn to dance with heart disease. Everyone in my immediate family is diabetic and suffers from strokes or heart attacks, so I thought – here we go; my turn. I was going to tell my internist about the pangs during my next visit, so imagine my surprise when I discovered the lump.
The Drama Queen in me immediately manifested herself – cancer, I thought. I have cancer. I searched some more and found that the texture on the left side of my left breast felt different than its right side. I tested my right breast and compared it to the “patch” and sure enough; I had an area about the size of my palm that felt denser than the muscle around it.
This was when the coward in me wanted to pretend it didn’t exist. What should I do? I wanted to ignore it and maybe it would heal itself; maybe it would go away.
But I have things to do. I had to find my courage and take care of me.
My gynecologist verified my findings and sent me to get mammograms and a sonogram. They came back “benign,” and I celebrated, but she persisted and referred me to a surgeon.
SURGEON - Tell me that wouldn’t scare you too.
He explained that the lymph node was doing its job – reacting to the mass nearby. He also explained why the mass itself didn’t not show up as a malignancy. It wasn’t concentrated in one area; it wasn’t a lump. He agreed with the digital exams, but to be absolutely, 100% sure, that it wasn’t malignant, I would need a biopsy.
I didn’t qualify for a needle biopsy because the surgical needle is guided by a lump that can be seen; my mass would require a surgical biopsy – an incision from which he could take a sample. While in there he would try and remove as much of the mass as he could without making a bigger cut.
It was my decision, he said. If I could live with the discomfort, I should be fine.
I have never lived in “shoulds.” I can only muster my courage with “definites” and “absolutelys,” so I decided to go ahead with the surgery.
I spent my birthday preparing for the surgery the next day. I turned down offers for dinners and parties and get-togethers. I had to get my game on. If all turned out well, there would be more birthdays in my future.
The biopsy won’t be back until next week, but from the looks of the tissue, the doctor is pretty optimistic it is a benign growth. The incision is longer than he promised, and the pain is not any worse than the discomfort I felt before the surgery.
I share this with you, dear reader, as a reminder to take care of yourself. We must find the courage to fight for our own health and well being. Never “go gentle into that good night.”
I gave myself this present because I have a wonderful husband, a beautiful, feisty family, and many more people to pester before I leave this place. I beg you to find your courage and take care of yourself as well or better than you take care of others.
Happy Breastday to me!