Monday, January 19, 2009

I Just Don't Know

How could I have a tumor large enough to make one breast larger than the other and not have known it sooner? That's what everyone wants to know, myself included. I asked Dr. Lang this and she said something about some tumors having pretty indistinct borders and being hard to feel.

I've honestly never been very good about going to the doctor for regular physicals. I've always been active and healthy and except for a rare cold never been sick. I did have a mammogram done five years ago. Then, this past spring after a girlfriend recommended her doctor, I did go for a physical. The doctor did a breast exam and didn't feel anything unusual. She did order a routine mammogram. Her office was going to schedule it, but then called because they wanted me to find out where I could go that was covered by my insurance. Well, I was busy with the end of the school year, then getting ready to go to Alaska with my family for my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary, going to Alaska, starting the new school year, and I just never got back to them. When I did have it done in September, it was read as negative, just dense breast tissue. No change from the one done five years ago. I did do fairly regular self breast exams. I am naturally pretty small breasted and thought it would be very easy to feel if I had anything unusual going on.

I realize that my breast must have gradually gotten larger over time, but to me it honestly seemed to happen overnight. I get dressed every day in front of the mirror in my closet. It was only right before my period started, when I'm usually a little swollen and tender, that I noticed the difference. I'd worn bikini tops to the hot tub on the cruise during the summer and had to wear one of those strapless adhesive bras with my gown for the formal night and did not notice any difference.

The first ultrasound and MRI did not identify any tumor. They didn't even say anything about abnormal breast tissue. Just dense tissue, swelling, and skin thickening.

With the diagnosis of IBC I was able to tell myself that the onset is so sudden there was nothing I could have done. I gave myself credit for being so quick to get to the doctors. Now, I'm left with a lot of questions, what ifs, and a sense of responsibility that I should have been better about going to the doctor regularly. Maybe if I had, the cancer would not be advanced. I just don't know.


N-Search of Peace said...

Oh my dear dear sweet friend....we mustn't go into the "what if's" and "if only's" is not for that purpose sweetie....
What you MUST do, is move forward and take this precious information that you have now and educate, educate!
Please do not sit in any self blame or play head games with yourself....they will not help you in anyway....please please know this....
Any one of us can sit and think about all the things we could of and should of done, to change the paths or directions, of either us or our loved be able to spare what suffering there was and avoid the immense pain we had or were witnessing....
Move forward sweetie....take ALL the information that you have and have had to go through and give it to all that is around your amazing and beautiful spirit....
I soak you in every time I am with are joy and you need to always bask in that fact...

velvet brick said...

Well, Martha... This I DO know!

What I DO know that you have done nothing wrong. It's very natural to start looking back, trying to pin-point when this might have started. It's natural to try to create a timeline of the past - then try to figure out 'What if I had.......' or 'Why didn't I ........' Yes, it's natural to second-guess yourself, but serves no purpose.

What I DO know is that cancer is a nasty beast. It truly knows no set rules. Yes, the medical profession knows much about this *&$%^# disease, but not every case is 'text book'. There are women who go for their yearly mammograms, with 'negative' readings...and yet...2 months later...they are diagnosed with cancer of the breast. How could that happen?! Again...cancer plays its wicked game with its own set of rules. So see, can't berate yourself or tell yourself that if you had gone earlier, this would have been different.

What I DO know is that when you thought something was wrong, you DID GO to the doctor. And when the doctor told you that there wasn't anything wrong, you didn't accept that. You took action. You felt something was amiss and you PURSUED it! You DID take ACTION! This is not a case of you finding a lump or mass and telling yourself 'No big deal.' This is a case of a woman being smart enough to know something didn't seem right and PURSUING the truth.

What I DO know is that you need to give yourself CREDIT for what you HAVE done. Nobody is second-guessing your past, blaming you for ANY of this or wishing you had done something different.

What I DO know is that we are fighting this winnable fight all the way through to the SWEET victory - every step of the way!

It's okay that you don't know right now, Martha.

Because I do.


Meags said...

I don't know how I missed the optimist creed but I just saw it for the first time and then I read this post.

Martha, you truley are a remarkable woman and have been inspiring to me for many years at how when the going gets tough you get tougher.

Maybe this is a good thing that you stopped to question. Not necessarily the questioning part but the stopping part. Look at it this way. You just got a whopper of good news and so you can let down a little bit.

On a lighter note..
What if I left 5 minutes earlier or later this summer to take Maria to the library. The cop that gave me the ticket for speeding wouldn't have been there to catch me but I would have been still speeding.

Let the what if go... consentrate on what I can do now and help those to learn with you.

I thank you for your honesty and sharing nature of you. I have learned so much from you and look forward to many more lessons from you.

ZueZQue said...

Auntie Em,

Silly you! If you re-read what you wrote, you're beating yourself up because you could not find the lump that the mammogram x-ray machine couldn't find!! So clearly, it wasn't typical and it literally flew below the radar. But you have to be grateful for following your gut instinct that something wasn't right. So cheer up my friend!! You did good! And I promise, tomorrow is another beautiful day that will be brighter!!

And, lucky you, a bit warmer than the high of 28 that we're blessed with! Stay warm!!

Love ya,

PS. Go Cardinals!