Many of you have asked how the cancer was found, and may assume that I found a lump. But it wasn’t that simple. I have had fibrocystic breast disease for what seems like forever. With this common affliction (disease is probably a misnomer) come “lumpy” breasts. So self breast examinations were a challenge. How do you know one lump from the next? On top of that, I had a lot of bigger cysts.
Last September (2011), Dr. Burns felt a lump that didn’t quite feel like the others, so he sent me for an ultrasound. This showed that I had many (10-20?) cysts in my right breast, which all showed as black spots on the ultrasound. I remember looking at the ultrasound screen and thinking “wow, if those black spots are cancer, I’m screwed!” But I was advised that they were all cysts and sent on my merry way.
I became much more diligent in my self examinations, but it was even harder to tell the lumps apart, and eventually, I felt like I had a cluster of grapes in there! I could still feel all these individual cysts, so I still believed it was all benign. But back in early summer, I detected a change. My cluster of grapes started to feel like a rock; it got super hard and I realized that this could potentially be more than cysts. That led me back to Dr. Burns, who sent me for another ultrasound.
At that ultrasound, my technician was very thorough and patient, and she spent a lot of time on the ultrasound. Eventually, she said “I need to have the doctor take a look.” Uh-oh. So Dr. McGinley came in and, after a few minutes said, “we need you to come back next week for a biopsy.” Hmmm… This was fine except that following week my family and I would be in Disney World. So when she said “then we’re going to do it right now”, that’s when I knew I was in trouble. Doctors don’t work with that level of urgency unless they are really concerned. I appreciate and admire Dr. McGinley’s fast action!
Results would take three business days, so I was in China (EPCOT) when I found out. It was harder waiting those five days and not knowing, then it was to find out and have a name for my rock. I have since read that ILC doesn’t present itself in quite the same way as the more common IDC. Rather than a lump, one article indicated that it presents as a hardening of the tissue. In my case, that’s exactly what happened.
My advise to all you women out there… don’t assume, and don’t be afraid to ask. The doctors would rather look at 1000 cases of cysts than to miss 1 incidence of cancer.