First and foremost, let me preface this by saying I’m 100% healthy and fine. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into it.
Several months ago I was feeling my boob, and to be honest, I’m not sure if I was doing a cancer check or if I was just randomly squishing it around because that’s what we girls do. All of a sudden, I felt a lump a little smaller than a jelly bean in my right breast.
Naturally, internal panic occurred. What is this? When did this show up? Are there any more? OMG, my boob hurts! When did it start? Do we have a history of breast cancer in the family? And last but of course not least, what caused it?
I was wary of heading to the internet for my answers, because I don’t know if you’re aware, but if you WebMD a paper cut it’s basically going to tell you that you have cancer. When you’re researching a lump in your boob, you kind of already know what the search results will be. So instead, I walked around with a lump in my boob, not telling anyone, and essentially ignoring the problem.
Why on earth would anyone ignore a lump in their breast, you might ask? Well, it’s simple — I didn’t have health insurance at the time. Of course, I would have loved to rush to the doctor the very next day and be like, “Yo, get this thing out of me!” but that wasn’t really an option for me at that time. I had to wait until the next month when I was able to sign up for healthcare.
So, I waited. And as I waited, it seemed like the lump grew. And while grew in size, it also grew in pain. There were nights I would lay down to go to sleep and certain positions would be too painful because of the pressure on my breast. No big deal, right? Nothing to panic about. (Can you sense my sarcasm?)
Finally, I got insurance and booked the earliest appointment available. I went to my doctor and basically laid out all of the issues that I was having. I’m a pretty healthy person. I’ve never broken a bone or had to be on any medications with the exception of a random flu bug I picked up. So walking into my doctor’s office with a potentially serious health issue terrified me.
I sat on the edge of the exam table in my little cotton robe and told the doctor I had found a lump in my right breast and it had grown, and then shrunk back down, but was still noticeable. The look my doctor gave me was not promising. In fact, I would like to ask her to work on her poker face — it seemed as if I’d caught her completely off guard. I realize the thought that probably went through her head was, “Please, don’t make me give this young woman bad news.” But in fairness, I was sitting there, vulnerable, praying to the high heavens that she wouldn’t have to either.
She felt my breast and found the lump I had mentioned. And then she felt my left breast and felt a similar one which I had managed to miss. She then casually told me what I had was not breast cancer, but fibrocystic breast disease.
Immediately, I thought, “What the heck is that?!” Okay, great — so it wasn’t cancer. But whatever it was, it still didn’t sound so great.
It turned out, it wasn’t so bad, either. Basically, fibrocystic breast disease causes the tissues in your breast to harden and become lumpy or feel rope-like. There’s a number of symptoms that come with this lovely “disease” (even though many practitioners don’t like to call it that any more), and I recommend Googling them. While there are a number of symptoms, I only have two: a small lump, and tenderness. In all of my Googling prior to the appointment, I never found this as a possibility of what my lump could be. In fairness, I probably had tunnel vision after reading all of the different types of cancer I could possibly have.
Fibrocystic breast disease affects over half of all women at some point in their lives. HALF. Usually between the ages of 20 and 50, and it isn’t a cause of future cancer. The only cancer ties fibrocystic breast disease has is that it might make it hard to feel for actual breast cancer lumps. So while I don’t have some inspiring story about overcoming cancer, I felt it was important to share my story because this is a problem that affects potentially half of the women out there, and it’s not something we are ever taught.
I had never heard of it until after I had walked around for 6 weeks, panicking that I might have cancer. Adding extra stress to my already crazed life, plus causing me physical, mental, and emotional pain.
So how do I fix this “disease” that I have? Simple. Take some vitamin E pills, stop drinking caffeine, try some other herbal pills like evening primrose oil or botanicals.
At the end of my doctor’s appointment, she told me that all I needed to do was stop drinking so much tea and Coke, and that the lumps that concern doctors are not “soft” like the one I found, but feel like little rocks or like grains of rice. Really? All I ever heard growing up and as an adult was how to feel your breast for lumps, never what the lump felt like, never what the lump could be other than a cancerous tumor.
So, I hope maybe I’ve taught a couple people something new. If you do find a lump, please don’t wait around for 6 weeks like I did. Please don’t think it’s just fibrocystic breast disease. Go to your doctor. Visit a clinic. Get checked out.
I was lucky. I found a lump, and it wasn’t cancerous. I can’t even imagine what would have happened in those 6 weeks if it was cancerous.
Please self-examine your breasts. Please go to your doctor for any symptoms. And please, live a happy and healthy life, because you’re all my sisters and like Beyonce says, we run the world.