Let’s Talk Tumors-Ladies Feel Yourselves Up

One thing women ask me all the time is “how did you find it?” Because they’re really thinking, “holy shit I want to know what to look for because I don’t want fucking cancer.” It’s a question I would ask too because even though most women can find irregularities in their breasts, there are many things that we may not recognize as a problem. Not all breast cancers present as a “lump” like you picture in your mind. I always pictured something round shaped like a marble or the little ball you play Jacks with. In my situation, the tumor was lobular (invasive lobular carcinoma or ILC), which means it’s in the lobule and presents more like a thickening of the tissue. Picture a spider web that spreads out and the webby part all interconnects and thickens. Lobular masses can be more difficult to see on mammography for that reason.  I found my tumor 10 months after my last mammogram and it was 8 cm. That’s a big fucking tumor. It grew behind the nipple where there is already a firm little area where the ducts are. One day I noticed the nipple was flat and I felt the firm area behind the nipple was larger on that breast. I had been pretty lax with self exams but I would occasionally feel around for any “lumps.” I’m telling you ladies -that’s not good enough. You need to pay attention to anything that’s different, which in my case was a flatter nipple and thicker area behind the nipple. My nipples have always been pretty flat anyway (in fact I had to pump breast milk because my daughter couldn’t properly latch on). I realized, too late, that the left nipple looked different than the right one. I really had fallen into a false sense of security because I was always vigilant about getting my mammograms on time.

I saw recently that Shannon Doherty (who was diagnosed with Breast Cancer) is suing her business manager for allegedly not paying her health insurance and the cancer spread to two lymph nodes while she was uninsured so she couldn’t seek treatment and it’s his fault. I have no idea if she has a legitimate cause of action but it’s my personal opinion women need to be their own first line of defense. Take charge of your own personal healthcare – I mean come on Shannon, are you really that busy? Hasn’t Charmed been over for like 15 years? I pray for her and wish her and her family all the best in her cancer battle but I personally could not point the finger at another human being and essentially blame them for my cancer or the spread of my cancer because of some financial snafu. If you can afford “people” to manage your money you can likely afford a mammogram or other scans/tests. Most providers will even work with you if you can’t. It’s your body, your health, your life.

Addendum: I see Shannon has since settled her lawsuit and I am glad for her as litigation is stressful and she does not need that added strain in her life right now. I also admire the way she has shared her breast cancer battle publicly, it’s a brave thing to do.

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Countdown to Boobs

Warning – breast diagram below- So I was back to see the Boob Whisperer this morning, and man did I have a bunch of wrong information. This time I had my questions ready. First, he said there is still inflammation from radiation so “we’re not quite there yet, but almost.” He thinks probably in another month or two.  The main wrong thing I thought was the procedure-I thought he was doing a DIEP Flap which takes tissue from the abdomen to form the new breast pocket, but no, he is doing a Lattisimus Dorsi Flap on the radiated side, in which muscle and skin taken from the upper back are tunneled under the skin to the front of the chest to form a pocket for an implant. So sadly no tummy tuck but apparently this procedure is a better choicd for me, with fewer risks of complications.  At the time of the flap surgery, he will put in tissue expanders, then fill them every week or so with saline until the desired size is achieved.  After the last fill the expanders are replaced with the silicone implants. I’m sure there’s some kind of waiting period after the last fill. The first procedure is a couple of hours and will be done at his surgery center. He said I will need two weeks, to recuperate. I don’t know if he changed his mind about which flap procedure he was performing because I could swear he said something about taking tissue from my abdomen but he says the Lattisimus Flap is what he prefers in instances of radiation. This is a diagram I found.

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I’ve been googling stuff about tissue expanders and it’s mostly not good news as far as comfort and pain. One lady described feeling as though you have bowling balls stuck in your chest, and the expanders stick out making it impossible to sleep on your side (which is of course how I sleep). At least I can say I’m actually starting the countdown to boobs, and I can perhaps see them on the horizon – maybe if I squint really hard…

Post Script: I wonder if this means I will have weird uneven back fat.