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.