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A Breast Cancer Scare And What It Feels Like To Get Your First Mammogram

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I didn’t blog about this when it actually happened because I was in quite a shock for a few weeks. It was probably the scariest moment of my life and in a single instant I realized how quickly everything could change in my imperfect little world.

At my 6 week checkup after having Caleb, my doctor found several large lumps in my left breast. Within 2 minutes, she had me getting dressed and in her office as she called upstairs to squeeze me in for a mammogram. It was urgent. She “wasn’t going to let me leave the building until I had it checked out”.

I sat there in silence trying so hard not to cry because I was all by myself. I thought it was going to be a routine checkup. I went alone. Bill was home with the baby. I was going to go to Starbucks after my appointment was over. It was all supposed to be easy. But it suddenly turned into something much more.

“You’re freaking me out”, I told my doctor as I tried my hardest to hold back my tears. “I’m sorry. There’s no way to sugarcoat this my dear”, was her reply.

And so within 10 minutes I was in front of another receptionist handing in my info. And then I waited. Because I didn’t have a proper appointment. And I texted my husband until my phone died. He searched online for answers. I read and read and read trying to find some solace in the waiting room.

When it was my turn to finally go in I was told that I couldn’t have a mammogram because I just gave birth. I had to wait at least a few more months before getting on the books but they would do a sonogram instead.

She checked and found that my left breast was FILLED with large cysts. Mass after mass that I never felt. A little TMI – but my left breast is slightly larger than my right and I just thought that was me being unsymmetrical.  The good news? They were nothing to worry about. Probably something that I was born with. Probably something that I will always have. They don’t have to come out. They will not bother me. Large breasted women are prone to them. It’s all good. (And PS – my mom has them too I found out later)

When I got home and walked in the door I collapsed into my husband’s arms. We cried. Because it was such a scary morning. Those three hours could have permanently altered the course of our lives. It would have taken one test result to shift our lives forever … or to potentially end mine.

While I was waiting for my turn in the doctor’s office I kept thinking to myself…. “this is how I’m going to go. this is how HE is going to take me.” Even now I’m starting to cry because I accepted it for those few instances. I wrote myself off. I gave back the keys and kept thinking about how I would haunt my children until they were old and grey so I could still be part of their lives.

But again – it was all good. I made an appointment (for yesterday) to come back and do a proper mammogram. They said 5 months after giving birth was enough time to heal before doing the test. And honestly… it wasn’t as bad as everyone says.

There’s 4 squishes. One breast at a time. The top to bottom squish hardly hurts at ALL. I was like… THIS IS IT???? The breast is placed on a glass plate and then it is pressed but not FLAT LIKE A PANCAKE like I was told. It’s pressed a bit. I am a 36C – so I don’t know if that makes a difference? But honestly – I was like… really?

The sideways squish I FELT but after childbirth it wasn’t a big deal. LOL! And besides – it’s for about 5 seconds a breast. Hold your breath if you need you. Stop letting people get you all riled up about the pain. It will be fine.

Luckily, I don’t have to go back for 5 years. I’m only 35. I thought she was going to make me go back once a year from this point – but my mammo showed that some of the cysts actually went AWAY which was great news. There was no concern at all and that made me (and my husband) very, very happy.

Have you had a mammogram before? Did you tolerate the pain??

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Vera Sweeney, mom, blogger, social media influencer and New York resident, is the founder of LadyAndTheBlog.com. She is considered one of the top female digital influencers in today’s social media space. Her lifestyle and parenting brand helps busy women stay on top of the latest trends in fashion, food, family and travel.

Comments

  1. Angela Kinder : August 8, 2013 at 9:37 am

    I just cannot imagine what was going through your head as you waited to find out the news. But I am really glad that it didn’t turn out to be cancer.

    I’ve never had a mammogram (and I am 2 years away from turning 30!) but since cancer, even if it isn’t breast cancer, runs in our family, I probably should.

  2. I’m so sorry you had to go through this scare but relieved that they could give you an answer. I had a mammogram last year and didn’t blog about it because I was getting severe pains in my left breast. I was scared because we had just lost my dad to cancer and I had zero energy to fight it if had been something else. Luckily my breasts were clear and they said it could have been muscle spasms that went on for a few weeks. Luckily it went away. The test itself wasn’t bad. There are new machines now than when our moms forst had them. I was scared of the test but it wasn’t bad at all. Wishing you all the best. xoxo

  3. Oh Vera I am so glad it all worked out! Mammograms are scary indeed, we never know what the results will be and as we get older we are forced to deal with our own mortality. Makes us realize what is really important in life.
    Yes I’ve had them, yes I’ve had cervical cancer, which I was diagnosed with when I was pregnant with my last child. That’s why we didn’t have any more, we felt we’d tempted fate enough and would just be happy with the two we have. I am still terrified every time I have a PAP smear.
    I did learn that it’s a very introspective time and that you can see quite clearly that the beauty of a rose or a baby or a husband are what life’s about. You can also see that not enough money, a broken car or a kid who is driving you crazy are all just the ‘stuff’, none of which matters at the end of the day. The scare makes you a deeper person and it gives you a new sense of wisdom.
    Sorry you had to go through this.
    Sarah

  4. I went through a very similar situation so I can completely relate! I found a suspicious lump, went to the doctor and was referred for a mammo. Same outcome as you, it was a cyst. They said I have “lumpy” breasts, and so does my mom. It was nothing to worry about but it sure did freak me out! And I agree, there really isn’t pain involved in a mammo, just some slight discomfort. So happy to hear all is well with you, Vera!!

  5. Ugh, that morning must have been torture. I’m so sorry you had to go through it all but thanks for sharing your story. And, I’ll admit, I’m reassured hearing the mammogram wasn’t that bad!

    • That’s really why I wrote it. I was like in a PANIC right before it started because of all the horror stories. It’s uncomfortable. Believe me. But it’s not what you’ve been told.

  6. I’m glad you’re okay Vera. I’m really happy you wrote about your experience because I’m in my early 40’s and have NOT had one yet. I was a little afraid it would hurt and also putting it off (because that’s what I do). I don’t think I would have even gotten the Upper Endoscopy the other day if my ulcer symptoms hadn’t been so extreme.

    • Nancy — big breasted women hurt less I am told. So you will be better off than most! WAs that TMI for a comment??? 🙂

  7. Danielle Lindquist : August 8, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    I had this exact same thing happen but it was before I got pregnant with my 2nd child. Just after my dad died I became very aware of how fast life can be taken from anyone and that freaked me out. One day I was getting in the shower and noticed this pain in my left breast, decided to ignore it thinking “oh breast cancer doesnt hurt” then the pain got worse, it was a constant pinch and hurt really bad, I felt the area and felt what felt like a grape that I couldn’t move around. I freaked out and went in to see my dr who felt it and also thought it felt weird. I was sent in right away for a mammo but the hospital refused to do it on someone my age (I was 28) and they sent me in for an ultrasound instead. They found NOTHING, not a lump, not a cyst nothing abnormal. Sooo I went back to the dr and she diagnosed them as cysts and sent me home, that was 2 1/2 years ago now and I haven’t had any problems since.

  8. I have never had one before, but, I know it’s getting to be that time. I’m so glad to hear that everything came out okay for you, what a scare that must have been!

  9. Phew. I was holding my breath reading. Sorry you had to go through that but glad you got it check out and confirmed you are ok. My cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer this week. She had 3 children. It’s terrible. They are starting her aggressively immediately so there is a positive outlook and she’s a tough chick. It’s scary stuff. The only take away is enjoy life, each moment as much as you can and take care of yourself and get checked regularly. I’m glad you blogged about it. The mammos do get a scary rap…as do colonoscopies, which I can tell you are no big deal either. We should do a series LOL.

  10. SO relived for you. I hate my mammograms, but do it every year now that I am over 40. The joys of aging.

  11. SO scary. I am glad everything is ok.

    I’ve never had a mammogram, but my mother has had 2 scares. I took her for her second biopsy and had very sad, scary worst case scenario situations running through my head the whole time we waited. Thankfully, she too is ok!

    • its the waiting game. our minds are our worst enemies. kept repeating what life would be like for my kids without me. of course i am worst case scenario kinda girl

  12. I am so sorry you went through that. It had to have been hell. Two weeks after I’d been diagnosed with colo/rectal cancer they found suspicious micro-calcifications in my right breast. They did another mammogram to make sure it was there and then I had to have a biopsy. I told my surgeon that I metabolize local anesthetics very quickly but he didn’t give me enough and it wore off before he was through with the biopsy. Anyway it ws two very long weeks before I found out that it wasn’t cancer. We’d been reeling over me being diagnosed with cancer, it came out of nowhere! Then this. The longest two weeks of my life! I was lucky that I only had stage 1 colo/rectal cancer and I’m ok now but that two weeks forever changed me; just as the initial diagnosis changed me. I ca’t imagine what it was like for you and Bill. Having such young children had to have made it even worse! I’m so glad it’s only cysts!

    • Oh DANA!!! what a story – I am so glad that your mammo came out clear. The waiting is the worst part.

      Thank goodness you are in clear with colo/rectal cancer. That must have been horrific!!

  13. I had a lumpectomy done on each breast 7 years ago.Today, I feel more lumps. I was going to ignore them, but after this post. I’m going to follow up. Thank you for sharing your story

  14. Oh Vera, how terrifying!! I have not had my baseline. I am 41 and I got the script last year… I’ve been putting it off. I’m not afraid, necessarily, just don’t want to bother. You’re making me want to go in right now and get it over with. I am SO glad you got good news.

  15. Dear Vera,
    So glad everything turned out okay, but that is one of the scariest times of our lives and those moments seem like an eternity. Glad you shared your story so maybe it will be a wakeup call to others to take care of themselves. Enjoy your family and thanks again for all you share with us – both good and not so good.

    • thank you! i was hoping it would make people think twice about getting their mammo done. it’s a must-do for women and there’s so much fear surrounding it!

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