Archive for April 3rd, 2010

Apr 03 2010

Cancer Chronicles: non-chronological beginning

Published by under health,me vs. cancer = I win

My husband whacked me in the tit and saved my life.

No, really, though it’ll take a bit of explanation. We’ll likely never know exactly when the cancer started growing, though I have my own theories I’ll likely explore later on. I did my breast checks reasonably regularly — maybe every other month instead of every month like you’re supposed to, but that’s still more often than most other ladies I know, and only missed an occasional yearly well-woman exam. I have the sort of breast tissue that’s rather pebbly to begin with, however, so anything malignant that stayed smaller than a pea could easily be missed. I’d occasionally have sore breasts right before menstruation, cramps maybe one or two cycles out of the year. Otherwise, everything around my female parts functioned far more regularly, again, than most other females of my acquaintance. No history of breast cancer among any of the known genetic-family branches, either.

In mid-June 2009, I was at a casual outdoor social event and feeling energetic, so decided to join in the sparring with padded weapons that Nathan was enjoying. I grabbed a PVC-and-foam-ducttaped short sword and shield and we ran around the field for a few minutes having fun. While I had some previous experience with this style of padded weapon sparring, I had very little experience in using the shield. Nathan was instructing me on shield use as we played, and I inevitably missed blocking several blows, mostly to our amusement. One such blow that landed was on the outer upper quadrant of my left breast, a particularly stinging blow that took longer than usual to fade. We continued on for a few more minutes until I tired out, and I didn’t think anything more about the injury at that time.

Two days afterward, I boarded a plane for a horror conference in California. I presume it was due to the change in atmospheric pressure that I experienced a sudden swelling in the area of my left breast where I had received the impact. It was moderately painful and weird, but soon after returning home to Texas it seemed to shrink and stop hurting. Over the next few months it seemed to grow and shrink slightly related to monthly hormonal changes, and pain seemed to come and go in cycles as well. We checked the magic internet for symptoms, which seemed to indicate either a hematoma or fat tissue necrosis of the area. (Also a sad lack of proper protective chest gear for larger-breasted females, another topic I’ll explore later on.)

When I went in for a doctor’s appointment in autumn for something unrelated, I had him check the swollen area. At that time he confirmed our armchair diagnosis as the likely culprit/s, and though he mentioned a mammogram might be a good idea just in case, since we were uninsured and I was far under the normal age of concern we thought a mammogram could wait until Nathan got a job with insurance. As Nathan had just begun searching for such jobs, we were only delaying further examination by a matter of months — which given the mildness of the symptoms seemed a reasonable balance of affordability and addressing health issues. As we neared the beginning of 2010, I discussed with the Dream CafĂ© that getting caught up on everyone’s medical needs in the household was our top priority for the coming year, and Nathan and Steve agreed this was a great idea. We discussed fixing my breast and checking my sinuses and allergies, Nathan’s teeth, and Steve’s ongoing sinus issues and getting further needed heart tests.

At the end of 2009, Nathan and I traveled to Boston for Christmas with his son, and it was the first time I’d felt good healthwise in several months (recent months had had me in and out of sick and generally low-energy for no easily visible reasons at that time). We returned on New Year’s, and I picked up an illness on the return flight. During that illness, my left breast started to swell and hurt much more intensely, and a red patch appeared on the upper inner quadrant. It also seemed to be holding heat in the area. We returned to the internet, which confirmed our suspicion that these were signs of an infection, at which point we were off to the doctor’s again.

The doctor agreed it looked like an infection, and started me on a week of antibiotics with a refill and instructions to use the refill if I finished the first week and still had symptoms. I used the refill and at the end of two weeks, still had all the infection signs (and ongoing intense pain). We checked online for cancer symptoms first during this time, but none of the standard cancer signs were symptoms I had. We went back to the doctor who was now much more concerned. He put me on a third week of the same antibiotic along with an additional broader-spectrum antibiotic and medicine to help the pain, and also gave me a recommendation for a breast specialist for further examination. We made the appointment that day with the specialist for a time early the following week (the 9th of March), since we weren’t inclined to move slowly now that we knew it was something quite strange and possibly concerning.

(to be continued…)

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