Posts Tagged ‘ inflammatory breast cancer ’

The Two O’Clock Lump

The first is always the worst…

Monday, August 17, 2009 started off like any other.  That evening, just before bed I noticed that my boobs felt like they had been put inside a vice.  They were sore and about double their normal size (period had just started) so to alleviate some of the pain I squeezed them a few times with the sides of my arms.  After pressing against them I noticed that the left one felt more solid and not for one minute thinking anything would be awry, I used my hand to squeeze it.  This action was completely involuntary.  I had a pain so I touched it.  My hand nearly flew across the room because when I felt the size of the lump in my breast, I practically threw it away from my body.

A deep, gnawing sick feeling overcame me and I tried to put it out of my head, knowing nothing could be done until tomorrow.  Part of me wanted to blame it on the period that had just begun, and I reassured myself by saying that in the morning, I’d wake up and it would be gone.  Needless to say I didn’t get too much sleep that night because I felt overheated and nauseous.

When I finally did wake up on Tuesday morning, I had completely forgotten about the lump I’d felt the night before.  I was still feeling slightly feverish and the first thing I did was toss the covers down to expose my torso.  When I did this, I happened to look down at my chest and there staring at me was this giant bunch making the skin of my breast tent up.

Another round of sickening nausea and I rushed to get out of the house.  I didn’t want to alarm Dan or Santos by calling the Dr.’s from there and just desperately wanted to get to my Aunt’s house so that she could tell me what to do. Well, I knew what I had to do, I guess maybe I needed some reassurance more than anything.

I got to Auntie’s at about 10:30am and oddly enough, she wasn’t there.  Of all the days… Lindsey was however and I opted to wait after she said her mom would be back in about 1/2 hour.  It ended up being more like an hour but once Auntie walked in the door she immediately asked what was wrong.

I told her that I’d found a huge lump and asked her to feel it.  I knew she’d several scares of her own in the past and figured that if it felt like anything she’d ever had at least I could worry less.  Turns out her lumps didn’t feel anything like mine.  I was reluctant to give it  a good evaluation because to me, it felt like this solid mass encompassing an entire quadrant of my breast.  I was terrified to touch it again.  Seriously, it was huge and it’s like it happened overnight. Something that big doesn’t just appear.  It protruded from the tissue below and looked and felt much like I’d found a really big walnut to stick there. It wasn’t smooth, it was really ragged, it wasn’t squishy it was hard.

So, I ended up with diarrhea and called to schedule a Dr.’s appointment.  They told me to come in at 2:00pm and that they considered it an emergency.  Rhonda Selvin saw me and after a long while of poking and prodding my boob, determined that because of the heat, pain and sudden appearance that it might be a mastitis.

She would only give me two days on Augmentin for it to resolve before pursuing alternate diagnosis.  I was to come back at 4:00pm on Thursday to see Tina Guy.  She drew my blood, CBC and SED Rate, both coming out completely normal.

The next two days were the worse.  The fever persisted, the pain persisted, the lump persisted.  The internet became my enemy.  When you look up Mastitis the first thing you’ll notice is that it’s extremely uncommon in non-lactating women.  Secondly you’ll see little warnings saying that an extremely dangerous form of breast cancer sometimes masquerades as mastitis, IBC or Inflammatory Breast Cancer.  The kind that you have no hope of recovering from, is always fatal and where death comes quickly and painfully.

By the time Thursday rolled around I was in the worst state I’d ever been in.  I don’t even think I was as strung out last summer when Raymond shot himself to be honest.  Though it’s quite possible that the suicide experience has worn down my emotional wall and I just didn’t have much left in me at this point.

Santos was scheduled to start school on Wednesday and all I could think about was how horrible it was going to be to drag him all the way from California to Maine, enroll him in school and then have to ship him back because I got sick.  I was a wreck, unable to eat, drink or even function sanely.

Tina Guy examined me that afternoon.  The lump hadn’t changed much and she estimated it was about 2.5cm x 4cm.  Pretty large.  I explained that I wanted to know, instantly, what it was.  That waiting wasn’t an option.  She told me that she could try to get some cells out of it, but that she didn’t believe it was a cyst because it was so firm.  If she could have cut me open and ripped it out right then and there, I’d have been all for it.

She wanted to numb me up first but I refused and she went in with a large diameter needle with no lidocaine.  I only felt the slightest pinch when she broke through the skin, but nothing after that.  She told me that she felt it hit a hard edge and then pop through into the center of the mass.  After wiggling the needle about a bit, she said with surprise, “Well, it looks like…. hmmm… it’s a cyst! A big, fibrous cyst.”  She drained and drained and eventually the syringe was full and she could drain no more.  The lump was nearly gone at this point and I felt a slight bit of relief.  Until she explained about the color of cyst fluid…

It wasn’t clear and it had evidence of red blood cells.  Both bad signs when evaluating a cyst. In fact it was like a thick, greenish, yellowish, whitish color.    She went on to tell me three or four more times that it still ‘might’ be an Inflammatory Breast Cancer but that we’d know more next week.  My cytology report was due to come back on August 27th.  On the way out they set me up with a Mammogram and an Ultrasound to be done at Miles the following day.

When I got home that night I only felt better temporarily.  I couldn’t shake my nerves and not eating and the antibiotic had done a number on my system.  I was dehydrated, weak, feverish and unable to convince myself I wasn’t dying.

I went in for a Mammogram on Friday afternoon.  They did both breasts for comparison.  I wasn’t nervous about the right one and just after it’s picture got taken, she swung her screen around to show me what a ‘healthy’ breast looked like.  Then she did the left one.  Needless to say, she didn’t swing the screen around to show me that one so I immediately jumped to the conclusion that there was something horribly wrong with it.  Well, at least more horrible than a cyst!  After Liz squeezed them horizontally and vertically, she left the room and then came back, announcing that she needed to do another type of view.  Talk about stressful!  Evidently my breasts are extremely dense.  She wanted to get a view coming in from my armpit in an attempt to get more tissue to show up on the mammo.  With a third set of views done, she removed my lead apron and had me sit in the little, private waiting room.

After about 20 minutes (she had said just a few!) she came back and asked me if the woman I listed on my file was my mother.  I was slightly annoyed about this, as I felt as though it was an invasion of my privacy to an extent.  When I told her that yes, Cyndy was my mother she then told me that she was Joseph’s sister.  Yay.  My little cousins sister got to play with my boobs.  Remind me to get my mammo’s somewhere else next time.

She told me that nothing had shown up on my mammo, that it looked completely normal.  But that they wanted to get an ultrasound anyways.  I really wanted it to be over with at that moment, but she explained that since the lump was still there and the radiologist had talked to Tina, that they both felt it was prudent to do the test.

I got the guy tech.. I was hoping  for the girl.  He asked me where the lump was, I couldn’t find it.  Well, he did and instantly.  He was a busy little beaver clicking away on his machine.  I went to school to be a Rad Tech.  It was obvious that he’d found something of interest and was getting different views and measurements of it.  I became worried again.  He told me that he was done and would be conferring with the Radiologist.  I asked him if that was normal and he said that yes, they always do that, every single time.  I doubted him because I’ve had u/s before and just waited for my Dr. to call.  He also asked me to stay in the room… Ugh!

About 15 minutes later both him and a woman came in and the woman shook my hand, announcing that she was a Radiologist from the Maine Medical Center and that she would like to perform the ultrasound herself because they had found something that they didn’t quite understand.

By this time the lump in my boob was screaming in pain and I was a basket case.  After several more grueling minutes she stopped what she was doing to speak with me about what she’d found.  This is what she told me (and why my weekend sucked!)…

In the area of your lump, nothing showed on the Mammogram but on ultrasound what I”m seeing is what looks like a cyst with a hard shell that is partially filled and has either bled or ruptured in on itself.  Surrounding this looks like a hematoma or swelling.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it, but it doesn’t look necessarily malignant.  Have you ever had an injury to your breast?  No!  Do you have small animals that might have damaged your breast by stepping on it?  Yes, but I would have probably felt something this large rupture wouldn’t I?  Probably… Yay!

To be continued…