This Is How An Annual Breast Exam Saved My Life (And Could Save Yours Too)

This Is How An Annual Breast Exam Saved Me Life (And Could Save Yours Too)
Sandra Chile

My phone buzzes in my pocket like a bee next to a flower, and it catches my attention instantly. Part of me doesn’t want to answer. A piece of me doesn’t want to know. Ignorance is bliss, right?

Something snaps within me and brings me back to reality and I answer.

“Hello,” I squeal.

“Hi, I am looking for Miss Gianna Zeppilli.” The women over the phone says.

“This is she,” pretending to be proper, I respond back.

The doctor tries to explain himself to me, but I can’t help but laugh out loud. The biopsy for my tumor didn’t go as planned, and they accidently biopsied the wrong tumor. Too many to choose from, I guess. I’m not kidding this actually happened to me. The poking, the prodding, the bleeding, the scar, all for nothing. I felt hopeless. I felt taken advantage of. I felt confused.

Aren’t doctors supposed to know better? Aren’t they supposed to help us when we feel helpless? I wanted to see light at the end of the tunnel, but all I was seeing was a construction sign. This journey isn’t even close to ending, just when I was getting ready to roll the credits.

I had to take yet another trip to the doctors to discuss our “next steps.” Why are we always talking about “next steps?” I had two options: get another biopsy, this one on the right tumor, fingers crossed, or get both tumors surgically removed. The simple thought of surgery scares me. My medical knowledge is pretty slim, if you don’t count that I’ve seen every single episode of Grey’s Anatomy, twice. It counts to me, okay.

I went with the second option, I was going to have both tumors removed. I booked my appointment for the first week in July, and time seemed to move in slow motion until then.

I woke up cranky, dreading for what was to come. My anxiety crept up on me, intensifying as I got closer and closer to the surgical center. The doctor saw me first so he can make his marking. X marks the spot on my right breast. I use humor as a defensive mechanism to cover up any emotions I might be feeling, so when the doctor asked me if I had any questions before surgery the only question I had was, “So are you sure you can’t just slip in an implant while I’m there?”

There answer was clearly no, as I still don’t fill up my 32B bra that I am currently wearing.

I signed about 13 pages of paperwork that I didn’t read and was shuffled back to the waiting room. My nurse introduced herself and asked me to go change into a gown. I swear these nurses get you naked faster than any guy I have ever met. I walked out of the changing area in my pale baby blue gown and hospital socks. I could feel the cold breeze on my bare back and felt exposed as my butt was exposed. “Whatever,” I thought to myself. I’ve already went to second base with this entire office. Things move quick here.

The nurse came over and made me pee in a cup so they could test my pee to see if I was pregnant. I could have told them the answer to that question without making a stranger hold my warm piss, but whatever floats your boat.

She then checked my vitals, my body temperature, and blood pressure were both normal, my pulse was not. My heart was racing so fast you would think I was a morbidly obese woman who just ran a triathlon. I was so nervous that I couldn’t quite put it into words, and I didn’t have to because my pulse said it well enough. The beeping was so loud and frequent from my elevated heartbeat that they had to restart the machine. It’s never a dull moment when I’m around.

That’s when the nurse came over with the IV. “If you thought my heartbeat was bad before, just you wait,” I warned the nurse.

My fear of needles has existed for my entire life, my heartbeat is elevated just thinking of it right now.

She put in the IV perfectly on the first try. “Thank god,” I thought to myself. Once the IV goes in, I mentally and physically go paralyzed. Not actually, but in my mind I cannot move once the IV is inside my veins. The anesthesiologist came over and introduced himself. He told me he was going to give me something to “calm down.” Whatever the hell it was, was phenomenal. I would like those drugs on the daily because I have never felt that at peace in my life. About 10 seconds later, it all went black.

The next thing you know I’m out of surgery and sincerely confused. I just closed my eyes for a minute? The nurse asked me what I wanted to drink and proceeded to feed me graham crackers. What a diva I am.

That’s when I felt the pain for the first time. It hit me like a bus. Damn.

The nurse wrapped my breasts in an ace bandage that I had to keep on for the next 24 hours. I also had a bandage over my incision which was covered by a butterfly stitch that I was instructed to not get wet. I was a little groggy and just wanted to go home.

The pain was something I was not expecting. I thought I would be sore, sure, but not this bad. I couldn’t move my arms or shoulders without wincing for a solid 48 hours. I didn’t quite feel like myself for the next couple of days.

I had to go back for a checkup after a week, I was feeling much better, but was still feeling tender. The nurse checked the incision sight and was pleased with how it was healing. She then removed the stitches. I had no idea there were actual stitches or I would have probably not shown up for the appointment.

As the doctor walked into the room I heard a drumroll release in my mind. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for, ladies and gentlemen.

The tumors were both benign. I sighed with relief, like air coming out of a balloon.

I will have to monitor my breasts for the rest of my life, but for the first time in a long time my medical forecast is looking like clear skies ahead.

Women’s bodies are extraordinary. We literally make tiny humans inside of us. But is also a terrifying place. With October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, I want to remind you to do monthly breast exams on yourself. If you find something do not hesitate to go to your gynecologist because a professional opinion is much better than whatever craziness runs through your head. It could save your life. It saved mine.

I will always have a reminder of this bump in this journey called life. A scar, on the top right of my breast about two inches long, it changes colors going from a plump pink to a pale purple, and to me it’s an incredible beautiful thing.

Growing up as a woman, you are constantly taught what is beautiful and what isn’t. Our skin must be smooth and soft, stomachs flat, hair long, and we must cover anything that isn’t “perfect.” Like a blemish or a scar.

My scar is a symbol of my strength, of my courage, of my bravery, and of my struggle that I thought I had to hide because it was weak, when in fact it was the exact opposite. My scar is a reminder of how far I have come, a reminder that I still have so much to go.

My scar is badass, just like me and I will never look at it as less than. Our scars are beautiful little reminders that we get to wear on our skin.

I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite quotes, that I just so happen to have tattooed on my side, right by my scar: “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things, isn’t that kind of the point?”-Pam Beasley, The Office. TC mark

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