The moment I realized I wasn’t immortal was not when I first found my lump. In fact it was many weeks later. It happened as I sat waiting to speak to my doctor after having completed an ultrasound of my left breast.
The room was quiet except for the slight humming of the ultrasound machine and I was completely alone. My family friend who came with me to the appointment was not allowed back with me so I literally sat all alone about to face a verdict that could change my life. My knuckles were white from squeezing my hands together so tightly, my pulse was racing, and my mind was as well.
I found the lump about a month ago while showering. Knowing that my grandmother died of breast cancer in her forties and that my own father had been diagnosed with cancer in his forties and passed in his early fifties, I was hyperaware of any possible symptom of cancer. Since my dad had passed away I had always felt like a ticking time bomb, like I was doomed someday to get cancer and die. Not a completely irrational fear, but still something that I shouldn’t be constantly be worrying about. So, when I found the lump I immediately assumed the worst and began to cry. I thought to myself, I’m only 22 this can’t happen to me now. I don’t want to die. What am I going to do?!
What I did was call my mom, not only because you always want your mom in times like this, but also because she is a nurse. She did her best to calm me and said she would look at it when I was home visiting in two days. When she checked it out she indeed agreed that something was there and drove me to an urgent care center to have it examined further. The doctor at urgent care thought it highly unlikely it was anything but strongly urged me to check in with my regular doctor. And so began my journey to the ultrasound room and inevitably my fate.
My OBGYN referred me to a breast health center to get the ultrasound. She also believed that it was most likely nothing, but she wanted to be sure. So, I made my appointment for two days later. I was thankfully, as I mentioned, accompanied by my mom’s best friend who had recently overcome a bout of breast cancer at the exact same center I was going to that day. She was calm and comforting and I was immensely thankful in that moment to have such amazing people in my life.
I watched as the technician did my ultrasound. It was quite surreal seeing it all on screen, but also fascinating. When she had finished imaging she informed me she was going to grab the doctor and would be back in five minutes. And so began my own personal hell of realizing that I could potentially die. My anxiety was through the roof as I came to understand that my body was so fragile and my life was too. One small thing, like a lump in my breast, could turn everything upside down and make it so nothing was the same ever again.
I began to think of all the things in my life I was thankful for: my mom, my extended family, my friends that were like family, my good job, my cozy apartment, and even my cat. After going through my mental checklist I made a promise to myself that no matter what happened, I would not let this define me and I would live my life as close to the best as I could. I didn’t make unrealistic promises of trying to be kinder or dedicating my life to service of others or starting to go to church even though I could do all those things. Instead I chose to be kind to myself. I focused on being happy with myself and letting that happiness lead to other positive things. I chose to be selfish, because hey I’m 22 and you’re selfish at that age, but also because this was my life hanging in the balance and I had to gain control of it in any way I could.
When the doctor came in he introduced himself and got straight to the point. Although, it was a bit harder to tell because of the density of a young woman’s breasts, he was still able to say with assurance that there was nothing of concern on my ultrasound. He even felt the lump and explained that it was probably just the nature of my breasts. I sat up and started crying, which startled him a little. I explained I was just so relieved and he smiled and said he was happy I was.
As I left the center with my mom’s best friend I reminded myself of the promise I made in that ultrasound room and I urge those of you reading to consider what you would promise yourself in that situation. It was a scary place to be and sometimes it’s hard to have vision when everything seems so hopeless. Today I am thankful for my good health, but I will not forget what happened or the promise I made and I also will not forget to check for lumps in the future, because ultimately my health is what’s most important.