lovely lady lumps
Now that the transplant is over and Eric's condition is stable/in remission, I've been trying to take better care of myself. Exercising, eating right, and getting to know my new doctors here in Maryland have been pretty high on the priority list--but recently, during this process, I had a brief encounter with the old fear and dread that marked the early days of Eric's relapse.
I have had localized non-cyclical breast pain for well over a year now. The pain is not intense, and sort of comes and goes as it pleases without following any sort of pattern--and it always occurs on the far left side of my left breast and up into my underarm. But, oh, the tenderness that comes with it. Sometimes it is so bad that I can't do so much as hold a book to my chest on that side.
I first told a doctor about the problem over a year ago during my annual exam. She switched me to a low-dose version of the pill and told me to come back in three months if there was no change. A month passed, and then Eric relapsed. I wish I could say that I had a better excuse for not following up with my own health concerns, but the honest truth is that I forgot about taking care of it--I was spending hours at the hospital with Eric's doctors, how was I going to find the time to go to a different doc for myself?
Despite weight fluctuation, diet changes, different types of the pill (and then none at all after we found out that Eric would probably be sterile from the transplant), the pain persisted. So, I finally told my new doctor about it during an appointment last month. She dutifully trotted out the same old advice ("Don't eat chocolate or drink caffeine," and "Wear a really good bra"), but gave me a clinical exam nonetheless. She paused when she reached the area in question and said, "Hm. That feels funny. I'll order a sonogram..."
Meanwhile, I'm laying on the table in the most indelicate of positions, thinking, "WHAT!?! What do you mean, 'That feels funny?!?' WTF, woman!!"
Fast-forward to Tuesday morning. I left for the sonogram appt, running late as usual. I was really nervous. I hadn't told Eric anything about what was going on (he thought that I had an early meeting at work)--I didn't want to make him upset if it turned out to be nothing. And I soon found out that sitting through multiple tests and screenings with a loved one does nothing to prepare you for actually going through one yourself.
Once back in the dimly lit radiology room, I laid on the table, feeling like the science-project-of-the-week about to be dissected. The first tech came in, a woman about my age. She smeared the warm goop over my chest (it occurred to me that the scenario could possibly be a starting scene for a lesbian porno) and screened me with the wand. She found nothing. I was beginning to relax.
Then, the senior tech came in "just to take a peek." She began screening the offending area, when IT showed up on the screen. A large mass, large enough that she had to take 2 still-shots of it to capture the entire thing. She took at least 20 pictures of it, large and starkly white compared the grey image of the rest of my tissue, and shaped like a cocoon. The fear came back instantly--the look on the tech's face told me that this was NOT a normal thing to find. I managed to ask her if the thing on the screen was a cyst, and she responded, "No, definitely not...I have to get the doctor."
It took about 20 minutes to get a consult from the doctor. I was laying on the table, lights turned low, alone in the room with the stills of the mass staring at me on the screen. Trying to be brave, I tore off a part of my paper "modesty gown" and used it to wipe my eyes. I really didn't want the tech, or anyone else, to know just how freaked out I was.
All at once, the second tech and the doctor rushed in. "Nothing to worry about," said Doc, "I just see a mass of fatty tissue. Be more careful of how much chocolate and caffeine you intake, and take tylenol for the pain. Any questions?" At this point, my emotions were so high that I could barely squeak out "Yes" or "No" in response to his questions.
I left the clinic feeling reassured and somewhat triumphant, but now that I have had a few days to think about what happened, I wish that I would have asked some questions. Eric and I try to eat organics whenever we can, as well as cook most of our own food--including dressings, soups, etc. We don't eat a lot of mass-produced, preserved foods, and almost never have candy or soda in the house. I do enjoy coffee, but only drink 4-5 cups a week--and even that is a fairly recent development, as I drink it mainly to have something warm in my hands on a cold winter morning. For all of these reasons, I really don't think that the pain is diet-related. And finally, why, dear doctor, does that thing in the pictures look so different from all of the other fatty tissue in my breast?
I don't want to come across as a bitchy hypochondriac. Ever since Eric's relapse, I find myself swinging more and more towards that extreme: suddenly, every cough of his is a potential lung metastasis, every dry patch on his skin potential Graft-Versus-Host-Disease. But I'm sort of concerned that the doctor in radiology really didn't take that close of a look at my sonogram.
When does being an advocate for one's health cross the line into being a hypochondriac?
posted by amanda @ 1:04 AM