Alright Ladies, I want to talk about something we have heard of for most of our lives. Breast Exams. We all know that we are supposed to do monthly self-breast exams. I think this is pretty much ingrained into us as young women. The gynecologists are amazing at reminding us and often making us feel a bit embarrassed that we haven’t kept up with doing the self-exams. I personally never think to do a breast exam. I don’t check for lumps, bumps, anything. This ladies is an in-service I have done to myself. Let me explain.
photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/usaghumphreys/
I have never done self-exams. Okay I shouldn’t say never, maybe like 3 times in the last 20 something years. I know I know, that’s not good. I can blame it on being busy, being tired, but mostly it just wasn’t a priority in my mind. But it should have been and forever after this last month it will be. I’m going to get a bit personal, but I think it is important to share my story.
After kids, I had some issues with producing milk when I wasn’t breast feeding. I was told this was perfectly normal for a veteran mother such as myself. So, from time to time I would check my boobs to see if they were still producing milk, basically I would try to express a bit of milk if possible. Seems simple enough, but when I did the expressing, it wasn’t milk that came out. It was blood. If you have never had this happen (and I doubt many have), it is a very terrifying moment to see blood coming out of your nipple.
I rushed to call my gynecologist, having to leave a frantic and nervous message for them to call me back as soon as possible. Within the hour I got a call back from the office stating my doctor wanted to see me immediately. Given its usually a good two week wait time for an appointment, I knew this was something serious. After fear sets in, I go to the appointment, and here a few words. I say only a few because it was a lot of words and I seemed to only pick up on the scary ones. Such as breast cancer, tumor, and breast surgeon.
In case anyone is curious, blood coming out of your nipple isn’t a good thing and is one of the early signs of benign and malignant breast tumors and cancers. The next step was a rush to get a mammogram and ultrasound. Within the same week I was scheduled these tests and it took about another week to get the initial reports back. If you have never had a mammogram, you may think it is some pleasant little squeeze on your boobs and I thought the same. Well it’s more like a vice grip closing on your boobs. But you know what, it was the most reassuring and necessary discomfort I’ve ever felt. So, ladies, we have had babies. Many of us without medication. A mammogram isn’t even a fraction of the pain of child birth. SO, don’t be afraid and go get your mammogram as soon as needed.
Test results came back as normal tissue. I can’t tell you how many unspoken prayers, family and friends prayers, and overall relief I felt to hear that it is likely not cancer! I spent the time between hearing the initial C word and then the tests fearing the worst. I went straight chicken little mode and was determined the sky was falling. And you know what. I didn’t have any shame over the fear of cancer. It’s okay to worry and have fear, okay.
But even though we got the clear about the mammogram and ultrasound showing normal tissue, it still didn’t answer the whole blood out of nipple issue. So, next they scheduled me for a Duct gram. It’s a more in depth look at the milk ducts to determine what’s causing the bleeding. This is perhaps damage to the duct, a cyst, and many other minor issues in comparison to the possibility of breast cancer.
The Big C word scared me. It made me re-evaluate the way I look at my health. I always spend time worrying about my kid’s health but I always have back burnered my own. Ladies do not do this. Please please please make sure to be in tune with your body and take time to do self-breast exams. Shoot if you feel the need, squeeze your nipples. If I had not done that I would have had no idea I was having an issue in my breast. I urge you to take time and make your health your priority. Cancer is a horrible horrible disease and if we can catch it early, we have a great chance at beating it.
Though I still have more tests to go through, I am relieved to know I found this issue early.
The reason I wanted to share this very personal experience is to remind the readers of the importance of breast exams and that self-checks are so important. I know I’m not the only woman in the world who doesn’t make this a priority but the moment you find something, all that changes. I pray none of you find a lump, bump, bleeding, anything. But if it does happen, just know I’ve been there and so have many other hundreds of thousands of women. Save the tatas, do self-breast exams frequently. They may just save your life!