I had just scheduled my annual screening mammogram. I don't regularly practice self breast exam, but somehow, I bumped my breast just right and found a hard little nodule. I have fibrocystic breasts, as my doctor likes to remind me. I've been told to "get to know my lumps". I would say that in general, I do. They're rubbery, squishy globs.
This one was different. It was a hard little ball. It kind of felt like a pebble. I called my doctor's office, and they told me I needed a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound. I called to reschedule the appointment, and was able to get one sooner. At first, I wasn't nervous about it. I've had these "scares" before, even ending up with a biopsy once. Thankfully, that lump was benign. But that was a rubbery, mobile nodule.
As time passed, I kept telling myself not to worry. I was worried. This lump was so different from anything I had ever felt before. Everything I've ever heard about breast cancer made this one very scary. It was hard. It was fixed. It wasn't painful.
I had a few days to think about all of it. Naturally, I thought about it a lot. Selfishly, I thought about how would this finding affect my marathon training. My pursuit of the mother of all goals, that sub-4 marathon?
What if I needed a biopsy? Would I still be able to train? I would be able to run, but would probably have to skip a few CrossFit sessions. Ok. I could live with that.
But what if it was malignant? What then? Could I still train for my marathon? And deal with it after the race? Would anything really bad happen in that time frame, if I waited? How selfish would it be for me to chase my dream? How stupid would it be for me to postpone treatment? Am I really that crazy? Who thinks this way?
I told myself, it's just a dream. I told myself to wait and see what the tests showed. My dream, in the big picture, means nothing to anyone but me. But what if I don't chase that dream? What if...what if...the worst happened? What if I didn't chase my dream, and I never had the chance to do it again?
You all know that I try to live my life with no regrets. Being in my 50s, I want to savor every moment of the rest of my life. I want to live fully. I want my life to be meaningful. I want to travel. I want to see my boys grow up, marry, and have families. And most important, I want to stay healthy. I work hard at the pursuit of health. Hence the name of my blog. I'm in no hurry for my life to be over.
These are the things I thought about this past week. I know that there are some things out of my control. But would you, as a runner, judge another runner on a decision like this? Would you judge anyone who had to make a tough, life changing decision?
Then the technician told me that the radiologist wanted to ultrasound not just that breast, but both breasts. She had seen calcium deposits on the left side and wanted a better look at them. She told me clusters of calcium deposits could be a bad sign. So off to the ultrasound I went. The technician did her thing, smearing cold gel all over my chest and moving the probe over every area possible. She didn't say much. They can't. You know they know. But they can't say anything. My chest covered with gel, she left the room to get the radiologist.
I laid on the table, with my eyes closed, listening to the humming of the equipment. I felt calm. I was tired. I thought about all this again. What if, what if?
The radiologist came bouncing into the room. She wanted to take one more look at the lesion.
"It's a cyst," she proclaimed. "Nothing to worry about." And those calcium deposits? Nothing to be concerned about. She just wanted to make sure. She was new, she told me. And she wanted to be thorough. Not a problem.
She told me to come back in a year for my annual screening mammogram.
Relief washed over me. I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I was so grateful that everything was normal. I didn't have to make any tough decisions. Life could go on.
Since then, my runs have been easier, and I've been able to push harder at CrossFit. Those little annoyances at work aren't getting under my skin. I have been waking up with a smile on my face. I feel energetic.
Take good care of yourself. Follow the recommendations of the American Cancer Society for breast cancer screening. Do your monthly breast exam. That first lump I had biopsied a few years ago? I found that one. It was not seen on the mammogram. If you are over 40, you should have an annual screening mammogram. And if you find anything unusual, call your doctor. Don't wait.
Have you ever had a health scare? How did it affect your training?