There was a little pimple on my left breast. It wouldn’t go away, and for some reason it really bothered me. Every morning when I got dressed I would examine it, and wonder why it was there.
It was November 2013, just a few weeks before Thanksgiving and my 39th birthday. I took some time off work, and one of those days I went to lunch with my mom. I told her about my mysterious little pimple. At that point, it had been lingering for a couple weeks. She agreed that it was probably just a zit.
That year, my birthday was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I was working from home, and turned on the television while I ate lunch. I rarely watch TV, especially during the work day, so this was most unlike me. I flipped through the channels and stopped when I reached The Doctors, a show I never watched before. They were running a segment on breast cancer. They had various guests and physicians talking about the warning signs and their experiences. I pulled down my shirt to look at the little zit, and decided to call my doctor. They made an appointment to see me the next day.
On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, I had an 8am appointment. We were packing to leave for my sister’s house in PA, something we do every year for the holiday. The plan was for Garret and the kids to continue packing. I would be home within the hour, and we would hit the road.
Some people thought I was being overly cautious about this pimple, myself included. When I got to the doctor’s office, she looked at my chest and determined it was what we all suspected – a zit. I felt foolish for having wasted everyone’s time. She decided to conduct a routine breast exam, since I was there. What the hell, right? As she was examining my right breast, she asked about a lump. She placed my hand so I could feel it. Immediate panic. I always gave myself routine exams, how did I not feel this before now? In that moment, it felt like the size of a golf ball.
I was rushed to radiology where I would spend the next 8 hours having 3 different biopsies, and a couple ultrasounds. The place was really busy that day, and I was grateful they were able to squeeze me in. So much for heading to my sister’s house. It was clear that wasn’t happening.
Later that day, I was sent home with the extreme likelihood that I had breast cancer. I remember how I felt when the radiologist told me he would be very surprised if it wasn’t cancer. It was as if the walls were closing in. I couldn’t breathe. All I could picture were my little kids, who were only 4 & 5 at the time. It was a terrifying moment, one that can still bring me to tears.
The next day, on Thanksgiving, we left for my sister’s house. It was the longest holiday weekend of our lives. I got the call Monday morning, December 2nd, at 10:02am. Breast cancer was confirmed. Fuck!
There’s so much more of this story to tell, and I will continue to share it over time.
My reason for this piece today, is simply to serve as a reminder. We all have intuition. It’s part of being human. We all have that little voice that tells us when something isn’t right – that “gut feeling”. The little pimple on my left breast led to finding the lump in my right breast. I knew something was wrong, and eventually I trusted my instinct.
When I met with my cancer docs for the first time, just a few short weeks after that initial exam, they all wanted to see the infamous pimple. They were very disappointed to find no trace of it. The pimple was long gone. It served its purpose. Call it what you will, but I don’t believe in coincidences.