Dec 22 2011
6 weeks out from my first figure competition. I found a lump.
Lump is such an ugly word, isn’t it? I can’t think of one think I like lumpy. Oatmeal, mashed potatoes, pancake batter, breasts…all are much better when they are completely lump free.
I’m kind of a cysty, lumpy person, so I usually don’t worry too much about little bumps and lumps, but this one I could visibly see.
I was taking off my sports bra, arms raised way over head, contorting slightly, as we all have to do in order to take a sweaty sports bra off when it is drenched with sweat and acting as though it is superglued to our body. The light caught something a little strange in the mirror.
At first I thought it was an indentation. It looked dimpled, which angered me. Dimples are only cute on the face and on those two points right above the sacrum, no where else. I thought, “Cellulite on my boob? What the heck is that?”
I looked a little closer and noticed it wasn’t a dimple at all, but the skin was indented around the lump. It was small, but hard. It didn’t hurt. “Hmmm. What is that?” I thought. “Maybe I’m just getting so lean that I can see some cysts that have been there for a while.”
Probably no big deal, right? Just to be sure, I called my doctor to have it checked out.
She saw me right away, found it immediately, and told me she had something very similar removed. She gave me the order for my first mammogram (since I’m under age 40 I haven’t had one before) and an ultra sound at the state of the art Breast Center in San Ramon, California.
She also referred me to a surgeon. Hmmm. That scared me.
I called to make the appointment for the mammogram/ultrasound and they couldn’t get me in until December 30. Ok. I took the appointment. I called my doctor’s office to make sure that date was soon enough. She basically said, “No. Try to get in sooner. If they can’t get you in sooner, make the appointment with the surgeon and have him expedite the mammogram and ultra sound appointment.”
Gulp. My heart begins racing. I can hear it beating inside my own head, radiating to my ears and my cheeks. I suddenly can’t hear anything else but my own heart beat. OK…
I called the Breast Center back and tell them, “Listen this is my first mammogram and ultrasound, I’m kinda scared, my doctor wants me in ASAP…. is there any regular yearly mammograms that you can bump to December 30th and I can take their spot instead? Please?” Sometimes you just have to ask nicely. The staff there understood completely, helped me out and got me in within days.
The two days of waiting for the mammogram were pretty scary. I tried not to let it, but my imagination began running wild. I googled ‘lumps on the breast’ and looked at dozens of images. All of the images for breast cancer looked just like my lump. I slammed my laptop closed. This was not helping.
The little lump became sore, but I knew it was only because I was constantly messing with it. It was like having a little pimple that I could feel under the skin, but a lot bigger. I couldn’t leave it alone, even though I knew I was making it a lot worse each time I touched it.
Focusing on not thinking about it was simply not realistic. It was time to shift my focus instead. It was time to distract myself with exercise, cooking, and a clean diet.
Well, maybe a little chocolate for comfort food. I haven’t really cheated on my strict figure competition diet for months, much longer than a lot of my friends had been able to go without cheating so far, so a little chocolate would be completely understandable now, right?
I ate two brownies and a drank a mocha.
I felt sick to my stomach immediately, and cursed that my go-to comfort food was no longer able to give me any comfort. Since I have been eating so clean, sugary/fatty foods now just make me feel ill. Sigh.
Luckily an anti-cancer diet and figure competition diet are actually really similar, so I went back to oatmeal broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, sweet potatoes, and lean protein.
I actually felt much better eating clean. Even though my brain and my taste buds wanted chocolate, my body wanted healthy greens with phytochemicals and lean protein. Although it was almost impossible to stay focused enough to keep my meals on their typical schedule of eating every three hours.
Two days later I go in for my first mammogram and the staff is fabulous. The mammogram technician is super friendly, but as soon as I take off my shirt she is able to see it. That scares me.
She says, “Oh yes, there it is,” and puts a sticker on it. Hmmm. A sticker on my boob. Ok. I find this slightly comical. It would have been better if it was a happy smiley face, but it was just a plain white sticker.
It is supposed to help them see it in the mammogram. OK… but still, there’s a sticker on my boob and now it’s being squished flat between two pieces of plexiglass. Comical.
For those of you younguns out there like me who haven’t had a mammogram yet., they are not so bad. I didn’t personally think it hurt at all.
Maybe it didn’t hurt because my girls are so small there is less to squish.
Here’s how it works… They get squished one at a time between two pieces of plexiglass, so you can see it. Honestly, they look like a 4 oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts with a nipple. They get squished about as flat as a hamburger patty.
Now for the ultra sound, but first I have to wait while the specialist takes a look at the mammogram. The breast center is great, has really nice staff, is very comfortable…
The waiting between appointments is excruciating! They have me in a little counseling office with about 30 different pamphlets on breast cancer survival… No People magazine or anything trivial. Ugh!!!! It is way too serious in this room!
The Ultra Sound and the Specialist
Finally it’s time for the ultrasound. It’s been about 2 hours now. The ultra sound technician finds it, goes over it quite a few times from all different angles. It doesn’t hurt, but now my poor little lump has been squished and pressed quite a bit with the ultrasound wand… it’s pretty darn sore.
Then the specialist comes in and guides the ultrasound technician for quite some time, looking at it from every angle again.
He says he is fairly certain it seems like a benign looking inflamed lymph node. I wasn’t really expecting this, I was still expecting them to hopefully tell me it was just a cyst, so I didn’t really know what to ask. So was it black in the ultrasound? Was it opaque? What does that mean? I’m not sick, I don’t seem to be fighting an infection, why is it inflamed so much that I can see it?
He was very informative and said that although he’s not completely certain that’s what it is, he is fairly certain that’s what it is. When there’s a little bit of fat in the middle of the lymph node it’s a good sign. When there isn’t any fat in the middle of it, it’s a bad sign. He says, “Fat may not be good in your business, but it is very good in my business. It looks like a slightly irregular, enlarged lymph node with a little bit of fat in the middle.” Good sense of humor. I like him.
He is going to get the results to the surgeon and to my regular doctor. Great! Thanks! Can I put on my shirt and go now? I just wanted to leave, but all the questions I had came to mind the minute I left.
He said he’s “fairly certain” it’s a lymph node. If it’s not, what is that fatty looking middle area? It wasn’t black in the ultra sound, but it wasn’t solid white either. Hmmm. What does that mean?
I don’t mess with cancer. It just doesn’t fight fair.
When I meet with the surgeon next week, he will biopsy it, and I will most likely just have the little suspicious sucker taken out completely.
I’m not a medical professional in any way, and this is only my very first mammo and ultrasound… but I don’t like the words, “Seems to be,” or “Looks like,” or “Fairly certain.” People make mistakes…doctors included.
These tests are great, but if they can’t say that this lump is not cancer with 100% certainty… I just want it taken out. It has no business being in my body messing with my mind and worrying me.
There really is no way to know if something is truly benign unless you biopsy it, so that’s the next step. When it comes down to it, this is my body and it’s my responsibility. I want the little bugger out of my body if it’s acting suspicious. Clean and simple.
If we were talking about a different organ, like if we were talking hysterectomy, that would be different. This is just one lymph node, if that is what this really ends up being, and I have lots of other lymph nodes that can do the job if this one is acting wonky.
The Figure Competition
So what does this mean to my figure competition training? Like it or not, if I am having any kind of surgery, even something simple like a lymph node biopsy, I should not do a competition less than 5 weeks later.
My coach, Claire O’Connell, talked that sense into me. At first I didn’t want to admit it, but that is why it is so important to have a great coach in my opinion. She is able to be objective when I am unable to be.
I have been working on this for months and I want to be on stage to show what transformation I have made, but my health is number one. Putting my body through a competition less than 5 weeks after any kind of surgery is just not a good idea. There are a lot of other competitions in March and April that I can do.
So now I guess that means I am in my off season, but true competitors have no off season. I will eat clean, build some more muscle, get healthy, and wow them in March and April.
Life is my sport. I am in training and forever will be in training. There is no off season in the sport of life.
The Take Away
Best advice I can give —- LOVE your body. LOVE your doctor. If you don’t LOVE your doctor, find one you do LOVE. If you don’t love your body, allow yourself to look in the mirror and see all the miraculous things it can do instead of all the flaws, and keep doing that everyday until you do LOVE your body, just as it is, lumps and all.
There’s a lot more to this story. If you liked this post, I know you’ll also like: My Forced Rest and Recovery
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