October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. It’s also the month I was misdiagnosed in 2016.
Surrounded by pink everything and early detection PSAs, I went into my doctor concerned about a lump in my breast. It had been growing a bit over the six months since finishing nursing. My breasts had changed a lot during pregnancy and nursing. I thought I could just be overacting. Still, better to check. In my late 20s, I had a lump. It turned out to be a cyst, but my doctors and technicians then had enforced the idea that it’s better to be a hypochondriac than to avoid checking things out. In October 2016, my doctor said it was a clogged duct. She suggested multiple solutions for that issue, even though I told her I already had done almost all of them from google searches.
It was a chaotic time in my life, I was leaving an organization I loved for the past decade for a new career adventure and moving my family, once again, across state lines. Over the months after our move, I noticed the lump grow. I tried some clogged duct solutions again. I tried to establish a new primary doctor in my new town, which took over a month of waiting for a new appointment. When I finally saw my new doctor, she had me in for a mammogram and radiology check the following week, and they ended up doing biopsies the same day. It turns out I was triple positive, stage three, which all meant very little to me at the time except the increasing fear of my impending death. It’s a strange reality when your oncologist and nurse navigator explain that they’re happy you have this particular form of aggressive cancer because it’s so treatable.
I still have two more sessions of chemo ahead, surgery, and radiation treatment. By the time I turn 39, in April, I’ll be cancer free. I might even be now, as the tumor has shrunk to the level where it’s not detectable. Breast cancer is not necessarily a death sentence, although it felt that way the first few days of the diagnoses. Early detection is essential. Men and women do still die from the disease and I know too well that sometimes doctors don’t catch it, even when you go in with a concern. I’m not the only woman I’ve met recently who was misdiagnosed by doctors. Over and over I’ve meet women in my community and online who fought with their doctors for a correct diagnosis. Women who knew something was wrong with their bodies, but weren’t being heard.
Even during Breast Cancer Awareness month, you might find your doctor isn’t connecting the dots – mine didn’t. I have zero history of breast cancer in my immediate family. I don’t have the gene. I nursed my kiddo, which everyone tells you reduces your chances of breast cancer. Yet, I had a lump. I have breast cancer. Don’t be afraid to push for extra tests or second opinions. Be your own advocate. If something feels off or wrong, go to a doctor, maybe two. You’re worth the extra care and attention.