Updated: Apr 3
One thing life reminded me about this crazy breast cancer journey is to never, ever ignore your intuition especially if it's health matters. It's better to seem paranoid than be complacent thinking, "Nah it's nothing!" when it's actually a freakin' big deal. Like cancer.
Ever since that shower moment when I felt the lump, I was never able to relax. The next day, I kept searching online about breast lumps. I was secretly wishing that the internet would validate what I wanted to hear... that what I have is "normal". That this happens to all women in their late 30s. That there's nothing to be afraid of. And if it is indeed a tumor, that the marble size gummy texture is a sign that it's benign.
Perhaps I was in denial. Because C'MON. Who in the hell would want to consider the idea that hey, I could have breast cancer!!! Right?! To put myself at ease, I browsed online for reproductive health clinics near my location that does breast exams. I found one and booked their earliest opening available which is a week from that day. And then, the horrible waiting game...
I carried on with life like usual in that waiting period. Went to work, met with friends, took Eddie for joy rides (yup, that's the name of my car!), ran errands and enjoyed the weekend the SoCal way.
"It's nothing, Jaymee. You're totally overthinking this. IT'S NOTHING!"
I kept telling myself as I focused on my happy distractions. Somehow, I felt more relaxed knowing I'm about to do something about it and that I'll eventually hear the good news anyway. That I just watched too much Grey's Anatomy and that it's just a harmless boobie flesh building up.
My family is based in Manila so I did message my mom and 2 good friends about it. I told them in a way that it won't sound worrisome.
"Hey do you examine your boobs? Coz I felt this lump on my left... just really small and soft... (I'm exaggerating to make it seem like it's no big deal!) and I'm gonna have it checked in a week. I'm pretty sure it's nothing. Probably just fat building up from all the food binging from my restaurant deals haha!"
"My sister and friend have lumps in their breasts ever since, anak. And their doctors keep checking them until now. It's just cysts but not harmful at all. I'm sure it's the same for you. Don't worry, anak. Wala yan," Mom responded.
A friend messaged, "You're right. You're young and very healthy. It's nothing I'm sure. Chill sistah!"
"Breast lumps are normal. They can form before your period or during. I had that too and it just went away," my other friend texted.
Women. We always know the words to say to put each other at ease. I chose to believe what they said. Yup, it's probably nothing. Then the check up date finally arrived.
I felt awkward when I walked in as I can tell that most of the ladies there were consulting for family planning, contraception, abortion or pregnancy while there I was... A 37-year old carefree soul with a boob issue but no kids or family plans.
The first thing I asked the receptionist was how much it's gonna cost so I know what to expect as it's a known fact that medical treatments, even just check ups in the US are bloody expensive if you don't have health insurance. At that time, my employer was still fixing mine so I'll have to pay out-of-pocket.
I filled out a form, got called by a nurse who walked me to the examination room, took my weight, temperature and blood pressure stats, asked me to take my top and bra off, put on the blue gown then she stepped out. A few minutes later, a lady in the white coat came in who introduced herself as Sara.
Sara inquired about what brought me to the clinic while noting everything down. She asked how did I find the lump? How long ago was this? Do I have breast cancer history in the family? Do I feel any pain or discomfort? Then asked me to take the gown off and lay down as she began the physical examination on both breasts.
She was small talking with me about the weather and how my weekend was and then she paused as she felt the lump.
SILENCE. She touched it again with a "thinking" look on her face. MORE SILENCE. Touched it again. Wrote some notes on where it's exactly located in my breast and the texture, approximate size, etc. STILL SILENCE. More note taking. (I was still but feeling freaked out!!!)
"Sooo... what do you think Sara?," I asked faking a jolly, nonchalant tone.
"That lump needs further examination, Jaymee. We're a general reproductive health center here so I'll give you a referral to a specified breast clinic. I'll write down the number to call for an appointment and their location," she said in very matter-of-factly tone matched with a poker face.
"Okay... ummm... but... should I be worried?," I fished smiling.
"Not at this point. Just see the breast specialist first and let them do more examination then take it from there. Here you go," she responded with a smile as she handed me the papers.
I got dressed then she walked me to the reception to settle the bill, went back to Eddie, put his top down, blasted some loud R&B music and drove to the nearest beach.
"You're okay, Jaymee. Breath. It's nothing. This is America. They're just being accurate. It's probably nothing. It's just breast tissue. It's benign. It's nothing. Life is good. I am blessed..."
I kept repeating this in my mind as the waiting game continued longer than I expected. Hoping I was right. Hoping Sara was just making sure. Hoping it's probably nothing. Hoping, hoping...