I would be lying to you if I said that a) finding a lump didn’t rock me and b) I didn’t have hesitations in sharing this story with you.
You see, I haven’t wanted to share this story because I am one of the lucky ones. There a women (and men) out there fighting for their lives with breast cancer. “Carly, all you have is a benign lump. What right do you have to feel upset?” I cannot tell you how many times I have said that sentence to myself over the past 18 months.
But guess what? I 100% have a right to feel WHATEVER I want to feel when it comes to my body. And you do too.
When it comes to breast lumps, it is hard to find stories out there that aren’t the worst case scenario. Stories that don’t include a cancer diagnosis or radical preventative surgery. There are incredible stories from women that have been diagnosed with breast cancer and their journeys but I know I have struggled to find stories from women saying “yeah, I found a lump in my boob and I am fine.” So here I am, publishing my story to show you that detecting a lump in your boob doesn’t necessarily mean the C-word.
The Practical Stuff About My Breast Lump
Finding the lump
Funnily enough, I didn’t even find the lump. And I think that sentence in itself should indicate the IMPORTANCE of self-checking on a regular basis (read here on how to conduct your own breast self-exam).
My partner, doing his due-diligence during play time actually found it. Now, nothing ruins your lady hard-on quite like your boyfriend going from feeling you up, to examining your boob like it is a rubix cube that must be solved however, I am very very very glad that he did.
What I did once I found the lump
No profound answer here… I just panicked. Imagined the whole hog: chemo, radiation, double mastectomy, having to watch my mum’s face as I told her, never being able to breastfeed my own children, trying to be intimate with my partner boobless… the whole freaking shabang.
But then I did a much more productive action and booked myself in for an appointment with my GP. From there, my GP gave me a referral, I went to the Women’s Diagnostics at the Mater Hospital. After 30 minutes of strangers fondling my boobs and ultrasounds, I was given the all clear.
It really was that simple. And I will take boob scans over pap smears any day of the week!
Where are my boobs at now…
The lump was originally found 18 months ago so I have had some time to myself before sharing this with you. It grows and shrinks throughout my cycle but it has no detectable growth outside of that. I check on it weekly and I get annual scans.
If the lump grows or becomes anything but benign, it will be removed in a simple surgery.
If more lumps grow, we can cross that bridge.
Some quick facts about breast lumps:
- A smooth, firm benign breast lump made up of fibrous and glandular tissue is called a ‘fibroadenoma’
- Up to one in six (15%) of women have a fibroadenoma at some time in their life.
- Approximately 90% of breast lumps are benign in women who are aged in their 20s to early 50s (however it is very important to exclude cancer regardless of age).
- Fibroadenomas are most common in women aged 20 to 40 with a peak incidence in the 21–25 year age group (lucky us!).
The Emotional Side of Finding A Breast Lump
We first detected the breast lump 18 months ago, and since then I have gone to my check ups and there is no considerable growth or additional concern at this stage. Like anything though, we will be closely monitoring the lump and should anything changed, so too will the game plan.
But… I am FINE!
I do want to discuss the less practical, more emotional side of finding a breast lump. It has genuinely surprised me how much a little boob bump has rocked me.
Where did my mind go?
Over the past 18 months, I have really been thinking about my mortality, motherhood(one day) and genetics.
Even now, as I write this, I feel guilty to be discussing mortality and my benign breast lump in the same sentence. Everyday we see stories of people battling breast cancer; some stories incredibly inspiring (like my interview with Sally Obermeder), others absolutely tragic.
But…this process has caused me to think about my mortality. What if the lump wasn’t benign? What if tomorrow it grows and changes into something more sinister? What would I do? What would my family do? If the day comes where I do get a life-altering diagnosis (related to my boobs or not), would I be ready? If the day comes where I am told I am going to die, would I be ready?
I have also been thinking about motherhood. Will I be able to carry my own children? Will I be able to breastfeed? Will I be healthy and active to play and experience life with them? What could I do now to look after my health and wellbeing for future me.
I acknowledge that you may be reading this and thinking “geezz this girl is a little dramatic” and before this experience I would have been inclined to agree with you. I used to subscribe to the thought of ‘if you are happy, healthy and cancer-free you should shut up and be grateful.’ however, life isn’t that one dimensional. Each experience is littered with nuances.
This experience has also forced me to think about my biological family and genetics. I only know a finite amount of biological relatives for various reasons. One being, my father and his side of the family are not active members of my life and that is a large chunk of me that essentially feels missing. In any medical situation you are asked to rattle off your family history which at times can feel like a dagger at a time where you are already feeling fragile.
Getting used to my new breasts
I love my left boob. Smooth and lump-free. My right boob and I have had a hard road and I haven’t been very nice to her. Over the past 18 months, my relationship with her has become very fractured. I have looked at my right boob as a ticking time bomb; housing a lump that could at any point detonate; either lightly disrupting or completely shattering my life without rhyme or reason. The lump grows and shrinks with my cycle and is occasionally tender (generally in the lead up to my period). My distaste for the lump has caused my to dislike my right boob. I try to exclude her from play time with my partner. I try to ignore her in the shower and rarely look at her if I catch my reflection in the mirror. I am working on rebuilding that relationship with my body and especially ol’ righty but damn it, for a while there I felt betrayed.
If you have found a lump or bump and you have been feeling scared, frightened or angry, you are not alone. This whole experience has really taken me by surprise with how emotional it has been. Having anything happen to your body is no joke but especially when it comes to your reproductive zones, there is a level of heightened emotions that comes into play.
Take it from me, lumps and bumps in your breast tissue doesn’t mean the end of the world. Simply breathe, put those bad boys in a bra (or not) and walk ‘em down to your local GP. It is important to remember that in the public, the only stories that get published are the ‘interesting ones’ - finding out your lump is nothing more than a lump is not a great news story which is why we don’t get to read about it. But the statistics speak for themselves - there are so so so many women out there that have lumpy bumpy breasts. You might even know a few.
Thank you so much for reading and letting me share this part of my story with you.
I am very much an open book on this and I know how much I would have liked to talk to someone who had been in my position before so if you want to talk about this any further, shoot me a message over on my Instagram @thechroniclesofcarly