Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
Breast cancer survivor shares what happened when she found a new lump and got a genetic test result for PALB2.
Seven and a half years from my original breast cancer diagnosis, and I may be heading back into the fire. Just when you think it is safe to go back into the water. Darn. I found a, well, not really a lump, but kind of a lump—a thickening above the lumpectomy scar tissue on my right breast. I had always been aware of some tissue density or scarring in that area, but it seems like it has changed in the past few months. Plus, I noticed in the mirror that my right breast in that area is rounded outward whereas the other is a smooth slope. It could be my weight gain, but it could be something else.
Rather than worry and struggle with mental anxiety for additional months, I am not going to postpone any longer. I will be the good breast cancer survivor and report it to my doctor. This was anxiety-relieving until the doctor made the call to get me in right away for a diagnostic mammogram and a breast ultrasound. Yikes. That might not be good. I probably should have addressed it sooner, but I just wasn’t sure there had been a change, and I had been busy caring for and then grieving my mom. I was determined not to pre-worry.
The breast clinic scheduled me to go in within a week of the doctor’s orders. The 3D digital mammogram showed nothing. Whew! Next, I lay on the next table waiting for the breast ultrasound results, wondering how many other women had lain on this same table with the same fears and worries I was experiencing. I hoped most of them got good news.
The radiology doctor came in and again said everything looked fine. He went on to suggest that if what I felt should be pursued further, it would probably be a breast MRI or a punch biopsy in the breast surgeon’s office. I think he was watching my face because he went back to telling me to focus on the words “everything looked fine.”
The “funny” part is that I just tested positive for the breast cancer DNA defect in PALB2 and the geneticist had already recommended that I alternate mammograms with breast MRIs every six months and talk to my doctors about hormonal medication and/or a prophylactic double mastectomy.
Surprise. Just when you dare to think you have some degree of normalcy in your life. Sigh.
At the next doctor’s office a few days later, my breast surgeon agreed with me that a punch biopsy was not needed but she did want to get a breast MRI scheduled. I think she is doing it so we can be “for sure for sure” that there is not currently a cancer so that I have time to visit plastic surgeons and contemplate my choices.
My mind rebels. It does not want to make those choices. Honestly, I don’t even want to pick up the phone to start having discussions with plastic surgeons. It is difficult to push forward and still, I will.