Breast cancer blog: a scare - riding the waves

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 June, 2013, 10:19am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 June, 2013, 10:21am

On a recent night at 3am I awoke suddenly and felt it — there it was in the left breast, a lump as hard and stationary as the first one. My breath stopped, the air stopped. I felt around again, hoping that I was imagining this, only I wasn’t. WTF! &^%$*, argh…

I flipped on the lights, my thoughts down spiraling into an abyss. This can’t be happening; is it possible that a tumour could grow back so quickly (I suddenly had this image of a scene from Superman 2 where the bad guys return. Just when you think they are demolished, they regenerate and you need kryptonite). Of course it was possible, anything was possible; my cancerous tumour had sprouted up like a weed after a rain, very underhanded.

If it returned in record speed I would be one of the world’s unluckiest people.

All the positivity that I had worked so hard to create disappeared in a flash, emotions now galloping away like wild mustangs. I had an image of myself being wheeled into the operating theatre with the breast surgeon smiling at me and asking “Didn’t I see you recently?”

Then I felt incredibly sorry and angry at the left breast. Who asked it be so helpless and stupid, it was supposed to be strong enough to ward off any rogue cells and had failed to do so. It was so “mafan”.

4am. I get online and send a post to the Pink Lovelies, the Facebook community of breast cancer survivors, and shared my dilemma and fear, and awoke the next morning to their kind words and thoughts.

Amy Wu:

Hi! I had my lumpectomy in left breast on May 15 and last night (3am of all times) I felt a hard lump under my left breast. I am really scared, has anyone else experienced this several weeks after surgery?

  • Nicki Boscia Durlester: 
    I did and it was scary. I found a hard lump under my arm three months after my bilateral mastectomy. It was a seroma, a fluid filled sac, a minor complication from surgery. Had to be drained several times until it finally disappeared. Could possibly be a hematoma too. Please make an appointment to see your surgeon.
  • Marie Tibbs Feye: 
    Sure it's not scar tissue from the surgery? 
  • Susan Long Martucci:
    I had a hematoma after my mastectomy and again 13 years later after my lumpectomy. Good attitude Amy.
  • Diana Sands:
    Prayers for you!
  • Linda Miranda Rivera:
    I had it too. Turned out to be scar tissue. Hope it's the same for you

9am - After several sleepless hours I ring up the breast surgeon’s office. Come in and see the nurse, the receptionist said. I was back to square one, in the waiting room on a lousy rainy day. The waiting room is packed (she’s like a rock star, I think). As long of a wait it was, it was also oddly reassuring to know that I wasn’t alone.

11am - The pretty nurse, who had seen me only weeks before, smiled and said that it was unlikely a new lesion. I was almost fresh from the surgery and with such a good report (stage 0 cancer, localised, etc.) and (as if cancer could be good), she highly doubted that it was a new lesion. Most likely scar tissue, but I grasp her hand and led it to the lump.

“Don’t you feel that?” I asked. She maintained her smile, so falsely calming, and said she didn’t think it was anything but if I wanted a guarantee I should see the doctor.

“I’ll see her,” I said. I would wait as long as I needed to for an answer, otherwise how could I move on with my day and life? Back to the nerve wracking waiting game.

1pm - The breast surgeon sees me, she’s as fast as lightning and in less than five minutes completes an ultra sound and tells me to look. I see it, there it is, a pear shaped growth only it is black inside. It’s a pocket of water, she says, very likely from the rearranging done during the surgery. A sigh of relief, today I escaped the wrath of the guillotine.

How would I know when to be worried and not worried in the future? I asked. You need to know your body well, she said. You need to have your own baseline, if something feels odd come in again, she said. Yes, yes, definitely, I nodded.

One last question, in her experience had she ever had a case of a fast growing tumour.
Yes, in fact there was. She had done about 400 surgeries last year and there was a woman who had come in with a small cancerous lump and within a month it had grown to be the size of a fist. She had chemo, radiation and had planned on having surgery right after but by then it had spread to the lungs. The woman didn’t make it. “Couldn’t it have been cut out from the beginning?” I asked.

“It’s not your concern,” the surgeon replied, her smile now gone. Upon reflection I knew why she shared the story with me. In life, anything can happen, there are no answers sometimes, and there are no guarantees. It made me think that there must be a greater force out there that decides one fate, but before I got too happy or philosophical I paid the HK$1,800 for the peace of mind, albeit brief but so worth it. And returned home to the delicious postings from my new friends.

Amy Wu: 

Just finished seeing surgeon she said its a pocket of fluid, in other words seroma. Phew! It was scary how scared I got though

  • Nicki Boscia Durlester: 
    Amy Wu, I am so relieved to hear this. Your feelings of fear are completely understandable. All's well that ends well!
  • Susan Long Martucci:
    Love your description ~ "it was scary how scared I got though." Oh yeah!! Been there, done that too many times to count! Happy to know it's a seroma and nothing worse Amy.