The Good Fight – Part 5

Let’s backtrack to December of 2016. I woke up one early morning to prepare for work. As I was brushing I noticed a strange mark on upper right quadrant of my breast. It appeared I had been clawed by a kitten; thin, pink, long marks about 4 inches long. I stopped brushing and took a good look. I did not remember having a good time with my husband. How could I have slept so deeply not knowing I was fondled?

“Babe…what did you do to my breast?” I asked across the bathroom.

“Did you do anything overnight?” I asked again.

“No Toyin…” He replied sleepily.

A strange mark from nowhere. Hmmm….The mark cleared off after a few days. We travelled to Nigeria as a family for the winter holiday. I had not been home for 15 years. It was the first time for Tami and Bolu. This was going to be a grand family reunion. My sister was coming with her husband and my niece. My brother was going to introduce his future wife to the family. Her name is Yehoda. For the first time in many years, we were all going to be together under one roof!

On January 4, 2017, I woke up with severe breast pain. It felt like a bad case of mastitis. One of veins in my breast looked inflamed. It was throbbing. It was painful. The next day, as I was taking a shower, I noticed the lymph nodes under my right armpit had swollen. Then I observed a little lump twirling inside my breast. As I traced it, it moved. I went to my mum and complained to her. She did a breast exam and told me point blank that I was fine.

“There is nothing wrong with you.” She said. “This is all breast tissue as far as I am concerned.” Mum continued.

I was still very uncomfortable. I could feel the lump! It was playing around. I had not been faithful with self-breast exams but this time, I began to really examine my breasts; the color, the curvature, everything! My only observation was that the left one was quite softer than the right breast; as dense as they both were. The blessings were indeed real 😊. Yehoda had overheard me saying I was experiencing breast pain and I had felt a lump. Come to find out, she is an oncologist. She encouraged me to go for breast imaging the minute I got back to the US. I could have gone to an imaging center while in Nigeria but the results would have been useless the moment I got back to the US. My doctor would still request that I go re-do the imaging. Why bother?

The lymph nodes continued to swell and feel uncomfortable. The lump was still mobile every time I checked. We got back from vacation January 12 but I did not see Dr N immediately. I had to hit the ground running to ensure TamBo’s Kitchen will open on time. I continued to observe the lump and pray. One fateful February morning, the lump was no longer moving. It seemed to have attach itself next to my nipple at a right angle. I could no longer ignore the need to see Dr. N.

I called her the last week of January to complain about the lump and she asked me to come in for a visit. She began performing the breast exam in a hurry. At first she said she felt nothing and was going to send me my merry way. I asked her to pause.

“Dr. N; take your time and run the tip of your fingers around my breast tissue, don’t rush it.”

Like a good doctor who listens and is patient -centered focused, she did exactly what I told her and repeated the breast exam. She felt the lump.

“Hmm…quite unusual” she said. “I am going to send you to Imaging for further tests, then we can move on from here. Since there is no history of cancer in your family, hopefully this is benign.

On February 9, 2017, I was scheduled for a double mammogram and breast ultrasound. On February 14, I had been diagnosed with an invasive form of breast cancer; a malignant neoplasm of the right breast.

The first thing I noticed was the acid reflux resolved itself after the cancer diagnosis. I have not had to take anti-thyroid meds either. It appeared these two conditions were pointers to something much more serious. Cancer was here. It was time to fight.