What follows is my personal account of having breast tumors. You don't need to read it if you don't want to but you DO need to stop what you're doing right now and give yourself a little breast massage to check that everything is a-o-k.
And while you're at it, if you've got 'em, have a little feel of your testicles to make sure your balls are nice and round with nothing out of place. (don't do this while in public - Hey and wash your hands!!)
Done? Okay, back to the story.
I promised over on Instagram that I would share more about my recent experience with breast health... so here's the whole story for my faithful newsletter audience:
In October of 2021, while performing a breast massage/self-exam I noticed a small lump of about 0.5cm above my right nipple. It was almost the same consistency as the rest of the breast tissue and mobile, painless but something in me felt 'off' about it.
I have very nodulous breasts, so I have had cysts in the past and wasn't really concerned, but do take my health seriously and as I have a defined spleen in human design* I know that that ping of warning in my system is NOT to be ignored.
I booked in for an ultra-sound and the technician told me what I have heard many times before: "There is something, but the borders are neat and it doesn't look suspect... check it again in six months."
I went away content. Just another cyst or Fibroadenoma - nothing to worry about.
Except... 5 months later, I could palpably feel that it was larger.
It took another 2 months to get an appointment for a mammogram and another ultrasound (top tip, when someone tells you to book a follow-up in 6 months, do it right away!!) so in May I went over to the top recommended Senology clinics here in Milan where they performed the tests.
The doctor who did the ultrasound surprised me during the test by saying that the questionable growth was quite a bit larger than the previous scan, that there was a second growth right next to it, a third in my armpit and that she wanted to do a biopsy right away.
Seriously it's lucky she did too, because had I left that day, I probably would have had to wait another 2-3 months JUST for the biopsy.
Anyways before I could protest or freak out, the biopsy was done and I was on my way.
I tried my best not to think of it while away that weekend and focused on other things until the middle of the next week when I got a phone call as promised from the breast clinic:
'Mrs. Herman, your appointment is set with Dr. Ballardini for Friday.' - They don't give you results for these things over the phone and you have to go in person.
Of course the first thing I went to do after I hung up was to search for what kind of doctor was Ballardini?!?
Shit - A Surgical Senologist.
I went to the appointment and found out that I had Phyllodes tumors of the breast. These are rare and make up fewer than 1% of all breast tumors. Most phyllodes tumors are benign (not cancerous), but about 25% are cancerous.
*This information is provided by Breastcancer.org. Luckily, the biopsy of the main tumor reported that it was benign but the treatment for these tumors is always surgery as they have a very quick growth rate and can get out of hand destroying tissue and surrounding skin with their size.
The assumption was that the second large tumor near the nipple was the same as the first, but the clinic was still somewhat concerned about the one under my armpit.
Because no one felt any urgency we decided to differ the operation several months until October to see if the growth under my arm would change.
This October, I went back to the clinic for the preparation for surgery for the 2 main tumors and to evaluate if the third needed removing. They performed another biopsy on the 3rd tumor but without conclusive results so as I was having surgery anyhow we agreed that the best thing to do would be to remove that tissue as well for a better analysis.
The surgery was on October 26th and went well. My incisions are healing nicely and though I have a common side effect of breast surgery - seromas in both locations - they do not seem to need draining.
It's 3 weeks tomorrow and I still don't have the results but will definitely update you when I do and when I have processed whatever it is they tell me.
I'm sharing all this because I really do hope that you take a moment now and do a self-exam. What have you got to lose? What have you got to gain?
And listen, if you're ever struggling with emotions that come up from any form of diagnosis, I can help. I have a lot of experience with this health stuff... it's one of my themes and I think it continues to be so I can help others navigate it with my acquired peace and tranquility around the subject.
Just get in touch.
Look, I'm not serious often, but our bodies communicating with us is serious business, at least if you feel like hanging out in these bodies.
I love you, keep healthy!