I regularly answer questions about breast cancer symptoms and treatment here at MyBreastCancerNetwork.com. Very often, the questions are from women who have a lump in their breast or some other symptom and they are very understandably worried.
I always try to be as understanding as possible. After all, I have been exactly where they are and know how scary it is. I usually note that the vast majority of breast lumps are non-cancerous, advise the woman to make an appointment and to try not to worry while she waits for answers.
I almost always add that I know that this is more easily said than done. I know first-hand that waiting a few days for an appointment or a test result can seem like an eternity.
And I know that it’s even harder when you have a preliminary diagnosis of breast cancer but have to wait for confirmation and treatment. I waited a month between the mammogram (when the radiologist told me to "Hope and pray for the best but prepare for the worst," and expressed that my situation was "urgent") until the day of my biopsy. I thought I might die from the stress.
I have been reminded of exactly how this feels as I await my routine CT scan, scheduled for tomorrow. After having been diagnosed with liver metastasis in November 2006, I had my first clean scan in June 2007, which was followed up with three others. My oncologist has been feeling very hopeful and so have I.
I have no real reason to expect anything but good results this time, yet I can’t escape the feeling that something is wrong. My digestion feels a little off and I can’t decide if the pain in my side is a phantom one.
The truth is, I am scared. I am trying to reassure myself with the fact that I have been feeling pretty good, that I have been biking and running But I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was feeling the healthiest and most fit that I had in years. And I was diagnosed with liver mets three weeks after I returned to work, at a time when I was feeling strong, energetic and (so I thought) on the road to reclaiming my life from cancer.
I have been fairly racked with anxiety these last few days and yet today I feel calmer. Perhaps I have had the time to come to terms with the fact that I have no choice but to meet whatever challenge lies ahead. Perhaps it has helped to keep myself really busy. Or maybe I am in denial.
My advice to women awaiting test results or doctor’s appointments remains the same.
Try not to torture yourself with worst case scenarios.
Go out and play (I went to the National Art Gallery with my family yesterday).
Get together with friends (I had a great time at last night’s book club meeting).
Get some exercise (I am going running with my son after school today).
Write it all down (I procrastinated over doing this but I can’t tell you how much it helped.
If you are waiting to find out if you have cancer, what your treatment might be or whether cancer has returned, my heart goes out to you.
Be good to yourself.
And I will let you know how things go for me.