funny pictures of cats with captionsBefore I went to Cambodia for my internship with the Open Society Institute in Summer 2010 and around the time of my 1L finals, I discovered a lump about the size of an almond in my right boob.

Somewhat scary. I know. And maybe a little TMI. Get over it.

At the time, the boob almond didn’t seem as scary as cramming all the rules for my Civil Procedure, Contracts, Property, Torts and Criminal Law classes in my head. I conveniently put the slight fear that the lump could mean something scarier aside – my mother had a couple in the past that turned out to be benign – and turned my attention to more important things like collateral estoppel, equitable servitudes and the parol evidence rule.

Between studying for law school exams, worrying about trouble with the Boyfriend around that time, and focusing on the Terrifying Boob Almond, I chose to study for law school exams and deal with life. Terrifying boob almond (“TBA”) was put on the back burner.

I didn’t think about it again until I got back from Cambodia several months later: I was a carefree 2L (well, not quite carefree), and things with the Boyfriend were once again going swimmingly. And once I started thinking about it, I started panicking.

Just the December before (around 1L first-semester finals), an aunt who was very dear to me and to my family passed away from stomach cancer. Several years before that one of my uncles was taken by lung cancer. Several years before that another aunt had died from uterine cancer. It’s heart-wrenching to see a family member deal with such immense pain and know that there is nothing you can do to stop it. It was heart-stopping to think that maybe I would put my family through that again.

So I didn’t tell my family about the lump initially. However, as I scheduled visits to first a clinic, then a specialist, I felt that it would be good to have my mom with me. If she couldn’t provide moral support, she could at least provide transportation and/or celebratory, non-cancer cupcakes. I didn’t want to bring the Boyfriend to the doctor’s office. I dunno. I guess there’s something comforting about having a support person in the doc’s office who has woman parts.

I scheduled a visit with the campus clinic, which confirmed that I did in fact have a Terrifying Boob Almond (though they did use a more scientific term for it). A week or two after that, I was forwarded to a specialist, who confirmed the TBA was not a liquid-filled cyst that could just be drained of the liquid, but rather a firm growth that needed to be biopsied to rule out cancer. A week after that, the specialist performed a core-needle biopsy, and tagged the site with a little chip to mark the biopsied site. (Unfortunately, I don’t set off metal detectors. Sucks, I know. That would have been a pretty cool story to tell.)

After about four to six weeks total from clinic visit to biopsy results, I had my answer about cancer: the TBA was benign. FU, TBA.

I don’t think I was too surprised by the results: I am after all under 30, eat somewhat healthily (except for the midnight runs – no pun intended – to Del Taco), and exercise regularly.

However, in the course of my research, I learned that there is a minority of women in my age group who weren’t as lucky as I was, who do get breast cancer. What’s even worse is that the mortality rates for these women are much higher: since they are so young and healthy, they never think they are at risk. This often results in the cancer being caught during the later stages of development, making it that much more difficult to treat.

I was lucky. All I learned after my month-long ordeal was that some women do get benign, boob almonds on a fairly regular basis. Some women, sadly, aren’t as lucky and learn that they are part of the small minority of women under 30 who do get cancer.

The solution?

While there isn’t any cure for cancer yet and while we can only do so much in terms of prevention, we certainly can control the detection of these cancers. For women, that means touching your boobies. For men, that means encouraging your women to touch their boobies.

Hopefully, because of early detection and screening, that TBA will be MIA at your doctor’s office sooner rather than later.

For more information on younger women who are living with or who have survived breast cancer, please visit the Young Survivor’s Coalition website.

For an account of one law student’s ordeal with breast cancer, please visit The Merits of the Case blawg.

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