Pre-diagnosis: a Lump & an Angel

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Written on August 28th, 2015…

So I guess I should start writing..It’s 2am and the mind is fully awake. I just know that is what I’m supposed to do. Over the past month, I have experienced quite a shift of awareness. And I have cancer to thank for this.

Scary MountainLast November, I found a lump in my left breast. It didn’t surprise me or shock me, I had started to get lumps in my late 20’s. When I felt very the first lump, there was pure PANIC, “Holy shit! I have a lump. It means I have cancer! My life is over! I’m dying!” This is when I began to use The Work of Byron Katie to question my stressful thoughts about lumps. Guess what I discovered? A lump is just a sweet, innocent, speck of nothing. It’s the label I put on the lump that took me down a hysterical emotional rollercoaster. The silly mind had just made a mountain out of a boobie lump. Other than what I was thinking and believing, I was perfectly ok. Doing The Work allowed me to stay present and peacefully move to the next steps.

I would always get each lump checked out by professionals and they all ended up being either a cyst or swollen lymph node. I was told ~ yes, I have lumpy boobs and this is normal. I learned how to monitor them and they seemed to go away over time so I learned how not to freak out when a new one was felt.

Well, this November lump didn’t go away. It got larger and larger and then about 6 months later, I noticed another lump in my left armpit. So I went the non-traditional healing route ~ Breast Thermography (note: this is not the center I visited). Breast Thermography is a way of taking digital photos that measure the heat in the breast tissue. Because anything cancerous is inflammation ~ it will show up as heat on the images. The naturopath can then determine if a lump is likely to be cancerous or not. There is zero radiation, which really appealed to me. I had done Breast Thermography on the very first lump I detected back when I was 30, and the results were congruent with traditional medical doctors as well ~ just a swollen lymph node. So, I trusted this process.

The naturopath did not detect any heat in the new, larger lump, nor in the armpit. My estrogen did look a little elevated. He said they were likely swollen lymph nodes or a cyst and recommended lymphatic drainage therapy ~ a homeopathic remedy taken 3 times per day, and 3 sessions of lymphatic drainage to stimulate and drain my lymphatic system. He then said to come back in 6 months for a follow-up.

But after 2 months, there was no change in the size of my lumps. I asked him if I should get an ultrasound to make sure it’s not anything, and he agreed it might be a good idea. I honestly couldn’t tell if he just didn’t know what to do with me anymore since his therapies weren’t working or if he really was concerned. He didn’t know a place to do an ultrasounds which I thought was kind of bullshit.

I’m self-employed and without health insurance. I started calling around to see if I could get an ultrasound somewhere and what the out-of-pocket cost would be. I felt frustrated, inconvenienced, & annoyed that there wasn’t a clear answer. I was pissed at myself for not having insurance either ~ this is the exact situation of why people get insurance ~ to find peace of mind in unexpected events.

Angel_PrayingThen I found an angel in a woman who has been in my life for 8 years, my mother-in-law, Elaine. I had known she worked in a doctor’s office, but had no idea what kind and she jumped at the opportunity to support me. She literally swept right in and held my hand throughout the entire process. Before I knew it, she was setting up an appointment with one of her nurse’s for a manual exam free of charge; the doctor could then refer me to a clinic for the ultrasound.

During my manual exam, I learned that perhaps my lump was a little bigger than a regular lump looked at by doctors. When the nurse saw me turn to my side and the bulge popped out of the side of my breast, she immediately got the head doctor to come take a look. She agreed that I needed to get it checked out asap. The good news is that the lump in my breast was not fixed, it could just be a fibroadenoma. It worried her a bit that there was another lump in the armpit though. Angel Elaine made my appointment for a mammogram & ultrasound ~ apparently the clinic refused to do just an ultrasound by itself because I am over the age of 30. I had mixed feelings about mammograms and wasn’t crazy about the exposure of radiation. However, I heard that the combination of these two tools are my best option for giving an accurate diagnosis of what’s going on in my body.

After the doctor’s visit, the lumps started to make me anxious again (or rather, my thinking about them did!). I continued to question my stressful thoughts about them and decided to give them a cute new name: Lulu 1 (breast lump) and Lulu 2 (armpit lump). This just made me giggle 🙂 Now I could take my Lulus to get an ultrasound and mammogram. My new little buddies.

Up until this point, I didn’t experience much stress. I figured, I’ll save my freak-out until there is actually something real to freak out about…the doctors are just making sure it’s nothing to worry about. The biggest stress that showed up for me at that point, had nothing to do about health, a diagnosis, terminal cancer. It had everything to do with MONEY.

Next: questioning stressful thoughts about medical expenses. 

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17 responses »

  1. Love your writing Bethany, the honesty and humour infused into it and how I am getting to know you more since your self speaks so clearly through your words. You are an inspiration to me and I love getting reminders from all places that it’s my mind creating all the suffering. Lulu 1 and 2 sound like amazing teachers. Thank you for sharing the lessons they are teaching before they depart. Loving you and supporting you and once again recommending you watch Office Space the movie for some good laughs (the gangster scene in the field, my fave). ❤

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    • Hi beautiful ~ thank you! Love reading this. My lulus will be with me until they’re not, those little gurus. I should definitely watch Office Space again – one of my all-time favorites!

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  2. Hi there sweet Bethany, As I sit with your story I can feel how cancer is more friendly than I first thought. You help me see how to make friends with seemingly scary things! 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing your story. Love Wendy xo

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    • I love you, Wendy. Thank you. Yes, I’m finding that too. Next week, I hope to discover chemo is also friendlier than my mind projects. As I question my thoughts about it so far, the scary stuff is only in my head. Treatment starts Wednesday!

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  3. Beautiful Bethany being family I am looking at this from a different standpoint. Nothing is stronger than family and you know we Italians don’t have small families. There are so many of us that are pulling for you and sending our energy and faith. We will always be close by with your Mom and Dad sharing all the information sending them our love. We know Travis is your rock and we will be the pebbles that support where we can.

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  4. Bethany your words and humor are so inspiring..I have known Elaine a long time..I so admire your courage..xoxo Cindy {Chris Cast mom}
    cgoodwin

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  5. I haven’t stopped thinking about you and putting my intentions for your wellbeing out to the Universe. Harriet just told me that you have been in her thoughts and prayers each night.
    We support you and love your attitude and outlook.
    Keep up the hi-mood energy…
    Peace,
    Richard and Harriet

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    • Thank you so, so much! This means a lot. And there are moments where the high energy drops so I am make space for fear and sadness too as they are also part of the journey. Reminding myself of all of this incredible support helps me move through those times as well.

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  6. I enjoy your writing. You tell it as it is. I’m very interested in learning more about Byron Katie. I have terrible anxiety and that sounds like it will help me. It sounds like it’s working for you. Please stay very positive and keep writing. Your entire Italian Family is sending you Love and prayers.

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    • Thank you so much! Yes, I use The Work of Byron Katie for anything stressful in my life (stress about work, money, relationships, body images, you name it). Her web site is an incredible resource for everything you need to know to make The Work a daily practice: http://www.thework.com ~ full of content & videos that explain the simple process, videos of others doing The Work with Katie, a link to a free helpline service where you can call facilitators, etc. Let me know if you have any questions about it!

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  7. Dear Bethany, A friend/neighbor here in Vermont made a short video that you may find to be very valuable. Lori had been diagnosed with breast cancer and it’s about things she wished she had known when she was first aware of a lump. http://www.breastcancerchoices.org/lorireport.html Her favorite research site is PubMed. Here’s another URL for the same video:

    With love,
    Lucy

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    • Thank you, Lucy! I see at the end of the video, she recommends Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book – that has been my bible in this process. Teaching me all of the right questions to ask, educating me on risks involved, etc. Very empowering!

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      • You’re welcome. BTW, I was a participant at the September 2014 School for The Work and I remember how kind you were to me.You shared with me so honestly and I appreciated it. Another book recommendation–although I imagine by now you’re probably up to here with book recommendations–is Coping with the Emotional Impact of Cancer: Become an Active Patient and Take Charge of Your Treatment by Neil Fiore, Ph.D. I think this book is excellent, and again, you may already have what you need. Just thought I’d mention it. Even if not for you, it might be a good book for someone else to read, say, a friend or family member.

        Quoting from the back cover: “Drawing on his experience as a thirty-year survivor of a ‘terminal’ cancer diagnosis and his training as a licenses psychologist, Neil Fiore provides deep insight and practical tools for: managing the initial shock at receiving a cancer diagnosis, lessening stress and worry, combating depression, preparing your body for treatment, and living a rich full life with cancer despite the fear and possibility of recurrence. Wise and compassionate, this book shows patients and their families how to work with medical caregivers, communicate with each other, and overcome feelings of helplessness.”

        Another book I recommend:

        What Helped Get Me Through: Cancer Survivors Share Wisdom and Hope, edited by Julie K. Silver, MD

        Love, Lucy

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  8. Dear Bethany, I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone quite as brave as you at such an early age. I, too, love your writing and have been impacted by it. I, too, have been praying for you and your family since first receiving your Dad’s email last week. And Della is right–our big, Italian family is with you all the way and have faith that God and everyone he puts in your life to help you at this time will heal and strengthen you. As an example of this, Lucy’s video has to be a wonderful resource for you. I know I learned a lot from her as well. Take care and please don’t stop your writing. We are all on your team, and you are an inspiration to us all.

    Love, Cousin Diane

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    • Beautiful pictures online of Bethany getting her hair cut. Starting by turning this momentous occasion into a shared event. The pictures are beautiful. Bethany has a very big week to open up her walk with God through Hell. We have to believe that He will bring her through it and guide the doctors great knowledge to do the right things. I will ask His Blessed Mother to help you and Debbie and the rest of the family be strong while Her Son takes care of Bethany. Love you… Della

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