Last week I went out to lunch with some friends and thought that my bra seemed to fit poorly. I checked out the area and discovered that there was a little swelling, which seemed to get worse, followed by a painful lump in my armpit. Because of the swelling, I was sure that it was lymphedema so I made an appointment with the physical therapist who had taught the post-breast surgery class for an evaluation. By now, the swelling on my chest and back by the armpit had gotten worse. Jan the wonderful PT checked my range of motion and did some measurements and decided that my right arm was showing some signs of lymphedema and began making plans for a compression sleeve for me. When I showed her the swelling that was surrounding the arm and mentioned a lump in my armpit, she drew way back from me. Evidently, this was Not A Good Thing. She immediately called upstairs to my oncologist, who wanted to see me right away.
So, off I go back to Dr. S. She had me undress, examined me, and then said that I couldn’t leave until she’d set up further tests. She talked about an ultrasound, then decided on a FNA (fine needle aspiration – a type of biopsy) after she got in touch with the pathology department because it would give her the most information. She said that the last two patients who she’d seen with lumps in their armpits turned out to be surgical scars, but that she had to treat it as breast cancer related until proven otherwise. I went off to the pathology department over in the hospital, and a very nice pathologist jammed needles in my armpit and removed samples of whatever it was that she found. She said that the results would take two to three days, and that Dr. S would call me.
Then today I went to the funeral of my brother-in-law’s 96 year old grandma. There were lots of folks there who asked me how I was doing and who told me that I looked great. It was hard to keep positive.
My friend google (and mayoclinic.com) tells me that this could be a regional recurrence of my breast cancer. I guess that’s the worst case – well, metastasized recurrence would be worse, but I refuse to believe that could be the case 6 weeks after finishing chemo! I am still struggling with finishing treatment and coming to grips with having breast cancer in the first place, and trying to recover and find my new normal. On the one hand, I know that if it is bad news, I’ve done this before and I know how to fight. But oh, how I don’t want to go there again.