Since she was born, she wouldn’t nurse on my left side. It was giving me a complex. What was wrong with me? I would pump almost daily on that side just so that I could keep the milk going. Breastfeeding was really important to me and it was way too soon to stop. She was still a newborn.
When she was about 3 months old, I started feeling pain on that side and had noticed the genesis of a thin, red line moving down the front of my breast. I immediately associated it with infection. Everyone knows that a thin, red line means that. Right? That’s what I thought anyway.
In the same location there was also a lump. I had experienced something similar when nursing my boys when they were babies. A plugged duct.
At the doctor’s office: “It’s Mastitis.” he shot off confidently. ” It happens, pretty common in nursing mothers, actually.” He gave me some antibiotics and off I went.
After the antibiotics were gone, I noticed the lump and pain hadn’t changed at all. Though the pain wasn’t really bad, just dull, it was still there. This was different from Mastitis. I had Mastitis before and it killed like a mother f***er. In a way I was relieved by this. I didn’t have to go through that pain again at least, but what the shit was going on?
At the doctor’s office again: “Hmm. We might need to lance it”, he said. “But first, let’s try something stronger.” He scribbled a new script and that was that.
This went on an on for about six months. I did NOT want to lance it. Just the thought made me want to hurl and I don’t know, it just didn’t feel right. Looking back now, obviously it was my intuition. Could you imagine what a cluster f*ck it would be to attempt to lance a tumor? I still shudder at the thought.
After 6 months of trying every antibiotic imaginable, I told my doctor, “I think I need a mammogram.” I had asked for this previously but was quickly dismissed, he said I was too young-30, and no risk-factors. It just wasn’t necessary. He rebutted with a list of reasons why it wouldn’t be a good idea. My response, ” I get all that…but honestly, you’ve given me enough antibiotics to sink a ship and I need to know why this ship still hasn’t sunk. I’m not leaving until you write me a script for a mammogram.”
I had to wait 6 weeks for the appointment at the Radiology clinic. By now my daughter was 8 months old. This had been going on since she was born.
When I showed up at the clinic, the girl behind the desk searched the appointment roster. “I’m sorry Kimberly, we don’t have you down for another 3 weeks” she related matter-of-factorily.
I freaked. My heart dropped with a boom like an atomic bomb. I thought it would burst out of my chest. I felt dizzy and weak. I affirmed “that’s a mistake! It has to be! I’ve already waited 6 weeks for this appointment and this is an emergency. I HAVE to be seen.”
“I’m sorry” she said with satisfying pity. Her voice was filled with authority, “There’s nothing I can do.” A thin smile grew across her face.
“There IS something you can do!” I spat. ” I will wait in this uncomfortable waiting room chair all god damn day if I have to! Please talk to someone. I have to be seen today. End of story. I’m not leaving.” I was crying now. I clearly looked crazy and she looked bewildered.
She walked to the back room and again came back with her broken record, “I’m sorry, we are just too booked today. We can’t get you in.”
“I’ll just sit her then. I don’t care how long it takes. I’ll camp out if I have to but I’m NOT leaving until I’m seen.” I said with complete resolution, repositioning myself into the chair.
Again she walked to the back office. This time when she came back, she didn’t even bother saying anything to me. I just looked out the window and sat. Hours went by and we didn’t speak a word. The day was coming to a close. I fell asleep for a while and now my arm was numb. Finally, someone from the back office came out and asked to talk to me. I explained what was going on. She said “We can’t fit you in for a mammogram. It’s just not possible but I’ll see if we can squeeze you in for an ultrasound.”
Overjoyed, “I’ll take whatever I can get!” tears strolled down my cheeks again, this time they contrasted against my grateful smile.
As the nurse rolled the ultrasound mouse over my chest, she seemed disinterested and hurried. Then she stopped the mouse dead. She avoided eye-contact and stared at the screen. I could see her typing madly at the computer, her chin quivering. “Is everything ok?” I said. She glanced at me, shrugged and bolted out of the room almost slamming the door.
A few minutes later, about 3 staff members blasted through the door. The doctor (Radiologist) front and center. She sat down in front of me and grabbed my hand. “You knew didn’t you?”. It just came out. I don’t even think she meant to say it.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Get her a mammogram NOW.” she barked.
Suddenly, they had all the time in the world for me. I knew this wasn’t good yet I felt a wave of relief. Gratification and fear pulsed through my blood simultaneously. Finally, I was going to get an answer.