Monday, January 07, 2008

A Breastfeeding Miracle

So in January of 2000, I was sitting in my cubicle at work on a Friday afternoon. Most everyone else had gone home. As I was sitting there, I was attempting to massage some odd soreness out from under my right arm when I found something that would change my life - a lump. I was 23, and the only person on either side of my family who had ever had any kind of cancer was my grandmother who had a _TINY_ spot of lung cancer after living with my life-long smoker grandfather for 50 years, but I had a distinctive, can't-ignore-it lump in my right breast.

I called my doctor and they fit me in the next day. It was _probably_ a swollen lymph node, so he set me up with a course of antibiotics. When that did nothing, we tried an anti-viral next. When that didn't do anything, we tried an anti-parasitic with similar results (except that now I know exactly how foul Flaggyl or metronidazole tastes. Please believe me and avoid it at all costs). With each visit, my somewhat granola-crunchy doc also prescribed various vitamins. By the end, I was taking vitamins A (in a liquid suspension), B (B-50s to be particular), C, and E, in addition to some stuff for my thyroid and oil of evening primrose. He also sent me first for a mammogram, then for a CT scan. Also, with each passing day, the pain that the lump was causing increased. There were days when it was hard to breathe. It was next-to-impossible to do things like mow my lawn.

So in June or July of that year, my doc sent me to a surgeon whose primary response to me was "you're too young!" After another course of antibiotics, a sonogram, and the cessation of all things caffeinated (including chocolate), they finally scheduled me for surgery. The first time, on the day of the surgery, amazingly, the doc couldn't find the lump. So they rescheduled me and on Sept 10, 2000, they took out a "reactive follicular hyperplasia." Basically, an abnormal number of normal cells. Not cancer or even "pre-cancerous." Completely benign.

It was over. It took till January to get the full range of motion back in my arm and I expected to be caffeine-less (and taking a boat-load of vitamins daily) for the rest of my life, but it was over.

Until the next March when the pain came back. And I found another one. And it all started over. Again with the function-robbing pain and the rounds and rounds of doctors visits. And another surgery. This time it was a "fibrosis" - scar or connective tissue. Also completely benign.

And again, it was over. Recovery was much quicker and less painful that time too. Eventually I even stopped taking all of the vitamins (because I just got tired of feeling like I was a "sick" person who had to take tons of medicine daily), although I kept off the caffeine.

Until three years later. I'd been in Kuwait and/or Iraq for just over six months when, in January of 2004, I found another one. To be polite, I'd had to drink a whole lot of Iraqi tea and a small amount (thankfully) of Turkish coffee...which meant _FAR_ more caffeine than my body had seen in many years. So that March, when I was passing through Amman on my way to Cyprus for a vacation, I stopped in at a radiologist's office for another round of mammograms and sonograms. Since I had the history of benign lumps, had a reasonable explanation for this one (Iraqi tea), and wasn't in any pain this time, we decided to just keep an eye on it. The following September when we came out of Iraq for some training (and I unexpectedly never got to go back), I got it checked again. It hadn't grown any and I still wasn't in any pain, so we left it. The doc gave me assurances that it would be there for the rest of my life, but it was "probably" benign like the others.

It's been there ever since then - _PROBABLY_ benign - but with that little cloud of "what if" always floating behind the "probably." I made sure I was always aware of it, but mostly was too busy meeting VNB, finishing my MS, getting married, getting pregnant, and having a baby to worry too much about it.

About nine weeks after AJ was born, we were in for a check-up with the midwives when I brought it up again. She checked me out, felt what I was concerned about, and offered to write an order for a sonogram for me, but I turned it down. At that point, I think I was too worried that they'd find something serious to do what was probably the best thing. I didn't want anything to interfere with breastfeeding AJ. Granted, me dying from breast cancer "probably" would have interfered, but then again, it'd been there innocuously for years. A few more months wouldn't make a difference.

But I went to the gyn for something else, and I was getting kinda antsy about getting it checked out again, so, even though he couldn't find what I was talking about, he wrote me an order for a sonogram. Eventually I called and set up the appointment.

It was today.

And despite her best efforts, the sonogram tech couldn't find anything except normal breast tissue.


The lump...and the nagging fear that went with it...that was supposed to be with me for the rest of my life is gone.

I named my first lump "Bartholomew" because its meaning (little hill) was the closest I could find to "lump," and somehow talking about "Bart" was easier than talking about my breast lump. The second I named "Thaddeus Yair" (which means "Praise, God will teach") because I wanted each thought of my lump to refocus me on praising God and learning what I needed to be taught through the experience rather than worrying about the "what ifs."

This last one was named "Evan Hoai" which means "God is good, Always," partly because it reminded me of a song I love ("God is good all the time..."), and partly because it was what I felt I needed to be reminded of every time I thought of this lump.

Now, medically, this can potentially be explained by the fact that a woman's breasts don't fully develop until she's produced milk for a baby. It took a little while for it to work, but breastfeeding was not only the healthiest thing for my son, it also "fixed" me. It's "a breastfeeding miracle."

Or I can give the praise to the One who formed my breasts and who has taught me so much over the years through this. The One who is good - all the time.

Maybe it was a breastfeeding miracle. Or maybe it was "just" a miracle. All I know is that after eight years of the dark cloud hanging over my head, it's gone! Praise the Lord, it's gone!


Anonymous said...


Valentina's smiling for you :)

(Nevermind that she's always smiling -- right now it's for you)

Amanda said...

Wow, what a story. My question has been answered, and in a much more profound way than I could have ever anticipated.

In your comment during my winter giveaway, you mentioned that you'd done without chocolate and caffiene for so long. While I knew there was a purpose behind such a difficult (seemingly impossible) decision, I honestly thought it would be something like I wanted to get those last three pounds off. Who knew doing without chocolate was part of a far more intense and worrisome struggle that has resulted in such a lovely relationship with an awesome Creator.

Thank you for sharing your story.