The Lump

“How long has this been here?”

“I don’t know. Maybe six months.”

“Why didn’t you tell me? You have been in for a head cold and a sprained ankle in the past several months. Why didn’t you bring it up?”

Truthfully, I don’t know why we ask these questions. 

What does it matter in the grand scheme of things, the why? It could be one or several of over a dozen things but knowing why does not change the what or the now. Asking why only makes the patient feel… worse. 

Actually, I do know why we ask. 

It is our way of saying, “Look, if you die, remember it isn’t my fault,” because we feel guilty, somehow. Responsible. It is our way of conveying that we are hurt that you didn’t trust us without saying those exact words out loud. And to be honest, we are in shock, scared, terrified of what this might mean for you. We know the fear and the pain and the hair loss and depression and everything else that may come your way because of this little lump in your breast.

I have been on both sides. 

I can tell you that as the patient I understand the not bringing it up thing. I consciously chose to ignore it myself. Not because I was depressed or was in denial that it was there. It was certainly there. Nor was I lazy. Or ignorant. I knew full well the implications of a slow growing mass in my breast. I simply did not want to know. If it was breast cancer, fine. So be it. It wasn’t going anywhere. Death didn’t scare me. In some ways, I was probably playing chicken with death, with the mass.

Who was going to flinch first, I wondered.

Then one day my own doctor was saying those words to me… “What the hell were you thinking?!?!??!”

And the truth is, I don’t know. 

Please note, that I do not have breast cancer. I’m not dying from anything, not yet anyway. My breast is just fine, thank you! I was just reflecting on this whole phenomenon last night, the ignoring of things we shouldn’t really ignore. 


83 thoughts on “The Lump

  1. Here’s this patient’s view: you’ve come in a couple times, worried about something that either turns out to be nothing or something that really not much can be done about, but it’s not life-threatening. So you think: do I really want to feel like an idiot once again for wasting the doctor’s time? They sent me for x-rays the last time, and the ankle wasn’t broken. It stayed swollen for months, and I came in again, and they said there was nothing to be done, just wait for it to go away….we really don’t want to be seen as hypochondriacs, at least I don’t. So the next time something bothers me I don’t say anything. And hope for the best.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Sometimes it is scary as hell to face the fact that, while death may not be scary, having our quality of life impacted is. There’s a feeling that there’s so much more to see and do, people to love, moments to experience. Maybe even regrets that those things haven’t happened yet, or that enough time will heal old wounds, for those we’ve affected, too. Hope, waiting patiently. That’s been my fear, anyway. Great post, Victo.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. For me, it was denial. It was admitting I was getting old. I suffered six years of incontinence before finally going to a urologist who corrected my problem with a fifteen minute surgery. Fear. I was terribly afraid of all the TV commercials I had seen about mesh. I told my doctor about my issue at the very beginning, but it took two referrals to finally get me into the urologist. It’s not you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Especially scary when an old grumpy oncologist strongly suggested a double mastectomy?
    What, you really are nuts! Thank you, but no thank you. It was a stage 0 – means LCIS
    he could or could not be right. I chose to do nothing.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Very current for me Victo. Lump felt 19th Sept, saw GP 20th, Consultant, mammagram, ultrasound and first biopsy 30th Sept, second biopsy 12th Oct, results 26th Oct, surgery 31st Oct. Confirmation all taken, lymph nodes clear 16th Nov. Coming up Oncologist 2nd Dec. I hate going to the doctor. Yes I get embarrassed about ladies problems, afraid of wasting their time, etc. I’m going to be fine as we, and the medical profession, caught it early. Could’ve been a different story. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  6. For me it was not wanting to take time off work. But now that I’m retired I have no excuse. So now I’m getting treatment for a leg that’s been kind of lame for the past 15 years. My doctor gave me quite the look when I told him how long it’s been bothering me.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Do you think men are more prone to this? Obviously women are not immune, but I put things off so my family can get checkups, teeth cleanings, glasses, and everything first. Only then is it my turn. I started on Proscar a month ago, because I wanted to try an herbal product first. Turns out, with insurance, the medicine is cheaper.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A friend just got the all clear after a breast biopsy which was picked up on a routine mammogram. Another acquaintance ignored definite bowel symptoms, despite being a nurse, for eight months. Results show it has spread.
    I don’t know why some ignore symptoms but like you I do know they do.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. From my perspective, I used to fight going to the Dr for stuff because everything was an issue because I am FAT!. It was was always “loose weight” and then will treat you like a human being. Now I advocate, I study and I bitch. One example: one kidney stopped working….. the first PA who saw me before the nephrologist spent an enormous amount of time betting me that I could not loose 25 pounds and that was the total of his patient care for me. Finally when the nephrologist saw me and she looked at my med list….she saw the combination of big doses of Advil, prednisone, and methotrexate and a blood pressure pill with a diuretic (all prescribed) and finally said that all these meds, some of which raised my sugar to over an A1C of 13 in few months… well it was just too much for my kidney. Couple that with the fact that PsA can cause kidney stones (which I have) and you have my situation completely. It took months for this simple resolve: get me off the meds. Results: A1 C went back to 6, kidney function returned to 41%. Just one example of what I have had to out up with and why I (normally) do not like medical providers. Currently I have a great rheumatologist and PCP who listen and understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Well, as I’m sure you are well aware, we anxious people could be in all the time about every little bump and spot. Mine is always, “I’ll keep an eye on that and we’ll see how it is by _____.” (whatever occasion is a few weeks away.)
    I don’t think I’d wait on a lump in my breast. Not more than a menstrual cycle anyway. I mean, really, if you call the day after you find it, they can’t get you in for a month, so may as well deal with it immediately. Denial? I don’t know. I don’t have time for that, since I spend all my time running back and forth between emotional denial and Worry World. πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 2 people

  11. If you asked ten different people in the same situation, once you got past the first few rounds of the universal, “I dunno!!!!” I think you’d find at least eight different answers. I think the surface observation is “denial” and surely that’s a big component. I’m just guessing here. I’m thinking back to my own things, just as you did. I think back to people I know. Ignorance, bad information (not necessarily the same things), laziness, time and money constraints (even if they were there for a cold, the specter of expensive tests, time off of work, etc. prevents people from seeking more), fear… a myriad of reasons for a myriad of people. While a frustrated “Why?” may not be totally useful (although I would disagree that it doesn’t really matter…it might), I think it is 100% understandable because doctors are people and people get frustrated.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are right. There are times the WHY matters. Like financial concerns. I think too often we assume it is denial when there are very complex reasons why people choose to ignore certain things. I felt an almost surreal detachment, personally, but I am sure that is not the case for many people.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Before menopause, I had chronic fibrocystic breast tissue (naturally lumpy breasts) and doing self exams made me so anxious I didn’t do them often or got into the habit of ignoring largish lumps, especially after having a lumpectomy in my 30s that was benign. I think it was just a big fibrocyst, if you call it that. Now, after all these years, the lumps going away. So, why has it been so long since I did a self exam? Might be the same reason as not wanting to tell the doctor. I dunno. But I’m going to do a selfie tonight. Thanks a lot, doc.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. A real conundrum. I’m at the age where I don’t mention things that there is probably no answer to except that it is a natural part of aging and not much you can do about it. (My interpretation.) A few months ago I went to my doctor because I had pain in my hip and right leg that woke me up at night but had departed in the time between my making an appointment and when they could schedule it. He said that I had sciatica and that he knew because he had it too. ( He is about thirty years younger than I am.) He told me I had experienced a speed bump that would come and go. It left and hasn’t been back since that day.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I’ve pondered telling my physician something before – I had a scare with a little blood way past menopause and kept thinking it wasn’t anything to worry about. SHE didn’t think so when I got up the courage to tell her, and luckily it wasn’t anything – but I can see it from your patient’s side. You don’t WANT to know that there’s something wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This is so true!! True at how we avoid talking about the things that we are terrified in knowing the answer to! I had a real life example like this and I can honestly say that Yes, you really don’t realize what you are doing at the time. Its like your brain just goes into self protection mode!
    No, it wasn’t with breast cancer!
    I can’t remember if you were following me or not when I wrote about it. I had failed a Stress Test. It showed a blockage and Dr wanted me to go for Heart Cath right away, like straight to the hospital! I told the Dr NO that I had to go home and get my kids off the bus, etc. I know STUPID! Dr let me go as long as I promised to be at hospital first thing the next morning and I was. I just felt I needed time to absorb everything and yes I was scared. My brother had died of a heart attack.
    Am very glad to know you haven’t dealt with breast cancer! Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. There is a Borges text on that. Well, not exactly that. related. Lemme see… In my new library… Christ on the Cross and other poems… No. It’s another book. Sthg about the man on Death row who doesn’t sleep on his last night. Why should he sleep? It’s his last night. He wants to be awake. And Borges concludes: we are all prisoners on Death row. Why should we sleep on what may be our last night? πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  17. LMAO. Thanks for the disclaimer. I think because we don’t want to think the worse. I feel the same way. It’s like “Damn, I’m going to die of cancer, but not if I ignore it.” Not rational, but I understand.

    Liked by 1 person

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