About a month or so ago, I was in the shower and decided it was a good time to do my self breast exam. I was feeling pain in my left under arm/breast area.

Now, I rarely do them, mostly because they terrify me.

My grandma (mom’s mom) had breast cancer. And my mom was murdered at the young age of 37, so it’s hard to say if she would have had it. My grandpa on my mom’s side also had cancer. It’s something that scares the shit out of me. Something I feel like is coming someday, I just don’t know when.
So, back to my exam.
I was feeling my left boob near my armpit and I swore that I felt a little lump.
Another thing that makes my exams slightly more hard to do, is that I was stabbed near my left boob/armpit, so my body holds a lot of trauma there.
It feels numb sometimes, triggering others. Sometimes it hurts. So right away I thought “Ok, this could be scar tissue”.
I got out of the shower and bent over, and felt again. It started to hurt so bad. I was too afraid to feel for it again, so I got dressed and then came out and told my partner. She said she wanted to try to feel for it. I didn’t want her to because of the pain, but I knew I should. I laid down and she started feeling around. She said she couldn’t feel anything.
I already had a doctors appointment scheduled for January, and they said that was the soonest they could see me. So I figured it was best to try to forget about it, or else my anxiety would get the best of me.
At my doctors appointment I mentioned it to the doctor, and he felt around. He said he couldn’t feel anything unusual. But because of my family history, and because of my pain, he said it would be best to get a mammogram and ultrasound. I was relieved he didn’t feel anything, but I almost didn’t trust him. I have a hard time with doctors and, well, all things medical, since my trauma of attempted murder and survival in 2006.
I went home and the pain still persisted.
Yesterday was the big day. I was so nervous because so many people said it hurts pretty bad.
I went in and had to have my covid screening, then went to the station to check in.
I was told not to wear any lotion or deodorant, so of course I was sweating profusely because of my nerves.
They called me back into the room and had me undress from the waist up. The technician explained how the mammogram works.
Then, like all appointments I go to, I had to explain what happened and why I have scar tissue there. I told her I was stabbed, and she put a little sticker over the scar to mark it for the mammogram.
She was very comforting and helpful. She was patient with me. She told me that after the mammogram, she would send me for the ultrasound, and we would have our results before I left.
I started crying right then and there. So many lovely folks I know have had breast cancer, and I thought this might be the last moment before I found out I had it as well. I know how strong everyone I know had been, but I worried I don’t have the strength to fight like that right now.
The machine looks how you would expect, with two large trays ready to squish squish squish. She maneuvered my right breast onto the tray, then told me to take a deep breath and hold it in. Then the other tray came smashing down. But surprisingly, it didn’t hurt me at all. Then, we did the left breast. She told me not to be alarmed if they came back and said they needed more pictures.
I went to the next waiting room and watched HGTV until it was time for the ultrasound.
I laid on the table and the technician squirted cold liquid on my painful area and went for it. Now, this is the part that hurt! She kept pushing down on the area. I started asking her if everything looked alright, and she said “I will show the radiologist!” I thought for sure that meant something was wrong. Can you tell I’m paranoid? And anxious, AF!
After a few minutes it was over and she left the room. Waiting there was terrible. It’s hard for me to trust myself and my intuition because of PTSD. Rationally, you could say I don’t have reason to be alarmed since I’d been told twice that they couldn’t feel a lump.
But, my PTSD and anxiety brain tells me everything “bad” or “scary” WILL indeed happen to me. So, I don’t know which voice to listen to.
She came back in and said everything looked normal, and the pain I’m feeling is just dense tissue. Just like that, I was relieved and ready to do a happy dance.
I got dressed and went to wait for my partner to pick me up. I texted everyone close to me who knew about it, and they all responded saying it was such fantastic news! It really was.
I’m sharing because I think it’s important to normalize doing our breast exams, and going to frightening appointments. I really wanted to just put this off, but I’m so thankful I didn’t.
I’m also thankful my doctor listened to me, made me feel seen and heard, and sent me for the mammogram. He didn’t make me feel silly or stupid for being so worried and upset about feeling a lump that he couldn’t feel.
All of the medical professionals I have seen about this treated me with respect, patience, and care. I’m so fortunate.
Have you ever had a mammogram? What was your experience like? Don’t forget to do your monthly breast exams! I am going to get better about this, I’ve made that promise to myself!

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