I found the lump in my right breast in the wee hours of 6 August 2013.
Oddly, realizing it was there didn’t keep me awake that night. I’d discovered it while laying in bed, and I told myself, “I’ll email my primary care doc directly tomorrow when I get up.” If you’re a veteran, and you’re getting care at a VA hospital, they encourage you strongly to sign up for the VA’s veterans’ health care site, myhealthevet.com (I’m not linking it because it would be useless for pretty much all readers here; suffice it to say the site enables you to contact your care team, do things like record food intake and exercise, and order prescription refills). Normal procedure, since my primary care doc works primarily for the University and its hospital and sees VA patients only on Thursday mornings, is to use the site to send a secure email to my doctor. Problem with this when I found the lump was that the email goes through her nurse, and she might not get the message until she got to work on Thursday, and I needed to tell her as soon as possible. Luckily, my primary care doc had given me her business card, with her direct email address, so I used this.
A week after the Thursday following my discovery of the lump, I was at the VA to see my doc on a squeeze-in appointment. First an intern did the breast exam thing, then my doc came in after I chatted with the intern, and my doc did another exam and we discussed what would be happening.
Next step happened to be getting a mammogram, and I got an appointment up at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, taking over a spot left by someone else’s cancellation. There, I had a mammogram, which led into an ultrasound, and then a biopsy of the lump in my breast and one they discovered on the lymph nodes under my arm. The biopsy was a relatively simple procedure complicated slightly when doing the breast lump because I’d given permission for a resident doctor to perform it (because the guy has to learn somehow). Overall, the procedure was faster and easier to endure than I would have expected.
I went home that day (it was another Thursday), and cried. Having the biopsy, and especially after all I learned and saw about my lumps while I was there, brought home the possibility of cancer. Until that point, I’d been able to get by with the thought it probably wasn’t cancer. But after hearing the doctors and assistants and technicians attending to my care discuss the fact the lump was not regularly-shaped and was solid and firm, not squishy or as if it were full of liquid, and, especially after discovering the lump on my lymph nodes, I couldn’t help but assume it was in fact cancer.