Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Pregnant with a Breast Lump: The Journey to Reassurance

By Katie --


In May, I made an unsettling discovery. To be fair, it was actually my husband who found it -- a hard, round lump about the size of a quarter just under the skin of my right breast, located on the inside of it near my sternum. I had just had a breast exam two weeks earlier performed by the nurse practitioner at my OB's office when I had gone in for my first trimester appointment. The lump was not there then.

I was troubled by this mass that had seemingly shown up out of nowhere and called my OB's office the next day. I reassured myself with the knowledge that the lump had not been there before I was pregnant, so it must be related to the hormonal changes in my body. I made the mistake of going online to try to diagnose myself in advance of seeing the doctor. Though the description of cancerous lumps did not match up exactly with what I was observing on myself, each benign description came with a version of this disclaimer:

Check with a medical professional to rule out the possibility of cancer.

Ugh.

I found a page dedicated to breast cancer in pregnant women and found out it was very rare.

Only 1 in 3,000 women will develop breast cancer while pregnant.

That number actually seemed too high for reassurance, though. It was rare. But not impossible.



My doctor located the lump and sent me for a breast ultrasound. The radiologist assured me that day that he was "99 percent sure" it was nothing to worry about, but his faxed report to my doctor apparently was less convincing. My OB sent me to a general surgeon who reviewed my film, gave me a breast exam and came to the same conclusion that the radiologist had, with one caveat.

"I want a follow-up ultrasound in three months, to see if this thing grows," he said.

Summer came and went. We went on a two-week vacation. We all contracted lice. We went back-to-school shopping. My belly continued to swell with the rising heat of a Florida summer. Every night, when I lay flat in my bed, I'd reach for the spot of the lump and press gently against it. Every night it was still there.

I received a call about a week before my follow-up ultrasound which took place in early September to come in and have it done. The ultrasound tech talked to me about the baby and seemed much more interested in keeping me distracted than she had at our first meeting. I sat alone in a bright hallway, waiting for the radiologist to call me back and tell me that nothing had changed in three months and that I still had nothing to worry about. The ultrasound tech came out instead, and told me to follow up with my doctor in a few days.

"But... am I okay?" I asked her, tears filling my eyes in record time.

She didn't say "yes." She just said that if there was something majorly disturbing, the radiologist would have taken the time to talk to me.

"Follow up with your doctor in a few days," she repeated.

A few days later, the medical assistant from my OB called me and told me that the lump had grown in the three months and that the radiologist was ordering a biopsy. Normally a mammogram would be the next step, but since I was pregnant, they were skipping straight to the needle. She encouraged me to call the general surgeon to get the ball rolling. I hung up, told my husband (who was surprised at the news) and I cried as I washed dishes. From the window in my kitchen, I could see my oldest and youngest children standing next to each other at a table full of Legos on our screened in patio -- passing blocks back and forth to each other without a word, bonding over the simple act of connection.

For the first time since the small lump in my breast was discovered, I felt fear wash over me. What was going to happen to me? What would happen to my kids if something bad happened to me? What would happen to my unborn child?

By the day of the biopsy, I thought I had regained my composure. I had learned that my husband could not come into the biopsy room with me so I decided it made more sense for him to just stay home with our toddler, especially since it was her naptime. My neighbor offered to drive me there and back. I followed the nurse into the room where I changed into a hospital cape-like thing and followed her into a room where she helped me fill out my paperwork. She asked me if I wanted assistance regarding a living will before the procedure. I asked her if she thought I needed such a thing. She smiled and said that she very much doubted it, but that they have to ask.


What a typical fibroadenoma looks like on an ultrasound screen

In the biopsy room, the nurse and ultrasound technician helped me onto the gurney, my belly protruding out of the gown I had been provided. The doctor came in and walked me through the procedure before she put on her white gloves and medical goggles. I wasn't going to feel a thing. I would be awake for the whole process. I could watch the ultrasound screen if I wanted. I would hear two loud clicks each time the tool entered my breast. The tool would enter my breast two or three times total. I would be free to leave after 5 minutes of held pressure after the procedure.

The nurse squeezed my hand as the first needle, the one with the numbing medication inside it, broke the skin just north of my lump. I fought to keep it together, I really did. But as my breast went numb, the tears started to gush.

I cried because I felt helpless. I cried because of the unknown. I cried because even though two babies have come out of my body, this particular procedure felt like a defilement of my sexuality and womanhood. I cried because I knew that the very things that had nurtured two of my little girls, and were preparing to do the same for a third, could actually kill me. I cried because I knew all too well that being a mother, or pregnant, or healthy in every other way could not protect me from the second leading cause of death by cancer in women in the U.S.

I could hear the loud clicking, and see the black mass and undefined lines on the ultrasound screen through my tears, but I wasn't fully there. To be able to not completely break down, I had to remove myself from my body, and the present, for a few minutes. 

Soon the ultrasound tech was holding a large piece of gauze on the area of incision in my breast, and the doctor was telling me a story about her son who she recently sent to college (who had never had a girlfriend ever, but found one three days after she left him at his dorm room). Feeling started to return to my breast. The three women in the room helped me up and off the gurney, and as I resnapped my bra into place, I tucked in an ice pack. I was told to follow up with the general surgeon in a few days for my results.

The doctor grabbed my hand with both of hers and told me that she believed what she saw on the screen was nothing more than a benign mass, but that we would have the answers for sure in a few days. I could tell she had told many other women the opposite news in the past, and I was suddenly incredibly overwhelmed at her directness when every other doctor had been unwilling to discuss any possibilities with me without medical evidence to back him or her up. My lip started to quiver again. I needed to get out of there.

I received my discharge instructions and walked out to meet up with my ride home. She could see I had been crying and reassured me, emptily, that everything was going to be okay. I had some work to finish up at home, but I parked myself and my bulge of a belly on the bed in my room instead for the rest of the day. Each of my kids took turns sitting beside me, talking about their day, showing me a piece of artwork from school or pointing to the ice pack still snugly held in my bra and asking me what happened. I told them I had a bump inside my breast that the doctor looked at with a needle so it was sore. The girls squirmed a little bit. My son nodded, but looked really confused. I assured each of them that I felt okay and was going to be fine.

I didn't feel okay and I didn't know if I was going to be fine. But they didn't need the burden of that knowledge. I wondered how I would tell them if I got the call that something was indeed very wrong, signified by the coin-sized lump sitting just underneath that frigid ice pack. I started to panic. What would happen to my kids??

Then I thought back on something a friend of mine told me once, and actually blogged about here, when she was diagnosed with cancer at 28 weeks pregnant. When she starts to get overwhelmed, she simply tells herself "Nothing horrible is happening at this very moment" and it brings her peace to live in the moment. So I took a deep breath and said that to myself, a few times, and switched my focus to the everyday things my kids were doing around me.



My seven-year-old son was playing Minecraft, eager to tell me about the worlds he was building since I was a captive audience.

My six-year-old and five-year-old daughters were playing dress up with my husband's hat drawer, and making up songs based on how they looked.

My two-year-old was using my belly as a pillow and flipping through a book, pointing out the animals and objects she recognized.

It occurred to me that if I did indeed receive bad news that resulted in me having to spend even more afternoons on my bed in recovery mode, my kids gathered around me, that wouldn't be the end of the world.

Yesterday, five days after my biopsy, I got official word from the general surgeon that the lump was nothing more than a benign fibroadenoma that did not need to be removed. He says he wants to take another look in six months, after my body has had time to stabilize from my pregnancy hormones, but doubts that there will be anything to see at that point. I could have kissed him through the phone (lucky for him he wasn't telling me in person). I cheered when I hung up and then texted my mother. I followed up by texting a few other friends and then posting about the good news on Facebook. My husband started making jokes about his excitement over my extra amount of breast tissue. I hugged my kids tightly when they walked in from school and didn't even nag them when they threw their book bags and shoes all over the house.

I glanced at the date on my phone and realized that in just one day, Breast Cancer Awareness Month would kick off. I knew from my research that even though mine was a happy ending this time, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes. More than 40,000 women and 2,100 men will die from breast cancer in the U.S. this year. I also knew that because of the early screening and detection procedures now in place, deaths from breast cancer have been on a steady decline worldwide since 1990. I felt empowered by both my non-diagnosis and by the world of awareness and knowledge the entire five-month process had opened up for me.

It will take awhile to shed the feelings of betrayal and fear that my breasts have inspired in me over the past few months, but for now I can take solace in the fact that nothing bad is happening at this very moment. 

   

      Katie Parsons is a freelance writer who lives with her four children, husband and the sound of the ocean nearby. Before she was a freelance writer, she worked in news media in Chicago, Orlando and Shelbyville, Indiana. Before that, she earned a Creative Writing degree from Ball State University. Katie is writing a memoir about the time when she was single and pregnant. She owns a content creation company and you can contact her by emailing her at katie@mumblingmommy.com.


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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Our Quarterly Charity: Operation Christmas Child


One year ago, Mumbling Mommy began a new quarterly charity feature. We have highlighted various organizations that serve children and families and have made donations to those charities. As we begin to think about the approaching holidays, we are pleased to announce we will once again support Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, as our quarterly charity for the months of October through December. Here are a few quick facts from Samaritan’s Purse’s website:

  • Operation Christmas Child hands out gift-filled shoeboxes to impoverished children in more than 100 countries around the world. In many places, a discipleship program called The Greatest Journey is offered after children get their shoeboxes, and they have an opportunity to learn more about the Christian faith.
  • Individuals, families and groups are encouraged to fill shoeboxes to donate. During National Collection Week, Nov. 18-25, 2013, Samaritan’s Purse will collect the gift-filled shoeboxes at more than 3,500 drop-off sites in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Click here to find a drop-off location near you.
  • To pack a box, use an empty cardboard shoebox or a similar-sized plastic box. Decide whether your gift will be for a girl or boy, and choose an age category (2-4, 5-9, or 10-14). Fill your box with items such as dolls, deflated soccer balls with pumps, stuffed animals, puzzles, jump ropes, cars, etc. Include school supplies like pencils, pens, crayons, notebooks, and coloring books. Pack non-liquid hygiene items like toothbrushes, bar soap, washcloths, and combs, and include accessories like socks, hats, t-shirts, flip-flops, hair bands, and sunglasses. You may also include a personal note and photo of you and your family or group. If you include your name and address, the child may write back.    


Editors’ Note: Mumbling Mommy supports charities that have a four-star rating at charitynavigator.org.

While you're here, check out the other charities we've featured during the past year: 




Monday, September 29, 2014

Amazing Banana Chocolate Chips Muffins


I enjoy baking at home when I make time for it. I make everything from baked pumpkin donuts to chocolate zucchini cake (it's good, I swear!). These banana chocolate chip muffins are some of my all-time favorites. Plus, they're a perfect way to make use of all of those bananas you bought that didn't get eaten! 

Ingredients:

Banana chocolate chip muffins, hot out of the oven.

- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 eggs
- 4 mashed overripe bananas 
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup chocolate chips 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease (or use non-stick) muffin tray. 

Cream the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each.

In a bowl, mash the peeled bananas with a fork. Add and mix the milk, vanilla and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the banana mixture to the creamed sugar and butter mixture and stir.  Add the chocolate chips and mix. Add dry ingredients and mix just until the flour disappears (do not over-stir).

Pour batter into muffin tray. Bake about 18-22 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Serve with honey or butter. Enjoy!

Lori is a work-at-home mom living in Noblesville, a suburb of Indianapolis. She is mom to two children ages 4
 and 2 and enjoys watching them grow. Lori also enjoys taking walks, shopping, spending time with her husband, reading, decorating, photography and traveling. Leave her a comment below or email her at mumblingmommy@mumblingmommy.com



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Sunday, September 28, 2014

6 Things I Wish I'd Known (Before we Contracted Lice)

By Katie --

When we returned from our summer vacation and quickly discovered that all six of us had lice, it kicked off a whole new journey for our family that lasted nearly two months. We did not have active infestations for that whole time, but lice showed up on someone's head every two weeks or so for the entire period -- setting off another cleaning spurt, retreatment and re-combing methods.


We are still combing on a nightly basis and getting close to the point where we can say that we are finally rid of this nightmare (for this round, at least). There are a few things I've learned in this process that I wish I had actually known at the very start. So this is a post for those of you finding this in a frantic haze after discovering one or more of your family members is infested and also for those of you that have not yet dealt with these little critters and the big havoc they can wreak on your family.

Prevention is everything. Yes, you should tell your kids not to share hairbrushes, or hats, with classmates or to sleep on the same pillows as friends at sleepovers. There is only so much control that you can have over these actions though. I'd add these practical, actionable tips for parents:
On Amazon

  • Use product in your kids' hair. Spritz their heads with a scented detangler before they head out the door, or run some kid-friendly mousse through their hair. Lice like clean, unprocessed hair. We went on Amazon and bought Fairy Tales Repel Conditioning Spray (there is also a shampoo), which uses natural scents like rosemary to repel lice from landing on the heads of your kids in the first place. We spray each head as the kids are putting on their backpacks to head out the door.
  • Use a lice-repelling shampoo every other day. We use Lice Shield, which is a shampoo and conditioner in one. You can also pour some tea tree oil into the shampoo you already use, or buy a shampoo that uses this ingredient. You don't need to use these shampoos every day, if you prefer a different scent in between.
  • Invest in a lice comb. Go ahead and buy a lice comb (which is basically just an incredibly fine-toothed comb) and pick a designated night of the week to brush through your kids' hair after their baths or showers. We use baby wipes to clean off the comb during the process because the moisture helps remove any dirt, nits or lice and also because the white helps us spot anything that may be "off." If you find that you are wiping off a lot of things that look like dirt (despite just washing the hair), you may have an infestation.
Go straight for the prescription. Here's the thing about over-the-counter lice medications -- they can only kill live lice. The eggs stay behind and are still alive. The point of the comb is to remove those eggs, but if you miss even ONE egg in the process, you are back to square one in a week or two. After dealing with our recurring infestations for over a month, the school nurse suggested that we call our pediatrician and ask for a prescription strength treatment that DID kill the eggs. I was able to secure the prescription with a simple phone call and pick it up later at our normal pharmacy. Insurance varies, but we paid $10 per bottle of medication (very comparable to over-the-counter treatments). You still need to do a good job of combing to be sure those eggs that were killed are removed, but it will save you several weeks of your life (believe me).

Don't depend on sight alone. Lice are incredibly, incredibly difficult to spot by simply looking through hair, especially if they are recently hatched and small. The only way to really tell if they are living in the hair is through thorough combing, wiping of the comb and letting the comb soak in a cup of diluted rubbing alcohol (you will see bugs/eggs floating if they exist).

Don't count on the school for information. Maybe I'm naïve, but before this incident I always assumed that if a health issue arose that could impact my kids, I would be warned. Not so, though. Due to the privacy of students, school personnel cannot warn you about a case of head lice in your child's classroom, even if the infested student sat next to your kid and shared his fireman's hat during dress-up time. Don't wait until your kid is infested to address the lice issue; be on the lookout at least once per week (see my first point) to nip any infestation in the bud.

Don't wash everything. In fact, just throwing potentially infested items into the dryer for 20 to 30 minutes at maximum heat is enough to kill the lice. Of course, you may feel so creeped out that a thorough wash and dry is in order for every cloth item in your entire house -- that's how we reacted the first time. But after consecutive times, we started going the dryer-alone route. You can also simply bag up items like stuffed animals and pillows and set them aside for a week or so, then bring them back out. Lice can only live without a human host for 2 days, and their eggs are very difficult to remove from the hair shaft (so it is unlikely that they will just fall off and land on pillows or stuffed animals). Don't forget about washing or drying the fabric portions of car seats and high chairs too.

Don't get comfortable. Perhaps you've treated the infested heads in your household and then followed up by using the lice comb for a few nights and you keep coming up clean. Don't stop using it until two weeks after the initial treatment. The idea here is that you can't possibly comb every single strand, every single time but that over time you will hit each one. If after two weeks, you are still coming up clean it might be safe to breathe a sigh of relief.  

     
      Katie Parsons is a freelance writer who lives with her four children, husband and the sound of the ocean nearby. Before she was a freelance writer, she worked in news media in Chicago, Orlando and Shelbyville, Indiana. Before that, she earned a Creative Writing degree from Ball State University. Katie is writing a memoir about the time when she was single and pregnant. She owns a content creation company and you can contact her by emailing her at katie@mumblingmommy.com.




 
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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Beans and Rice Like You've Never Seen Before


With our family's recent move, we suddenly found ourselves trying to be extra budget friendly AND use up food in our leftovers pile and cabinet so we had less to move. With that in mind, I made dinner one night and accidentally ended up with the most amazing beans and rice. The simplicity of the meal is what really draws me to share it with you, but honestly, it’s not just that. This meal is actually healthy and delicious, too. With cooler fall temps quickly approaching, make sure you add this one to your menu plan.

INGREDIENTS
1 can (15 oz) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup quinoa (uncooked)
1 cup brown rice (uncooked)

50 Things to Love about Life: Rain

By Katie --
 
Part of the reason I decided to revisit a six-year-plus blog series was to take a look at who I was -- as a person and a writer -- in my final pre-kid days. Today's update is a great example of a snapshot of what my life looked like back then, and how much it has evolved since becoming a mom. Both periods of time were beautiful -- but I prefer the "me" today.
 
 

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

#43 -- Rain

Throughout your life, you will hear people groan about rainy days and all the reasons why the precipitation is ruining their plans. Even you may feel disdain when the dark clouds roll in on the day you were supposed to spend at the beach... But on other occasions, when you wake up on a Saturday morning to the sound of droplets hitting your window, you will be lulled back to sleep by the peaceful, methodic tapping. It will be in those moments that you wrap your blanket a little more tightly around your shoulders, squeeze your pillow a little harder and appreciate your warm shelter.

There is something soothing about seeing the water wash away the dirt, grime and drought that had been plaguing the area. There is a crispness to the air and a fresh take on the surroundings you see everyday. Something about the sheer inconvenience of an afternoon downpour is invigorating, and inspires you to slow down -- whether you are driving, working or just looking out your back door -- and reevaluate your day.

You will want to splash around in the puddles, and I hope that in the midst of our busy lives, I will always let you.
 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

#43: Rain
 
Ahhhh, re-reading the post I wrote for your oldest sister on this topic makes me realize how different my life was before I became a mom.  
 
"When you wake up on a Saturday morning to the sound of droplets hitting your window, you will be lulled back to sleep by the peaceful, methodic tapping."
 
Boy, those were the days. It isn't very often that I wake up because of rain -- more likely it is a crying toddler, a Kindergartner tapping me and telling me she is hungry or my phone alarm going off wayyyy too early so I can get up and get some work done before those other two things happen.
 
You know what though? I still love the rain and now I get to enjoy it with even more people. When the daily Atlantic storms roll in at the stroke of 2:45 p.m. (that's school pickup time, by the way), I'm comforted in their cleansing power. When we are all together in our safe house, looking out the front window as sheets of rain cascade our driveway, I feel even more connected to one of my favorite weather phenomena than I ever did when I was that single gal, listening to the rain alone on Saturday mornings.
 
So here's to the rain -- and all the rainy afternoons we get to spend together soon.
 
      
      Katie Parsons is a freelance writer who lives with her four children, husband and the sound of the ocean nearby. Before she was a freelance writer, she worked in news media in Chicago, Orlando and Shelbyville, Indiana. Before that, she earned a Creative Writing degree from Ball State University. Katie is writing a memoir about the time when she was single and pregnant. She owns a content creation company and you can contact her by emailing her at katie@mumblingmommy.com.

Read the rest of the "50 Things to Love About Life" series update here.
 
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