I fully believe in modesty for most aspects of my life. I’m not a naturally naked person, don’t love bathing suits, and would rather not see anyone else’s belly buttons. I guess I have a touch of prude in me when it comes to being exposed. Well that was until I got breast cancer. Now anyone who asks can see or even feel my expanders. I think my surgery scars are incredible (how does skin just seam together like that!?) and my expanders are like some Weird Science-esque accessory I’m learning to tolerate. The human body is a beautiful thing and a woman’s body, well, we’re kind of amazing.
Today is May 1st, which if you follow any Breast Cancer blogs or accounts on social media you know makes it a “Feel It On the First” kind of day to promote self-breast exams on the first of each month. Many female friends or relatives have told me they would perform a self breast exam once they heard of my own diagnosis. But even more have told me they either have been “meaning to do one” or don’t know how. Here’s the thing, I’m not going to give you sympathy because you can’t find the time or don’t know how. It’s 2018. There is nothing you can’t look up on the internet and I know most of you look up far more unnecessary things on a daily basis. I’m not even going to give you a link to help you out. Google Self Breast Exam. Click on one of the hundreds of sites that will walk you through it. If that isn’t enough, YouTube a video and follow along. Get your partner to do it with you if that’s your kind of thing. This goes for men too. Newsflash, you also have breast. Check them in the shower, in a dressing room, at a really long red light. Do it in bed, on the couch, in a sauna, or while you’re getting dressed. How long does it take? I don’t know. 10 seconds? 30? Two minutes? It all depends on your body, how many times you’ve felt yourself before (not like that!) and what you feel. Feel both to see if they feel the same. If anything, feel how crazy boobs are. They’re fibrous and lumpy. They have soft areas and hard areas and areas that you can’t figure out what the heck is in there. They remind me of those squishy toys that are filled with gel and glitter and little shapes that kids can squish to their hearts content, only breasts aren’t see through.
I will warn you, you aren’t going to immediately feel cancer because there is no way to know. What I first felt was a hard lump that I hadn’t felt before not just during a purposeful exam but in the shower or when I as putting on a sports bra. It was round and didn’t move, but it kind of hurt when I touched it. That might have been because I kept touching in for a few days before I finally made a doctor’s appointment (you know, in case I was “making it up”). I marked it with a pen to see if it moved and to make sure I felt it the next day. And the next. And the next. I didn’t know I had felt cancer until long after that first ultrasound or the mammogram or the biopsy. If you are worried about doing it right you’re probably going to feel disappointed. There is no right way which is good because there is also no wrong way (except NOT doing one). Don’t feel pressure to know exactly what you “feel” if anything seems different. Don’t self diagnose and don’t assume the worst. Write down anything you notice (lump, dimpling, swelling, discoloration, etc.). If you aren’t sure, write it down anyways. Make a doctor’s appointment if you are concerned or wait and asked him/her about it next time you go in. These are your boobs. You’ve had them most of your life. I refuse to believe you’ve never felt them and don’t know what a difference would feel like. But if that is the case, well today is the day to change that. Be your own first defense and health advocate. Get your own baseline. Save you’re own life.
Don’t have the time you say? Here are some statistics that might help you find the time. Scary Statistics.