Lumpxiety: My New Lump

Photography by: Jen Haseleu
I’ve been a little hush hush… but, about a month ago I noticed a lump along my right side of my throat/ neck. It felt like an enlarged lymph node, it was moving around, squishy, and about the size of a pea. It wasnt painful at all, I mean a “normal” person probably wouldnt have even known it was there!

So, what do I do… the one thing that every Dr. tells me not to do of course, I google it! Well, basically I self diagnosed myself with everything from cancer recurrence to a siamese twin growing out the side of my neck (supposedly that has happened per my research), or even a spider bite with laying of eggs which will eventually lead to baby spiders breaking through my skin and if they hit a main artery kill me! Basically, you can say I really should stop self diagnosing…

Anyways, Ive never felt a lump around my neck before and I had my annual follow-up already scheduled with my amazing surgical oncologist Dr. Cowher, so I figured Id show him and see what he had to say instead of trying to make an appointment with my PCP or oncologist for something that may be nothing at all. That afternoon, I had to leave work 15 minutes early so I could get downtown to pick up John and make it to the hospital in time for my appointment. We literally pulled into the parking garage just in the knick of time!

I truly believe that I am the only person to ever schedule a 3:30 appointment in this office, because I walk in and you could literally hear crickets if there were any! Its a little bit awkward almost, because this was the office where my journey began. And quick side note, its always so weird because back on that first day when John and I were waiting in that office for my mammogram, we were sitting in these two seats next to the window. Do you know every time we go to this office we choose those same exact seats!! So weird, such creatures of habit!

Anyways, I was called back into the exam room. Was instructed to do the usual, change into the robe waist up with opening in the front yadadada. The nurse did my vitals and of course my blood pressure was up! I don’t know what it is, its always perfectly normal at home but you put me in a doctors office and I’m a little bundle of nerves. Dr. Cowher walked in with his lovely assistant and it was so nice to see them! The last time I saw him was about a year ago following my double mastectomy! I was bald! Now I have hair, its all just so crazy to me!

I hopped up on the exam table and he asks that dreaded question, “do you have any concerns for me?”… of which my response was well…

I went on a rant how I felt a lump on the side of my neck, its really small and moves but its scaring me. He immediately switches his focus off of the tatas and begins to palpate and feel my neck/throat. He actually couldn’t even find it, so I did and put his finger on it. He did clarify that Im not crazy and there is a lump. He said it felt like an enlarged lymph node and perhaps I’m coming down with a cold, however… (that lovely phrase “however”)… do to my cancer history, the mystery lump will be documented and must be re-assessed in about a month at which during that time if it changes he would order a biopsy.

Totally irrelevant but so hilarious!
Hold up!!!! Biopsy! My stomach did a tumble-salt. I could not believe what I was hearing! After so many of my pink sisters recently have recurrences… now I have a freakin lump on the side of my neck! Like, this cant be my life right now! I am just getting back to life and living! NO No Noooooo!

I was given specific orders to not touch the lump more than once a week to give it time to “heal” and not remain inflamed. He then did a very thorough breast exam which I passed with flying colors, thank God! I made an appointment for the following month, and left the office feeling very uneasy.

John is very good at talking me down from moments of high anxiety, and just hearing that this little lump could very well be something other than a little lymph node literally made me want to cry. It is soooooo scary! And, I didn’t really want to make a big deal about it by telling my family or anything because they’ve already been through enough worrying. Ughhhh

Turned out that following week I got a severe cold, and was actually tested for the flu. I felt awful with a sore throat, post nasal drip, and a fever. I literally slept the entire weekend, I just had no energy to move. I felt for Mr. Lumpy (as I called him) and yup, he was still there! 😦 The following week I was feeling better, still had a runny nose but nothing like the week prior. I felt for Me. Lumpy, and yup he was still there. The next two weeks I was in perfect health, or as perfect as my health will get me! I felt for Mr. Lumpy, and yup he was still there:( No changes in size or pain however this little monster was still poking out of my neck!


One month flew by, and today I was scheduled to follow-up with Dr. Cowher regarding Mr. Lumpy. I felt my neck in the morning and yup, he was still there. I even asked John what should I do, cancel the appointment and keep hoping it will go away? I always go back to, maybe im really just. Razy and over re-acting… but then again if I ignore it and it is something… ugh:( John recommended us to just go and get checked, which deep down made me even more nervous because I really wanted him to just say the usual “Meghan your fine, cancel the appointment”, but this time his response was different…so we went to the appointment.

Once again, we got to Dr. Cowher’s office and it was empty! They called us right in, did the normal change into this gown ritual and I waited for Dr. Cowher. In walked my savior, literally. The man who when I first met him he scared the beJesus out of me because of how upfront he was about my very aggressive form of breast cancer. He was the first one to face me with reality that my tumor is huge and I have a gene so there is no way to save my natural teenie tatas. He completed my mastectomy and got me clear margins by a mere cut of his scalpel. And now, he thoroughly checks each and every lump and bump I find on my body!

I hopped up onto the table and he began palpating my neck. A couple seconds go by and he couldn’t find Mr. Lumpy! I know I felt it this morning, so I then started massaging my neck trying to find the mystery lump. Like magic… poof Mr. Lumpy was nowhere to be found!!! Super weird yet super astonishing all at the same time!

I then had him feel under my right (cancer side) breast where I am tender and also thought I felt a lump this morning. He once again completed a thorough exam and could not find any lumps or bumps, only scar tissue from my recent (December) breast reconstruction. A huge weight lifted from my chest, and of course Johns all like “I told ya so”. But really, how do you really know nothing is there! That is the mindset of someone who has been faced with cancer. Pretty much any slight intention of there being anything odd in my body, its always the cancer is back! I am literally living in a nightmare daily! (Gosh im writing this and thinking perhaps I need a shrink— look what cancer has done to me!)


Then, Dr. Cowher put it this way (ps: I love when he goes on rants and really brings it down to the patients level…) he explained that nobody in my life has experienced cancer like I have, not even him! Sure they were along the journey, and heck he sees it errday! Ultimately, it didnt happen to them. I have fears and anxieties that will probably be with me for the rest of my life. I cant help that Im going to feel my body (and Izzys) like a fein because Im scared okay!

Lumpxiety should be a serious diagnosis. Actually, I’m making it one because holy hells is it real! It causes many obsessive tendencies, high blood pressure, and fear! It all goes back to this awful awful awful fear of the cancer coming back! Like a thief in the night, Its always in the back of my mind that Im going to wake up and have to start this last year all over again:(

After getting the “all clear” by Dr. Cowher, we started talking about many things. First I wanted to see a picture of my tumor but of course the computer wasn’t working. Then, we talked about how there are no young survivor foundations in Pittsburgh, then we started talking about how he performs mastectomies and I asked to shadow one (which Im still working on:), we talked about cancer in general and IVF and when he’d recommend if at all for me to try to carry a baby. By the time we were wrapping up, it was about 4:20 and he had to be in a meeting at 4:00! Ooopsy! See, thats a good doctor though, he stayed and answered every question and concern I had for about a 45 minute appointment, so awesome! The crazy part is that I could literally pick his brain all day! This cancer stuff is truly fascinating to me! Perhaps i’ll go back to school to be an oncologist?!;)

So, in conclusion as per Dr. Cowher’s professional opinion, I do not have anything to worry about for the “lumps” I thought I found. Basically I need to try to stop worrying about recurrence and live life happily and carefree, because I refuseeee to live the rest of my life fearing something I have absolutely no control over! (We’ll work on this;) #sparkleon