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Subtle Changes

This week marks the beginning of fall, but since I live in Wisconsin changes have actually been happening for weeks already to remind me summer is over. The humidity has left the air, cooler breezes now tell me to close windows, leaves are beginning to bear signs of spectacular changes yet to come and daylight hours are suddenly noticeably shorter. Fall enters quietly with gentle indicators of more bold change to come.

This fall these timely predictable outdoor changes remind me that I was fortunate to listen to subtle changes in my own body last spring. In April after raking out flower beds nearly concealed by leaves from the previous fall, I began to experience chest pain. Thinking I had simply put a bit too much zeal into my spring cleanup, I chose to not worry much about my discomfort at first. A couple of weeks went by and the pain did not go away or even improve and my mind began to churn with worried thoughts.

Eventually, I ended up going to the ER of my local hospital convinced I was having a heart attack. I felt a little foolish that day standing there describing my symptoms (I thought I was way too young to be having a heart attack!), but I knew something was  wrong. After an afternoon of numerous tests, all of which indicated I was definitey NOT having a heart attack, one final blood test was not quite right – another subtle change. Even though that particular test was only slightly off the normal range, it created enough concern in my ER doctor’s mind to order a CT scan to look for a possible blood clot in my lung. Needless to say there was no blood clot. The doctor who had up to that point been almost jovial reassuring me I was more than likely perfectly fine entered the room slowly, now with a far more serious expression on his face. “Your CT scan indicates a mass in your left breast about an inch in diameter,” he informed me. He said some other things as well, but the only words I heard were mass, breast and inch. At that moment the path of my life changed forever. Dramatic change came from subtle clues!

Since that day, numerous nurses have told me that patients often come in with a complaint or symptom and find out they have a separate totally unrelated condition. The body seems to have an uncanny way of speaking to us when something isn’t quite right. Listen to your body. Follow your instincts. That doesn’t mean get paranoid or worry about every ache and pain. Some of us would be in the ER every day if we did that. But when you fell like something is off, go with you gut. Don’t wait. Get checked out. Pay attention to subtle changes. It could save your life.

8 thoughts on “Subtle Changes

  1. Dear Nancy

    I’m sending this from rural Devon in England’s beautiful South West, following a message from your daughter on Twitter! I embarked on my own breast cancer journey last month, following a routine mammogram, which had detected a tiny tumour in my left breast. Surgery was yesterday – just a wide angle excision and sentinel node biopsy – which will probably be followed by a short course of radiotherapy. My prognosis is very, very good and I am in the care of a superb hospital – a National Centre of Excellence for breast cancer treatment.

    My journey had started with extreme and unexplained tiredness earlier this year but all tests had proved negative; it was sheer coincidence that I was on my GP’s list for a mammogram at the local mobile screening unit. The tumour is very small, very deep and could not have been detected through self-examination. And the consultants couldn’t feel it either. The irony is that initially I almost didn’t keep that mammogram appointment as I was not in any of the high-risk categories for breast cancer but since I’d had so many other tests, it seemed – on balance – pointless to miss this one. And I had an increasingly strong sense that I should go. As my breast care nurse pointed out, had I not kept the appointment, the tumour cells would have gone on multiplying and in another six months we would have been having a very different conversation. As you say, go with your gut instinct; it is rarely wrong. And, as I have since discovered, extreme and unexplained tiredness can be an early warning sign of cancer.

    I’ve been blogging for almost five years but decided to use the blog to chart my own journey, like you reaching out to others who are on the same road. So I leave this comment with all the good and healing wishes I can muster for your recovery and I look forward to becoming a regular visitor.

    And now it’s time for my post-surgery exercises. Tomorrow is another day . . .

    1. Dear 60 going on 16,
      It was so good of you to check out my blog. I am very glad to hear that your prognosis is so good. You listened to your intincts knowing something wasn’t right. I will check out your blog tomorrow, just finished round six of chemo and I’m wiped out. My best to you.

  2. Dear Nancy,
    Sometimes it is overwhelming to think how many people are going through cancer treatment all over the world! I am an 11 year breast cancer survivor. Yours is the first blog I have ever read. And 16 Going on 60 is the second! Once you are retired you have time for lots of new-to-you things.
    Betty

    1. It is pretty incredible how many people around the world go through this. Somehow it’s kind of comforting too, as well as disturbing. I hope you keep reading my blog and can share it with others who may be interested. Glad you discovered 60 going on 16 too! Welcome to the blogosphere!

  3. Nancy,

    I am so happy you are sharing your story! You will touch so many people who are seeking comfort in their own journeys. Best wishes to you in all of your endeavors!

    Jacki

    1. Jacki, Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting. I hope you will return often. I discovered yours and have been reading it regularly. You’ve been at it a while and I’m sure have helped a lot of people.

  4. Hi nancy…came across your blog and realised it was 4 years back.

    I hv just diagnosed with breast cancer in oct this year. Did lumpectomy and armpit surgery to remove lymph nodes. Started my 1st chemo last month and 2nd chemo on 17th dec…hair started falling slowly….

    Trying to look for your book ard kuala lumpur but couldn’t find 🙁

    1. Hi Sharon, Thanks for finding me! Sorry to hear about your diagnosis. Good luck with chemo and everything else too. My book is only available online. Click on the “My book” heading at the top of my blog page for all the purchasing info. Thanks again.

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