Breastfeeding + Breast Cancer

I was rocking a large cup size by late elementary. Rumors of a boob job by middle school. I fell into advocating for public breastfeeding and it's been a benchmark of my business / brand. My breasts have always seemed to be a central theme in my life. So it shouldn't really be such a shock that they are once again on center stage as I await a biopsy of a mass in my breast at the ripe age of 27.  Yet shocking it is. 

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I never really thought much of Breast Cancer until recently. I've been fortunate to not have a family history, and my breasts are so lumpy there was no chance I'd be able to detect a lump if I tried- so I never bothered with exams. Little did I know that there are other red flags for BreastCancer (likely because all we seem to talk about in terms of breast cancer is pink merchandise rising money for research that never makes its way to the general public). 

Last year someone shared a picture of lemons depicting structural changes that indicated a need for medical attention. Blew my mind. I  had never heard of any of the other concerns addressed.  

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Safe to say anyone who follows my work knows I am a breastfeeding mom. What they may not know is I only nurse on right side. My left side never produced much and my kids far preferred my right, so I shut down shop on the left early in my breastfeeding journey with my two youngest kids, and stuck to the right. Never in a million years did I think this was of concern - I know plenty of people who produce substantially more milk on one side, I just made enough on the other side to it have to stress it. When my son was a week old I got Mastitis on my left "gimpy" from a clogged duct (which I was nursing from at the time). Antibiotics cleared it up and we were in our way. 

Fast forward 18 months and this past December my left breast started leaking. I was still breastfeeding on my right side but hadn't nursed or produced milk on the left for over a year- I was really confused. Breastfeeding boards fell flat in terms of advice / experience. I also noticed reoccurring pimples on my breast along the outside where my clogged duct was when I had Mastitis. I then noticed my nipple occasionally inverting. After this went on for a couple months I tried to pump the left side - thinking it was randomly producing again just clogged. Hardly anything came out. Because I am 'that mom' I tasted what I had pumped. It was GROSS. Definitely NOT breast milk (I then pumped from the other lactating side to confirm it wasn't just something I ate - it wasn't). I made an appointment with an OBGYN the next week. 

 

I didn't think much would come of the visit- but he examined my breast and referred me for a diagnostic mammogram. I fully expected the scanning to be a waste of time and radiation. I actually wasn't going to go until the pimple reappeared- this time with a faint red line going from the pimple down to my nipple. So I decided to go anyway. That appointment was yesterday. They did an ultrasound first due to my age. I never felt any lump so I was taken off guard when she said they found a mass in a 'ratty duct' and radiology wanted me to come in for a biopsy ASAP. I go on Friday.

For as horrifying as yesterday proved to be I know the odds are still in my favor. I am young, with no family history, and the mass they found is very small. 

A couple friends have asked if I was going to write about this. I had no intention to as I really don't care to cause undue panic or pity. But as it's the only thing I can seem to think about for any extended period of time, and there are some important things I've learned that may help other women, I suppose I might as well write about it. 

The big thing I want to emphasize again is there are more flags for breast cancer than just lumps. And while I very well may still walk away one of the lucky ones- not every woman with my symptoms will.