Patient StoriesBreast CancerFamily Members

I Found a Lump on My Left Breast Yesterday

Dr. Gwamna lost her younger sister to breast cancer and a friend to ovarian cancer that spread to her stomach, so when she discovered a lump on her breast she was frozen in fear.
October 2022 Vol 8 No 5
Olabisi T. Gwamna, PhD
Mount Pleasant, Iowa

I thought I should not worry too much, knowing that there are a myriad of reasons why women find a lump in their breasts. Especially in my case, the reason could be genetic: my younger sister found a lump on her right breast 32 years ago; it was removed a year later, and for a whole year, she was in remission.

Cancer Spreading

Then, the cancer came back exactly 5 months before her wedding, and she died 4 months after the breast cancer had spread to her bones. We were told it was brain cancer that eventually killed her, after the breast cancer had spread to the brain.

Before I knew anything about cancer, I assumed that the original diagnosis would be the final diagnosis. But with cancer, the rogue cells push the body out of sync, and those cancerous (or what I call “parasitic”) cells can spread in the body. That explains how my sister, who was initially diagnosed with breast cancer, ended up dying from the tumor in her brain.

I’ve also had a friend who originally had ovarian cancer, which then spread to the stomach, and she eventually died from breast cancer after the cancer had spread to her breast.

My thought on discovering that lump in April 2022 was to determine the texture, shape, and degree of pain. Well, as of June, the tumor was resting on top of the quadrant closest to my armpit, which according to what I had read online, is the favorite spot of breast cancer. In addition, the tumor was hard and did not move much if pushed with the tip of my finger.

Desperation & Hope

So, I was swinging between desperation and hope—the knowledge that my sibling died from cancer was enough to frighten me to numbness. But I dared to hope, because not all lumps are headed for surgery, and I prayed that mine would be one of those.

I was angry with God when I lost my sister to breast cancer. Angry to the point that I promised not to speak to God for a whole year. I told God that I was taking a sabbatical from him. It seems funny now; funny how childish and impish I must have seemed in God’s eyes as I ranted and shook my fists upward in my apartment’s bathroom.

I Reminded God

I remembered saying how I would never speak to him again; after all, in certain cultures, fathers were supposed to be tough, callous, and very strict. I told God so many things after breast cancer took my sister. I reminded him of how in my Christian tradition, God the Father was the great punisher. It was him who punished innocent lives for sins they had no clue and of which they were not guilty.

I reminded God the Father that since he never lived on Earth, he could never appreciate how humans felt, and for that reason alone, I was dissociating myself from him; the Trinity would have to suffice for me, without the lead member.

That was the day I decided to align with God the Son, aka Jesus Christ. And I didn’t expect God the Father to be jealous of this desertion.

I let him know that because Jesus knew what it was to be human, I was better off on his side. He suckled a mother’s breast, felt pain, was physically beaten; he loved and was loved.

I mentioned to God that all he ever did was to admonish, chide, discipline, chastise, and generally victimize innocent people in the scriptures. I remember being very indignant in my defiance and sense of self-justification at my supposed unfair treatment in God’s hands.

Surgery and Family

All this tirade didn’t matter. The biopsy came back loaded with cancer cells. My surgery was planned for 2 weeks later. The last thing I recalled from that Thursday morning was the prep at the surgical ward. My husband, Bitrus, and the “boys” filled in the blurred kaleidoscope with their phone texts, which I read after I woke up from the drug-induced sleep.

At the end of Thursday, June 2, 2022, I had lost much of the breast cavity I was born with. Three lymph nodes had accompanied the tissue within which was nestled the lump out of their home for more than 6 decades. There was no elegy to mourn their passing. By the time I woke up, I realized breast tissue from the left breast and 3 lymph nodes were removed during surgery. These, along with the fatty lump, were sent to the lab some 50 miles up north.

When I woke up, the boys were all there, except for the oldest who was working until 5:00 PM that day. Sons number 2 and 4 were in the room, along with my daughter-in-law and my feisty granddaughter. They surrounded my bed and expressed their relief at seeing me open my eyes:

“Oh Mom, how are you?”

“Wow, you look really out of it.”

“Are you hungry?”

I answered them in my head. My voice was floating at the back of my head. Each time one of them said something, my voice would shyly peep from behind my ears and then, timidly, withdraw back into the earhole.

Unexpected After Effects

The first time I used the bathroom, I flushed and the blue water meant nothing other than that, blue water from the tank. Around 3 in the morning, I went again. This time, I noticed the blue water in the toilet. I peed blue urine! Blue as royal blue. Like the blue tablet I use to clean my toilet. I am a freaking alien, I thought.

“Why is my urine blue?” I asked the annoying nurse in my room, as she helped me to bed.

“It’s from the dye they put in your system to locate the right lymph nodes. Don’t worry about that now; in another 48 hours or so, your urine will be clear and things will go back to normal,” she said.

“Did you hear that?” I asked, shaking my husband by the shoulder. “What?” the poor guy drawled.

“The noise. Can’t you hear it?” I was frantic with fright. I bent lower, closer to his ears. The noise was deafening in its watery hollowness. “You can’t hear that?”

“I don’t hear anything. Try and go to sleep, Love.”

But I couldn’t go back to sleep. That sound was freaking me out. Imagine hearing the “whoosh, whoosh” sound of water inside a hollow cave where your breast should be. Eeessshhh.

On Saturday morning, I pooed bluish-green stuff. This time I wasn’t alarmed, just found it intriguing.

Fast forward several months, I am now undergoing chemotherapy and my daily experience is a combination of the good, the bad, and the wonderful.

For now, let’s just say it’s great to be alive!

Recommended For You
EssaysBreast CancerEndometrial Cancer
A Little Help from Our Friends
By Stephanie Adkins
Sometimes a small gesture can save a life. Just ask this survivor.
Breast Cancer
A Brief Guide to Hormone Receptor-Positive Breast Cancer
Approximately 7 of every 10 breast cancers are “HR-positive.” This guide will help explain the nuances of this diagnosis.
Breast Cancer
A Brief Guide to Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
This article outlines the risk factors and unique characteristics of triple-negative breast cancer, or TNBC, which affects between 10% and 20% of all patients with breast cancer.
Patient StoriesOnline Only
Living a Life Undefined by Cancer
By Joshua N. Raub, PharmD, BCPS
My aspiration to be a loving husband and father, as well as an eager preceptor and mentor, was the same after my diagnosis as it had been before. We can choose to live a life undefined by cancer.
Last modified: December 5, 2022

Subscribe to Conquer: the journey informed

Receive timely cancer news & updates, patient stories, and more.

Race or Ethnicity
Profession or Role
Primary Interest
Other Interests