On March 31st, 2017, I felt a tiny bump under my left armpit at the edge of my breast while I was taking shower.
Since it was so small, I could have ignored it as just a little bump, but that day, something inside of me urged me to find out what it is ASAP. I saw an OBGYN 3 days later for the first time in 3 years. The doctor did not seem overly concerned but suggested that I do mammography. After mammography, ultrasound, and biopsy, it was confirmed. On April 20th, I was told by the OBGYN that the lump was stage one breast cancer.
This past 18 month has been an incredible learning and healing journey for me. I had a surgery in June last year, and have been testing with different methods almost every 3 months ever since. I am grateful to say that there is no sign of spread nor breast cancer as of today.
This hardcore wake-up call forced me to pay attention to the areas of self-care, my blind spots for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Today, I am deeply grateful that I am alive, healthy, happy and more at ease with who I am and where I am in my life.
I decided to openly talk about my experience with the hope that my experience and what I have been learning can be helpful for someone out there to pay attention to their breast health, and physical, mental and emotional well-being in general. In this blog post, I want to focus on the story of how I found the lump, and share some self-exam tips and informative online resources. By the way, if you are male, remember, you are NOT excluded here! Male breast cancer is a much smaller number than female but on the rise, and usually found in later stages.
How I found the small lump...
I felt the tiny lump in a shower. Well, I take a shower every day at least once, if not twice. I wash my body most of the time without even paying attention, with the same routine day in and day out. The only reason I changed my routine that particular day, and I was able to feel the lump under the armpit area was because of the shower head. Yes, the shower head! I was taking a shower at a gym, and the shower head was fixed at a weird angle, and I had to hold the fixed shower head down while I was washing my body. It meant that I was raising my left arm high while I was cleaning my breast and under the armpit area, which is the optimal arm position to exercise your breast self-exam.
I’ve done breast self-exam half-heartedly in the past occasionally, but without raising my arms, so the fat tissues were preventing me from feeling the small bump. Also, I had never checked that area throughly.
Here are some tips and suggestion based on my experience and what I've learned through reading books, online articles, blogs, interviews, documentaries and talking with survivors, their friends and family, and doctors who are using holistic approaches.
Breast Self-Exam Tips
Breast self-exam (BSE), or regularly examining your breasts on your own, can help detect breast cancer at an early stage. Not every lump can be found this way, but it increases the chance to find it out at an earlier stage especially if you only see OBGY once a year or less. Learn how to do it correctly to be more effective. Put your arms in the right position (it matters, in my opinion!), apply the right amount of pressure, go broader areas of your breasts including under armpit areas. Here is a great guide. (Even though it said do not do it in a shower, I found mine while I was taking a shower, so I will leave it up to you! )
Thank you for reading this blog and being interested in doing your part to take in charge of your well-being!