It all technically started at the time I was in rehab for one of those young strokes. They were concerned I wasn’t evacuating all the urine when I went so they wanted an ultrasound of my bladder.
Sure, why not. I didn’t mind at the time. The tech decided to peek lower just because we were there. They found an odd mass that I decided not to do anything with. At the time I was full of known cysts anyway and they were calling this a dermoid. Never mind that dermoid cysts are usually found in infants.
I named it Harry.
See, Harry was a quiet, non-troubling hitchhiker that I sometimes joked was the unborn twin I ate at birth. So why bother since I was already busy recovering from a stroke, high blood pressure, and more stress than anyone should have?
Now, move forward a year. I start having pain in my side. My sister tells me that at my age I should expect pain. She thought I was exaggerating how bad it was, but they put in a referral for another ultrasound.
The thing had grown, originally it was 3 centimeters, but now on the side, they could see it was 13 centimeters. In the end, it was 19 centimeters. They still wanted to call it a dermoid—a solid benign entity—but wouldn’t know until a biopsy.
So I had them simply take it out. Good idea, apparently; as soon as it hit the outside it started leaking all over, so the surgeon had to wash me out and collect the water to make sure there were no cancer cells left behind. Then they sent a slice of the mass to the lab. I was afraid that the biopsy holes would let it spread inside of me anyway.
It took a week . . . they didn’t understand what it was they had. It was unique, ovarian, but nothing related to any tissue down there.
it was Apocrine carcinoma, a cancer of the sweat ducts of the breast, and in hatching that, I broke my gynecologist. After that surgery, she couldn’t look at me straight again. “It was so big . . .” she would utter, then she could talk to me.
Then came the hard part. I could leave things as they were now, a single ovary, a single tube and uterus, mid-menopause, and chance it happening again, and they would get samples of all the tissues and check my lymph nodes. Or—and this was the best-case scenario—remove the rest and see if chemo is needed at all.
Here’s where I got to choose; up until that point, it was believed I was infertile due to PCOS since I was 20. The surgeons were telling me I was fertile, just difficult, and here, now, I’m having to make that choice to become totally infertile on purpose.
In the span of weeks, I went from infertile to fertile to infertile by choice.
They told me I had an egg cell, which is an undifferentiated cell like a stem cell, that decided to become breast cancer around my ovary. The artery that fed that ovary was feeding Harry. Removing the other doesn’t prevent it; there is still a lot of ovarian tissue in me, but it severely lowered the risks.
In September it will have been four years. I don’t miss the periods but some days I cry for the child I had wanted.