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Monday, October 7, 2013


I have been suffering from cystic breasts for over seven years now, a painful condition where ones breasts develop numerous  pockets of fluid, clear or not, throughout the breast tissue.  My breasts are a little fibrous (or so I've been told), which may be a catalyst in this condition, but other than this thumb-suck, neither I nor the numerous doctors and radiologists that I've seen over the years, can give a reason for these developing.

I'm sharing this rather personal blog as it may be of help to someone who has been similarly plagued by sore lumpy boobs as I have...where self examination is pretty pointless as one doesn't have a clue what it is that one is feeling...a lump is a lump is a lump!!!!

 The reasons why I "shouldn't" have developed cystic breasts:
My bra size is a shy 32/34 b/c cup, depending on my weight, (fairly constant) but  I successfully breast-fed all my children, my son till 18 months old (I only stopped lactating when he was five....not cool!!). I was on a low dose contraceptive for around 4 years between my daughter and son...and not since. I have always been health conscious,  not drinking much except for the odd glass of wine, not smoking,  not having a sweet tooth at all (chocolate is apparently a no-no) , am paranoid about eating fresh fruit and veggies (grow my own), never cook with oil (except for olive oil when the recipe calls for it), and have always done some sport or other.   I drink one or two cups of coffee per day (coffee also a no-no), and hate fizzy drinks.  I don't have a family history of breast cancer.....except for my dad's sister who was taking HRT's for over 20 years.  

So there you have it...doing everything right......right????.....or am I?

Women are encouraged to go for a mammogram once a year after the age of 40, but for me this has meant fear and pain and every ounce of motivation within me to go.  I have always gone on my own, believing that it is a negative, nerve-wracking procedure and it's not fair to drag someone else into that space....although, there have been times when I wish that I was holding the hand of someone who cared. 

Having small boobs, mammograms are a tug of war between human flesh and technology.....literally!!  You have to strip down to your waist and stand in front of a complete stranger who yawns as she tells you to shove your already tender, cyst-filled boob onto a cold plastic table.  Whatever you can't manage to put on properly, she obligingly does for you, with some dexterous tugging and equally cold hands.  You know she's lying when she says: "this will be quick" and "its not going to be sore" as you watch  the top, descending plate slowly gobble up your boob and squash it to the size of a flap-jack. (Is it really important to take half the skin from your neck and torso too!!??) What I have learned is, that when she tells me not to breath...I DON'T!!! she'll have to do it again!  When the plates are released, and while your breast takes a few minutes to resume its shape, one almost expects to see some blood oozing from your nipple!!!!  Surely, at least one of the cysts have burst?!

Mammogram over, you wait for the results with sore throbbing boobs, in a waiting room full of other half dressed women, thinking to yourself:  "should I warn them?"

Then the dreaded: "Mrs Vallance, we've found something, and we need to do a biopsy".  At this point, you are barely able to suppress your inner hysteria.  Your mind races at 1000km per hour, you start writing your will, saying goodbye to family and friends in your head, planning a masterpiece that will last for all eternity, and plan some weird, over-the-top adventure that will ensure your detachment from the inevitable.  

 Its all a crazy, hazy space to be in...a mixture of calm, panic, fear and faith. 
HOWEVER....the procedure...the biopsy, quickly brings you back into the 'now'.  It's everything as above...only the 'flap-jack' stage lasts for a good 20 minutes.   She shoots a long, thick needle into the dodgy site again and again, removing as much of the 'spot' as she can, finally replacing it with a little metal 'ribbon' which will identify the site forever. (not big enough to set off a metal detector fortunately...imagine explaining that away in Dubai's notorious airport!!!)  You wonder if your torturer has the slightest bit of job satisfaction, and what it could possibly be. You concentrate hard on not hating her, by focusing on her poppie shoes and unshaven legs through one of the two holes in the suspended table.

When you get home, you feel as if your breasts have grown by two sizes but your husbands t-shirt is just far too tight.    Your nerves are all jangled and you have now become a combination of Za-Za Gabor and Joan of Arc.....and thus your split personality remains for the 7 days till you get the results.  Benign!!! Haleluja, thank you Lord. 

 You are jubilant..........till it all happens again, a few months later!

Around nine months ago, I was referred to Dr Carol-Anne Benn at the Milpark hospital, by my female GP. What an astounding relief to FINALLY have someone LISTEN and understand what having breast cysts was like!!!  After all, she HAS breasts, so why shouldn't she.  She took down a detailed history, and actually listened to what I had to say...a first.  I wasn't just a purse-filler, but a real woman, with a real problem.  At that stage, I had been seriously contemplating having a radical mastectomy. I'd had enough!!! I'd even discussed it with my husband and one or two friends.  I felt desperate.

She started me on palliative treatment : a Solal detox drink that eventually made me gag just by thinking about it (that was stopped), gave me reams of information on the condition, and put me on another Solal product called 13 Complex.  This is an extract of broccoli (and certainly smells like it when you take the lid off) who's function is to halt or at least slow down cell mutation.  I have researched Rooibos tea enough to feel that it is key to healing almost anything, so am drinking copious amounts with honey and occasionally with cinnamon.  I drink between 2 and 3 litres of water a day too.  (Anybody who knows me well, will know that that its no small fete for me.  I'm not a water-drinker.) 

Well, I'm now happy to report, that my sonar today showed that all my cysts have shrunk!!!!  Something is working and I'm delighted.  My mom is a great prayer.  When she says that she's praying for you, you can be sure that she this is one thing that I do not discount in my improvement.  

I know that I will always have cystic breasts, but I have never been one to simply accept things.  I question, I explore, I fight the demon and even if I get nowhere,  at least i'll have the peace knowing that I didn't simply walk away, but tried to make a positive change.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Sharon,
    You have all my sympathies for your painful condition - and kudoes for doing all the right things! It is not easy and you still have problems - but you know that your problems would be sooo much worse than if you gaily carried on doing the wrong things - you would only have more problems! We women all have breasts and we all wince with you and we all cheer when things go well for you! Keep strong!!! Sent with love.