Postparmum Anxiety Part 2 – I thought I was dying…again…
As if the premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) weren’t enough, I began to believe I might have inflammatory breast cancer. I am being consumed with anxiety, exhausted going on a few hours of sporadic sleep each night, the PVCs and a newborn baby, a preschooler and kindergartner to care for. And then this happens…
Tragically, it was during this time that a mom from my children’s school was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. The entire community wept for this wonderful, young mom – me included. I couldn’t imagine what she was going through, she also had three children almost the exact ages of mine. I had never heard of this disease before as it tends to be a more rare form of breast cancer, but the symptoms are eerily similar to mastitis. During one of my conversations with this mom, she told me her sad story that the doctors had been treating her “mastitis” for months but it kept recurring and finally they realized it was because it wasn’t mastitis at all but rather, inflammatory breast cancer. As I held my newborn baby she told me if I ever “get” mastitis, be sure to question the diagnosis. And so, a few weeks later, for the first time in all the many many months of breastfeeding three babies I developed mastitis. If you’ve ever had anxiety, you can imagine that by now my postpartum anxiety is raging. Fortunately in my case the antibiotics seemed to work and the mastitis symptoms disappeared. Slowly I began to realize I didn’t have inflammatory breast cancer – thank you God!
But then again the Mastitis! Oh yes, my worries came through for me once more…this time I was certain it was inflammatory breast cancer. I knew the scary possibilities of being misdiagnosed as I watched the mom from school fight like a champion, yet get more and more ill from her cancer. The horrifying possibility that the same thing was happening to me seemed entirely likely!
That night in the emergency room I was given a prescription for antibiotics to treat my second bout of mastitis but of course my anxiety forced me to book an appointment with my family doctor. My heart is still flipping daily, I have no results from the heart tests and now I have been told I have mastitis again….the postpartum anxiety rages on….I am sure I must be dying.
When I walk in to see my family doctor she takes one look at me and I can see the look of shock on her face. Once a well-put-together mother-of-three, now I’m transformed – into a zombie. The picture drawn by my 5 year old daughter that week at school confirms it – when I ask about the several dark brown semi-circles that have been carefully drawn under my eyes, my daughter’s innocently replies, “Those are the bags under your eyes Mommy!” I cried hard that day. I felt so unravelled.
My doctor came right out and asks me “What can I do for you?”. Me, being the well-informed patient that I, and most other anxiety-ridden people usually are, tell her I want a needle-punch biopsy to rule out inflammatory breast cancer. Of course I’ve researched it and I know that’s the only way to rule out the disease. The procedure is invasive and involves taking tissue from the breast to be examined because this type of breast cancer forms in layers not lumps so mammography, breast exams, etc. aren’t effective ways of diagnosing. My doctor appeases me and performs the biopsy and I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that when the results come in I am fine. I did actually have mastitis, not once but twice.
And although the outcome of the needle punch bioposy did not cure my anxiety, relief was not far off.
Read my blog post “Love Letter to My Pharmacist” to hear more about how I found relief.