Over 25 years ago, during a routine physical, a lump was identified in my right breast near my right axcilliary. Subsequent tests, including a needle biopsy, were inconclusive as to the reason for the lump. Ultimately, the lump was surgically removed. I still remember awakening after surgery and being told that the lump was not breast cancer, but was merely a benign tumor.
Two years later, I found a lump in my right axcilliary about one inch from the site of the “benign” tumor. I asked the physician about it, who assured me it was merely a cyst. Over the next five years, I asked at least four different physicians about the lump, which seemed to be getting larger and more sensitive. Each physician assured me it was either a cyst or a benign tumor. Finally, one physician agreed with me that it should be removed as “an abundance of caution”.
The year was 2001 and that axcilliary lump was the site of my first diagnosis of neuroendocrine cancer. That lump has lead me down a rambling path of surgery and sandostatin and scans.
We neuroendocrine cancer fighters are called zebras because of the difficulty and delays in getting a correct diagnosis: “When you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras.” But there’s something else about zebras: Zebras have an incredible survival instinct. A cornered zebra rears, kicks and bites in defense. Did you know that zebras can actually kill lions, generally by a hard kick to the head that breaks the jaw and causes the lion’s eventual starvation? Not unlike the cornered zebras in the wild, I imagine kicking this neuroendocrine cancer right in the head!