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I Decided Not to Have Surgery for My Breast Lumps

Photograph by Getty Images

I lay on the hospital exam bed as the technician rolled the sonogram wand around my right breast looking for the three cysts. I could see that she wasn't getting the results she expected.

Over a year ago, a mammogram confirmed several lumps on my breast that I’d found while performing a home breast exam. After the mammogram, the doctor requested a sonogram to look more closely at the lumps. Not convinced by the sonogram, he asked me to have a biopsy. I was then, without explanation, referred to a surgeon. The surgeon told me that I might have cancer, and that surgery was the solution.

"Wait one minute,” I said nervously, “This is the first I'm hearing of this. Do I have cancer?” “Well, no, but you might. When we remove the cyst we could find cancer,” he answered. My head was spinning. I took a deep breath. I asked him to repeat everything thing again and explain the prognosis.

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After leaving the appointment, I decided that I would try alternatives to surgery. I started by seeing a Chinese herbalist and acupuncturist. I ate as much raw food as possible and removed sugar and processed food from my diet. I made it a point to meditate and practice yoga every day. I gave myself six months to see whether my efforts would make any difference.

My choice is not a quick fix, but I find I’m learning a lot about myself in the process.

Last week I returned to my doctor for an exam. The technician had a difficult time finding the cysts, because I refused the titanium marker they wanted to implant inside of my breast tissue. The doctor examined me, and she determined that the cysts had not changed and that there was no blood within them. She asked why I had refused the surgery. I told her that I don’t take surgery lightly, and I wanted to give my body a chance to heal with less invasive methods. She confided that this type of surgery is often done unnecessarily—the cysts often are not cancerous and just need to be kept under observation.

Before I left that day, my doctor she asked me if I was OK walking around with these cysts in me. “Yes,” I said, “it's not like I'm in danger of them exploding.” The tone of her question implied that she rarely encounters patients who trust themselves, know their bodies and challenge the status quo.

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I left the doctor's office feeling satisfied. I had succeeded in setting my body on a track toward healing. It has meant changing my lifestyle, my eating habits and managing my stress. But I happen to believe that the illness is often rooted in imbalances in our lives. My choice is not a quick fix, but I find I’m learning a lot about myself in the process. It has not been an easy journey, but an empowering one.

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