The stinky underarm

All day I felt like I had a bit of razor burn in my left underarm. Nothing too bad. By the end of my work day I reached up to pull at my shirt sleeve because the irritation had become a bit more than annoying. Yow. It felt like I had a big bruise in my armpit. I went back to work. Yet, as with most things that aren’t quite right, it kept turning over and over in the back of my mind.

Razor burn. I rarely have to shave under my arms since I had chemo and radiation. The last time was actually about 3 days ago. Too long ago for razor burn. A bruise. What could I have done to bruise myself under my arm?

Once I got off work and was alone in my car, free from prying eyes, I began the probe. As I drove to pick the kids up from the sitter’s my right hand was fingering my left underarm, a mental triage checklist ticking off. Can I feel a lump? Is it lymph nodes? No. Who knows what a lymph node even feels like? Why is it so tender? I wonder if it looks different? Swollen? Red? It’s not my cancer side. That’s probably a good sign. It’s tender half way down the underside of my upper arm and down the outside of my breast against my ribs. Shit.

Mello thought it looked a bit swollen compared to my right under arm. I looked at it when I got home but it’s impossible to tell if any difference is an actual difference or something because I’ve had lymph nodes removed from one side and not the other. Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that no matter how much it sucks to make the call it’s way better to be safe than sorry. So, I called my oncologist’s office.

She just moved to a brand new practice. I’ve never even been there before. I have never met these people. They don’t know me. They don’t know that I’m not a hypochondriac. That I don’t call because I have a pimple on my chest and fear the worst. So I explained the deal. I can tell already that I’m going to love this office. She listened intently, and took notes. (The old office would have just jotted something down and said “I’ll have the doctor call.” ) She asked pertinent questions: had I fallen, lifted weights, worked out, strained myself in any way recently? Did I feel any lump? How far did the pain go? Did it radiate? What exactly did it feel like? How long had it been there? Then she read her note back to me to make sure she had it exactly right. I have never had a doctor’s office do that. Unfortunately, my doc is gone for 2 weeks on vaca. She’s leaving for Peru. (Hopefully she isn’t already there getting shook up in the earthquake.)

So, she said she’d have the nurse look over my chart and in the meantime I’d have D’s pediatrician give my underarm a poke tomorrow since I’m taking him in for an ear infection – just to see if it might be a lymph node or something. Good. Good. We’ve got it covered. I made the call. Everyone did the right thing. I feel good.

Less than 5 minutes later the phone rings. It’s the oncologists office. Crap. That was way too quick for comfort. The nurse had reviewed my chart. She wanted me to get in to see my primary care dr. tomorrow – they’d already checked their schedule & they couldn’t get me in (crap! again). If I can’t get in to see my primary I’m to call them back and they’ll get me in somewhere else. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Obviously, my chart told on me. I’m sure the unsuspecting nurse opened my chart and was greeted by all sorts of sirens and flying red flags screaming IBC! IBC! DANGER! DANGER! ALL PIMPLES MUST BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY! Well, at least they are proactive, eh.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried. Ha! If I wasn’t worried I wouldn’t be posting into the blogosphere about my armpit pain. On the other hand, I do take great comfort in it being on my left side not my right. I don’t really see it making a big leap like that with no warning. Shush! All of you! Leave me to my fantasies! Also, with all of my positive lymph nodes before, not a one of them was tender or painful. Nary a one. So there. Now I can sleep.

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