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It’s not cancer.

I say that with a kind of apologetic laugh, anytime it comes up that I’ve now had two tumors surgically removed in the past two years. Nope, it’s not cancer. But it is a pain in my butt – or more accurately, my boob.

It’s not cancer. I say that because sometimes I need to remind myself of that, of how grateful I am for the fact that I have , and that’s far from the worst hand I could have been dealt. I say that, and write this post entirely, because it’s the kind of thing I would have liked to read when I first learned what a was – just one woman’s account of how she handled having them in her twenties (warning – this is going to be a long one. It’s the kind of detail I was looking for when I was first diagnosed). Or, more broadly, how any travel addict juggles an unpleasant diagnosis with an incurable case of wanderlust.

Fibroadenoma Story

The First Cut

Back in November of 2012, while taping myself into a ridiculous bustier top (hey, it was Las Vegas!) I felt a lump in my left breast. The day I arrived back in Albany I had an appointment with my general practitioner for another issue but asked about it while I was there, fully expecting the doctor to roll her eyes at me. Instead, she sent me for an ultrasound. And then a mammogram. And then a core needle biopsy. All along, I was still waiting to be sent home with a headshake, but as they inserted that 6 inch needle into my chest to take a tissue sample, I was starting to get suspicious that maybe something actually was going on here after all.

The results of the biopsy came back. The lump was benign; something called a fibroadenoma – a solid breast tumor most common in young women. I was twenty three. I was told I’d have surgery, and it was not presented as optional. It was three weeks to the day after I’d found the lump – things moved fast. The problem was that I was leaving the country on Boxing Day for five months in Southeast Asia. The radiologist told me to have it taken care of immediately upon return.

I’m lucky. Both my parents are active in the healthcare industry in Upstate New York. They sent out their bat signals and within days we had the name of the best breast surgeon in the Capital Region. However, popular means exclusive. I returned back to the US from Southeast Asia in late May, just in time for my hard-won appointment with the dream surgeon. But they bumped me – twice. I was extremely frustrated as part of my reason for returning to the US was to have the surgery, and I was only back for six weeks. By the time I finally got into an exam room, it was already June. Too late. I left the country again. At this point I was having trouble getting to bed as I sleep on my stomach, but otherwise I was only marginally effected – I had to modify my yoga practice and couldn’t get massages (I KNOW RIGHT THE HORROR.) I cut out caffeine on the advice of my surgeon, who said it might ease my discomfort.

In September of 2013, ten months after discovering my tumor, I finally had a surgical lumpectomy. I was anxious about going under full anesthesia, but I felt comfortable with the hospital and surgical team, and in the end procedure was simple and the recovery wasn’t too painful. The worst part? Not eating or drinking all day before the surgery. I really like breakfast.

Clueless in Las VegasBlissfully oblivious in Las Vegas

After a few days, I took my bandages off and was shocked by the brutal bruising I found, but when the steristrips came off during my follow up a week later the incision looked better than I could have imagined. I struggled with the enforced down time, post-surgery. I had the Inca Trail coming up and I wanted to be out running and weight lifting and yoga-ing my way to peak fitness, but instead I was stuck on the couch. I left for Peru in early October and at that point more or less resumed normal activity. The incision site healed beautifully – you could barely tell I’d been operated on.

Looking back on the whole ordeal from South America, I reflected that the surgery hadn’t been nearly as bad as I’d imagined, and really the healing wasn’t awful either (heck, I was back answering emails the next morning) – mostly, as someone who thrives on exercise-induced endorphins, I was just effected by the two week ban on physical activity.

But frankly, as an on-the-go nomad, the worst part had been the scheduling of it all. It’s near impossible to get on the books with a good surgeon, and even harder when you’re trying to match up with a globetrotting schedule. It took nine appointments to handle that ping-pong sized tumor from that first discovery to my final post-surgical check up, with several re-schedulings and book bumpings along the way. Though I’d been warned more tumors might appear, I basically stuck my fingers in my ears and sang “la la la la!” This is a scientifically proven method for dealing with bad news that I regularly utilize and personally find very effective.

PhilippinesTaking those tumors on the road

Take Two

Except when it isn’t.

In May of 2014, just seven months after my surgery, I went back to see my general practitioner for my first physical in seven years. “Have you felt this?” she asked me, while doing the breast exam. I sighed.

Another ultrasound later, I burst into tears when my radiologist told me I’d had to have surgery again as soon as possible. “It’s not cancer, you know,” she told me with a somewhat withering look.

Again, I had a scheduling problem – I had a crazy summer of domestic travel ahead followed by a five-month international trip kicking off in nine weeks. The radiologist was firm – I needed to have the surgery before leaving the country, or else she would help me find a surgeon in Bangkok. Her urgency frightened me, as did the prospect of trying to get in to see my surgeon again on such short notice. I was leaving in three days for a work trip to Nevada followed forty-eight hours later by a work trip to Maui, both of which I spent juggling calls between my radiologist and my surgeon’s scheduling nurse.

Things kind of came to a head there in Hawaii, when I got a speeding ticket while on the phone contemplating whether or not I needed to fly home early and just sobbed to the poor, deeply uncomfortable police officer that I didn’t want to have to be cut into again and I didn’t want to have cancer someday and I was running really late for an event that I had to show up and smile to a lot of people at. (Yeah, those are the parts of my job that don’t quite translate as well as color-drenched Instagrams from the beach.)

PanamaLiving it up or lost in thought?

While waiting to see my surgeon, I saw my gynecologist, Dr. S, for a routine appointment. I was a wreck with stress at this point and he saw it written all over my face. When he inquired what was wrong, I told him everything, not even realizing that gynecologists are frequently involved in deciding a course of treatment for fibroedenomas. Already one of my favorite doctors, Dr. S quickly rose to the top of that list. He requested my charts, consulted with my other doctors, and took time to research and consult his colleagues. When he called me a few days after our appointment, he told me his official recommendation was not to operate. Surgery, he explained, was optional and in his opinion I had a lifetime of them ahead as he believed I would continue to develop tumors on a regular basis. To continue cutting, he warned, would lead to disfigurement and eventually, the need for reconstructive surgery. While I found it confusing and scary to have such wildly varying opinions, having a doctor that seemed to be proactively looking out for my best interest and truly invested in my well being was a life raft that I clung to.

Between my insane schedule and my surgeon’s summer holidays, I wasn’t able to get an appointment until ten days before my international departure. (And if you’re wondering why I didn’t go see another surgeon, it wasn’t really an option – I was told for liability reasons, surgeons will avoid operating on someone who’s been operated on by another surgeon within the past year.) I was extremely anxious leading up to the appointment. Depending on who she agreed with – my gynecologist or my radiologist, I was possibly going to have to have surgery a week before leaving the country or delay my trip entirely. None of my family were in Albany at the time, but thankfully at this point I’d learned that it was best for me to have an advocate along at my appointments, so I was extremely grateful when a family friend agreed to accompany me.

My surgeon took the middle stance. Yes, I needed surgery, she said, but it could wait until I was back from this five month trip. Any lumps over 2cm had to go, and this one, grown from undetectable in less than six months, was already over that threshold. When I mentioned the radiologists’ urgency she shrugged and reminded me that radiologists treat cancer patients all day – they are by nature overly cautious. She also balked at the suggestion that I’d need another mammogram, expressing annoyance that they had even performed the first one due to concerns over radiation. Again I felt frustrated at the number of opinions I was meant to juggle – and also the lack of answers. But I was relieved to put off my problem for a bit longer.

Back Under the Knife

After another round of scheduling drama and consulting with my parents to make sure I was confident in my decision, I found myself finally being wheeled into surgery ten days before Christmas 2014. I felt like an old hand at this point, and one of the surgical nurses remarked that she thought I’d been giving sedatives already based on how calm I was. The surgery went well, I was told, and there was much less bruising than the previous surgery, which I took to be a good sign.

On Christmas Eve, I went in for my one week follow up. Typically, they do them after day days, but I’d be en route to New Orleans by then. I wasn’t able to see my own surgeon, instead I saw one of her partners in the practice. When he removed the steristrips, I was horrified. There was an oozing infection along the incision site. While dressing the wound and writing me a prescription for antibiotics, the surgeon tried to soothe me by telling me I could always have corrective cosmetics surgery in the future if the scarring was bad, but we’d focus on the infection first. I spent most of Christmas Eve in tears – exhausted at the thought of more cutting, devastated at the idea of unsightly scarring and wondering if I’d made the right decision to have the surgery after all.

Home for the HolidaysLiterally cried the entire day

This time I felt the recovery was slower, which makes sense now that I know I was fighting off an infection. My body just seemed tired, which I’m sure wasn’t helped by the relentless gray winter and a bout of depression I was going through. I pushed back my flight to New Orleans a few days to see my actual surgeon for a second follow up — by the time I left the antibiotics were working better than expected and my surgeon was confident that the scarring would be manageable. Six weeks later I’m not thrilled with how the incision site looks – it has healed much worse than my original scar, and is in a much more prominent location. I know at some point I will come to peace with this new battle wound, but at the moment it’s still too raw – I know it’s dramatic, but right now look at myself and I feel mutilated.

Prevention And Other Treatments

There was one thing all my doctors seemed to agree upon – there was no behavior I could change to prevent further tumors from appearing. I presented a million theories I’d read online – was it my Diet Coke addiction? My Implanon birth control? Standing too close to the microwave? (Seriously how are you not supposed to watch that spinning sorcery – IT’S HYPNOTIZING.)

But according to them and to the independent research I have done, the main factor is just genetics – and both my mother and another female family member both had one fibroadenoma each in their twenties. Though studies are underway to see what effect taking birth control before the age of twenty, drinking in adolescence, and other environmental factors might have on fibroadenomas, right now there is no conclusive answer.

I did look into homeopathic prevention and treatment methods, but none looked very realistic – and all received eyerolls from my doctors. Yes, I’m sure many areas of my health would improve if I stopped consuming meat, alcohol, and sugar, but then what would the point of life be? (Actually only like half being sarcastic.) That said, I am attempting to eat greener and cleaner than ever for a multitude of reasons.

Mostly, when I tried to look into alternatives to surgery, I found , message boards full of desperate woman sick of being cut into annually, and a whole lot of nothing reassuring. I am concerned that continued surgeries will alter the shape of my breasts and lead to inevitable cosmetic surgery, which I will do almost anything to avoid. One treatment that I am planning to pursue should more tumors appear in the future is laser ablation – it appears to be less invasive and after my last surgical experience I just don’t know if I can put my body through all that again.

Obviously, having health insurance is essential. On my next birthday, I will officially roll off as a rider on my parent’s health insurance – time to get my big girl pants on. This summer, when I’m home in the US, my big project is going to be figuring out my insurance situation, since I certainly can’t fork over the approximately $20,000 this surgery costs out of pocket. The good news is that I feel incredibly comfortable with the health care in Bangkok and would be totally at ease having this same surgery or other treatments there if necessary, where the out of pocket costs would be much more manageable. As a self employed freelancer, I fear my options are limited – many friends in my line of work have chosen to go forgo insurance, but in my position I don’t believe that’s an option I can afford.

Advice

If you found this post while looking for information about your own fibroadenomas, I hope I’ve at the very least given you the small comfort that you aren’t alone (and at the worst, like, completely terrified you.) I do have a few small sanity savers to recommend:

  • Get multiple opinions. Despite how overwhelming it was hearing them all, it was better than simply going along with the first alarmist report I received. Find a doctor you deeply trust and who truly cares about your well-being.
  • Have an advocate. Apart from my gynecologist Dr. S, I always feel that I am being rushed out of medical appointments before I have time to process the information I’m given and formulate any questions I might have. Having someone else there to speak up for me and to remind me what my thoughts and concerns were going in has been helpful.
  • If your schedule is as hectic as mine, accept early on that you might have to be more flexible than you think. Prioritize your health — I did not always follow my own advice on this in the beginning. Booking domestic flights almost exclusively on Southwest meant that I didn’t worry about financial implications when I changed a flight to make an appointment – that was a lifesaver.
  • Remember that these are benign tumors. Find comfort in that. But this isn’t the diseaselympics — don’t let anyone use that to tell you that you can’t cry.

San Juan del SurNot slowing down

Conclusion

Today I’m tumor free, but filled with questions. Will more show up – or, more realistically, when? How should I treat them? What am I going to do when I roll off my parents’ health insurance next year? Is cancer in my future? (According to , “women with fibroadenomas have an increased risk of breast cancer – about 1½ to 2 times the risk of women with no breast changes.”)

In the end, fibros themselves aren’t that bad! What’s kept me up at night hasn’t been the diagnosis or the surgeries – it’s been the doctor and insurance dramas.

Having three medical professionals with three sometimes extremely opposing opinions reminded me that doctors are not gods – they are just people with opinions, however well informed they might be, and there is no right answer. I actually found this incredibly frustrating – I’ve always been the type to simply go along with whatever the professional recommends, from a haircut to an antihistamine. Realizing that I am going to have to be ultimately responsible for the decisions made about my body is, to me, overwhelming rather than empowering. I feel like I am clueless and I want – need, rather – there to be someone who knows more than me who can tell me exactly what to do to make everything okay.

I know that’s not a very optimistic note to end on, but hey, sometimes life is messy. I have a lot to be grateful for. Sometimes I focus on that. Sometimes I throw myself little pity parties complete with ice cream sandwiches and tiny party hats. Sometimes I feel like a badass bitch for getting through it and taking these tumors all over the world and not letting them slow me down in the process. Sometimes I look at my scar-covered breasts and I cry. Most times, I don’t think about it at all.

And sometimes, every once in a while, I remind myself that it’s not cancer, after all.

. . . . .

Obligatory disclaimer here that despite watching several seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, I am not in fact a doctor, and everything in this post is simply my personal experience and my understanding of the information that my doctors have told me and that my research has led me to believe is true.

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148 Comments...
  • Maddy
    February 12 2015

    YOU ARE A ROCKSTAR. I can’t even imagine being in your shoes and juggling all of these things at once. I know you said in another post that sometimes you feel like you have to keep everything happy go lucky face and pretty pictures, but honestly, these posts where you are opening up about behind the scenes things is where I think you truly shine. Thank you for sharing!
    Maddy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      Thank you Miss Maddy! That means a lot. Sometimes I have to push myself to write these kinds of posts as their are quite emotionally draining, but always worth it in the end.

  • becky hutner
    February 12 2015

    thank you for sharing, alex. i’m sure this will be hugely useful for others going through the same. and as someone who’s been recently diagnosed with a condition that doesn’t travel well at all, i’m afraid i can relate too. esp to this line:

    “how any travel addict juggles an unpleasant diagnosis with an incurable case of wanderlust.”

    sending good, HEALTHY vibes your way xxx
    becky hutner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      Right back at ya girl. I’ve said so many times that if I was simply stationary, this whole diagnosis would be an entirely different ball game. The constant scheduling nightmare and countdown clock adds to the drama, like, a million percent!

  • Katie
    February 12 2015

    I loved this post and your outlook on your diagnosis. It’s so admirable that you’re not letting it slow you down! 🙂 You’re right, it’s not cancer. I’ve watched my mother and sister go through chemo and still wonder every year if it’s back. Chemo sucks, cancer sucks. All of it sucks. Keeping my fingers crossed for you that it never comes to that. P.S. I love your disclaimer 😉
    Katie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      I’m so sorry to hear your family has been through that, Katie. Regardless of what the statistics say, I do have this really strong belief that I won’t ever have to go through breast cancer — maybe that’s the “la la la la!” talking or maybe it’s overconfidence since no women in my family have had it, but right now luckily I really don’t fret on that front. And thank you for appreciating my disclaimer 🙂 I didn’t even mention my years of loyal Nip/Tuck patronage!

      • Nancy
        October 13 2016

        I am currently looking for round three of tumor removal. The initial biopsy is always scary and the rest in one word is an inconvience.

        Currently having a pity party and dealing with the few people I talk to about it say you know it’s nothing .

        • Meihoukai
          October 15 2016

          I feel ya, Nancy. Stay strong, you’re not alone!

  • Tawny of Captain and Clark
    February 12 2015

    You’re are so incredible! I remember that day in Maui and even in the midst of all that chaos, you handled it like a champ.

    I know this post is going to be so useful and encouraging to others that have been diagnosed with fibroadenomas. You know we’re always here for you.

    Let’s plan our next sisterwife reunion!

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      You guys are the best. I can’t remember what you said to me that day… something like, “You’re always so charmingly flustered!” Maybe that wasn’t it exactly but it made my faults sound incredibly endearing and I loved you for it. And yes — reunion is a MUST!

  • Rachel
    February 12 2015

    What a great post, thanks for sharing. I appreciate when travelers share their actual real-life problems. I’ve struggled with the issue of listening to one doctor’s opinion as well. You just assume they are the experts! I listened to my gyno completely for years, only to do a little research and find out that maybe I didn’t actually have to have a pretty invasive procedure. It’s a shocking, almost betrayal-like feeling to find out that doctors have totally different opinions on the same issues. Who do you know who’s right?! Anyway, as usual, you’re a badass.
    Rachel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      I know how you feel — I had a similar sensation when I realized that I probably shouldn’t have had that first mammogram. Ugh, thanks for the completely unnecessary hit of radiation, dude. Hope you found a gyno you love as much as I love mine!

      • Stephanie
        June 4 2015

        You’re lucky you had the option to refuse it. My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer and is not allowed (because the insurance won’t cover the expense) to have an ultrasound unless she has a mammogram first. -_-

        • Meihoukai
          June 6 2015

          I’m sorry to hear that, Stephanie. My initial instinct is to say “doctors know best,” but I have to say that this experience has really challenged that belief :-/

  • Krystle
    February 12 2015

    Meihoukai,
    I’ve been a follower of your blog for a few years now, and this post made me tear up. I had surgery on December 12 for a fibroadenoma. Only a few days before your second surgery. When my doctor found the lump she immediately scheduled an ultrasound (they wouldn’t do a mammogram because I’m under the age of 30) and as I walked out of the doctors office the only things I kept thinking to myself were, “I don’t have time to have cancer…” and “I can’t be sick, my husband and I haven’t traveled to Italy yet” (silly, I know, but travel was one of the first things on my mind as well)…
    From the time they found the lump until the day of surgery it was exactly one month, and that month was the longest month of my life, (We didn’t know if it was cancer for over three weeks). There is no history of breast cancer or fibroids in my family so this news completely blindsided me.
    My doctor said that fibroadenomas are hormone driven; I worry that my birth control and the medication for my thyroid were part of the cause, but there is no proof one way or another… I worry about finding another tumor in the future as well, although I hope that I will find some relief in knowing what needs to be done next instead of wading into the unknown.
    I’m sending mad love your way girl. You are inspiring for sharing your story.
    -Krystle
    Krystle recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      Big boob scare hugs over here, Krystle! I know exactly how you feel with the, “I don’t have time for this health drama!” Like, gosh, could this tumor please just come back at a time that is more convenient to me? Ha. So glad to hear you are cancer-free and that you were able to get that bad boy out as soon as possible. Sending you lots of healthy vibes!

  • Gwen
    February 12 2015

    It’s tough to grow up and realize that professionals are just humans with jobs. I always thought when I was a kid that adults with careers must be really great and know everything in their field, after all, they’re PROFESSIONALS.

    I’m glad things seem to be healing up well for you. Stay strong!

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      Gwen, this comment is perfection, re: “professionals are just humans with jobs.” This has been somewhat earth shattering for me. But hey… now I know 🙂

  • Kelli Nicole
    February 12 2015

    Dang! That sucks having to go through that twice!! An infection is the worst!! I actually had a fibroadenoma as well, but 10 years ago, when I was 19. I wish I’d had more knowledge and an advocate.

    I know this isn’t scientific, but as a sample, I’ve never taken hormonal birth control. My identical twin (who was on birth control in her 20’s) has never had a fibroadenoma and we lived together until we were almost 19 (so, basically same environment and food and whatnot).

    I didn’t know this increased your risk for breast cancer, so that’s good to know (at the time my doctor told me that it didn’t). My grandma had breast cancer, so I’m must be a bundle of booby cancers just waiting to happen!

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      Sorry to hear you went through the same at such a young age, Kelli — that must have been scary at 19! But amazing that another one never surfaced. Regarding the cancer stats, I’ve actually found that there are varying opinions on that research (big surprise) so your doctor may have been giving you the best information available at the time.

  • Colleen Brynn
    February 12 2015

    It just goes to show how everyone has their personal struggles, and they aren’t always visible on the outside – even and especially with physical health concerns. I’m sorry you are going through this, but you sound like you have a strong mind and a good team on your side. I bet you are helping a bunch of women who read this post.
    I know a number of women who have gone through breast cancer treatment, and I know that feeling of being mutilated is not uncommon. Don’t feel bad, not dramatic at all. Quite normal and completely validated if you ask me.
    Sending you some positive vibes, girl x
    Colleen Brynn recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      Thanks Colleen. And so true — one day when I was incredibly devastated about all this, I walked by a guy who told me to “smile, girl!” I wanted to punch him in his smile, obviously. But it reminded me that we never know what’s going on behind what might appear to be a healthy and happy facade.

  • Marni
    February 12 2015

    You are definitely a badass! First of all, for opening up and sharing your experiences. Second, for going through it all and not letting it change you or your life. And third, for admitting to and allowing yourself to cry – a process I find incredibly emotionally healing. I’m sending healthy thoughts your way and hoping that this round was the last for you!

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      Crying is the best. Recently, I heard someone call it salt water therapy — love it 🙂

      • Nathaniel
        February 12 2015

        “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.”

        Beautiful and cathartic post, Meihoukai. I already thought of you as a pretty strong personality, but this takes it to a whole new stratospheric level. You’re amazing.

        • Meihoukai
          February 12 2015

          Thank you, Nathaniel. That means a lot. It’s amazing how a post that feels scary to write can make others see you as strong.

      • Kat
        February 13 2015

        “The cure for anything is salt water. Sweat, tears, or the sea.” Truer words were never spoken.

  • Steph
    February 12 2015

    Brave post! One of my best friends also has this same issue and I know it’s been annoying and scary for her as well. I hope for you it’s just a brief issue and not ongoing!
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    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      Thanks Steph. I actually feel like if/when another tumor appears I will be more or less ready for it. The first one was like “ummmm what is happening actually nevermind I don’t care just make it go away phew thank god that’s over,” and then the second one was more like “actually hold the phone what the HECK is going on here” and I think should a third one roll around, I’ll know how to proceed with a lot less fanfare. But yeah, my fingers are definitely crossed it that I don’t need to!

  • Mary B
    February 12 2015

    It sounds like you’ve been through a lot the past few years – and always while putting on a smile and keeping up the adventures. I think you’ve earned lifetime membership in the Bad-Ass Bitch Club.

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      I would love to design some membership cards for that crew, Mary 🙂 Proud to be a member!

  • Lou
    February 12 2015

    Darling. I hadn’t realised you had been through all this. You are such a brave and amazing girl. Thanks for opening up and telling others your story. It will help so many others along the way too in the same boat. You have been through so much and stayed so strong. But your openness and strength will also guide others to feel positive and help their journey, if faced with the same plight. I love the openness in your writing and how utterly honest you are. This integrity will help your readers in so many ways. Love always. Lou xxxx

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      I adore you Lou! You don’t know how much your friendship and support means to me. Thanks for being you! xoxox

  • Victoria
    February 12 2015

    Echoing everyone’s previous comments. You are a brave, incredible girl. As your readers, we would never have known all of this was going on. Wishing you the best of health going forward and that you continue on your magical adventure.
    Victoria recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      This has definitely been a reminder to me that you never really know what is going on behind the scenes in someone else’s life, Victoria! And I would never want to give anyone the wrong idea that mine is perfect — part of the reason I wrote this post.

  • Chalsie
    February 12 2015

    Thank you for sharing this with us! It seems totally terrifying, and I’m not really sure I’d have handled it all as well as you did!
    Girl, you’re a champ!

    Chalsie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      I bet you’d find it in you — I didn’t know I did, until I needed it 🙂

  • Katie
    February 12 2015

    Thanks for sharing your struggle Meihoukai, you are so brave! I have a history of Bowel cancer in my family and because they have recently found blood in my bowel, I have to go in for a colonoscopy soon. Luckily I will be able to get it done on medicare here in Australia but I’m not sure how long the wait will be, finding out next week.
    Katie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      So sorry to hear that Katie, sending you lots of love and good healthy vibes! I know how scary the waiting can be.

  • Sarah
    February 12 2015

    Thanks for this post! I think it’s wonderful that you’re willing to share this, since so many health problems go unspoken about which makes them all the scarier.

    This is totally random, but if you are willing to share the name of your gynecologist, I am looking for a good one in Albany and have so far not found one that people are enthusiastic about.

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      Agreed. I also think certain health issues have such a taboo or a stigma about them — for example, I know I’ve been more shy to tell people I’ve had a tumor in my breast than I would be in, say, my arm (can you even get tumors in your arm?!) It has affected how attractive I feel, which has in turn affected my relationships. I think getting it all out in the open can only help. And I’m sending you an email with my doctor’s name right now!

  • Sara
    February 12 2015

    I read this line and I wanted to just give you a huge hug: “I know it’s dramatic, but right now look at myself and I feel mutilated.”

    It doesn’t matter that it’s not cancer, this is a struggle that you have to deal with daily. I’m so sorry this is happening to you, and of course it’s okay to cry over it! Just know that you’re beautiful both inside and out 🙂 xoxo
    Sara recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      Thank you Sara! Feeling all the virtual hugs from here. Lots of love.

  • Hannah
    February 12 2015

    It sounds like you’ve been through an absolute boob nightmare over the past few years, I know a post like this will help a lot of people; it sounds like it can be a terrifying ordeal, but you’ve shown how it doesn’t need to be debilitating. You, lady are a fricking bad ass, sending big positive vibes your way for a healthy boob future. x
    Hannah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      I am feeling lots of love and good vibes tonight! Thank you so much for sending them x

  • Miquel
    February 12 2015

    Meihoukai, you’re honesty and willingness to share these personal struggles are what keep me coming back to this blog time and time again.

    I am so sorry that you have had to experience this and wish you nothing but good health in the future. This serves as such a reminder how thankful we should all be for our health and capable bodies.

    On another note I couldn’t help but LOL at that last part. I am also guilty of claiming that my binge watching sessions of Grey’s Anatomy do indeed make me a certified doctor.
    Miquel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2015

      I know right! And I didn’t even mention my loyal years of patronage watching Nip/Tuck. I think that basically makes me like an entry level cosmetic surgeon, no?

  • Chris
    February 12 2015

    What a wonderfully personal, human and emotional tale!

    I feel like you’ve just taken me aside and told me all this in confidence…

    I’m sure it would be a great help to anybody that faces the prospect of going through what you did!
    Chris recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 13 2015

      Thanks Chris. I love that about blogging — it can sometimes seems like a whisper, sometimes like a shot. Intimate and public all at once!

  • Rachel of Hippie in Heels
    February 12 2015

    wow you have been through a lot! Thanks for sharing this- there will be someone googling one day about this very thing and be over the moon to read a story from someone else who has gone through it. Glad you are feeling good now & I hope you stay healthy!!
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 13 2015

      Yeah, I wish this kind of thing were easier to find! I’m sure (maybe?) there are other accounts out there but I couldn’t seem to find any when I would have found them super comforting. Thanks Rachel!

  • Shaz
    February 13 2015

    I’m sorry to hear about your struggles, our health is our most precious asset. I had a teeny lump right under my nipple but never had it removed (not the nip!) because my doctor said it wasn’t necessary. It went away, though I’m always wary now.

    Have you ever heard of the book “Dressed To Kill: The Link between Breast Cancer and Bras”? I know it’s not cancer, but the information this guy puts out on breast health is like nothing I’ve heard from any doctor before. Might not help, but you never know, it could be the missing piece of your puzzle. I’d start out with listening to this podcast he was on () if you haven’t heard it, it’s insightful regardless if you have boob issues or — a must-listen for any woman reading this.

    • Meihoukai
      February 13 2015

      I haven’t read it yet but I’m definitely going to download it on my Kindle now! Though I have to say, the title makes me wary — I live in a sports bra and am so physically uncomfortable when I don’t have a bra on (unless I’m sleeping.) I hope he doesn’t tell me that’s bad, ha.

  • Sarah
    February 13 2015

    hey Meihoukai, you can be SO proud of you for handling this the way you do! Keep it up!
    I had a similar diagnosis when I was 15 with the treatment plan of “just ignore it”. European doctors! That works for me until today for like 80% of the time, the rest is: “it’s not cancer – let’s think of something else”! Thanks for the article!
    Sarah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 13 2015

      Hey Sarah — that’s really interesting. As I wrote one of my other doctors also advocated for me not to have a second surgery but it always it hard not to listen to the most cautious treatment plan. Have you had more fibroadenomas appear? I am extremely hesitant to have another surgery should another one come up.

      • Sarah
        February 14 2015

        hey Meihoukai, I always got the same response so far: “you’re only -insert age- it’s not cancer. We’ll only operate if it freaks you out and gives you mental problems”. So I’m waiting for the day they say: “You’re 27, now it’s cancer”. They even refuse to do a biopsy, so no one actually knows what it is, and it’s only been the one lump that hasn’t been changing for 10 years. Since it doesn’t hurt I only have it checked regularly and try to ignore it in the meantime.

        I think every country or area has a different approach to problems and many European doctors are into alternative methods and won’t operate until they are absolutely sure that it will help you.

        It still freaks me out almost every day but having an operation that 3 doctors now told me I shouldn’t (they also said that scarring and radiation from a mammography could make things worse and actually cause cancer) would scare me even more. At the moment it’s really more a psychological than a physical problem but that could obviously change.

        But I think you’re doing a great job talking about that you’re scared as well. European doctors will act like you’re a big cry baby if you tell them that something scares you (don’t ever go there after hurting your back trampolining, tried that! He wrote down “Patient jumped up and down for an hour and is confused that her back hurts now”), so it makes me feel much better reading that there’s other people who are scared out there! Thank you!
        Sarah recently posted..

        • Meihoukai
          February 15 2015

          Ha, your trampoline story cracked me up. Really interesting to hear the different ways this is handled around the world — thank you for sharing your story!

  • Janice Stringer
    February 13 2015

    Hi Meihoukai,
    Many things pop through my head to say to you, when I read this. How sorry I am to hear your experiences, how scary it must me at times, how awful the attitude was of the Health professional, who didn’t understand your tears. I found it interesting to hear about the american health care system, the challenges for patients such as yourself using that system. A slight nod of my head to the NHS-that stems the concern in the UK regarding healthcare, although Private Healthcare vs NHS is always on the table in this country to talk about.
    Yet the greatest thing I hear-is how much you seem to have grown as a person through this process.Your writing and the way you have put together this clear, clarified post is excellent and I think it has real value. Fingers crossed that you have no more. x
    Janice Stringer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 13 2015

      Yes, our healthcare system is nothing if not complicated! Lots of options, which also means lots of decisions… and I hate decisions, ha.

  • I’m in awe of you, Meihoukai! I can’t believe you maintained a hectic travel schedule while dealing with this! Really sorry to hear about the pain and worry you must have experienced. I hope the worst is over for you now xx
    Grace | The Beauty of Everywhere recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 13 2015

      Thank you Grace! I hope so too — and I believe it is.

  • Natalie Deduck
    February 13 2015

    Congrats Meihoukai, it´s not easy to get through a health problem and share experiences and fears!
    Wish you all the best, I can understand your concerns and doubts about. My mum passed away due to breast cancer, I also lost one aunt because of it, so since I was 20 years old I have to do mammogram, ultrasound and medical check up yearly… It´s not easy to deal with the doubts and fears when we are so young… Do you know what helps me?? When I´m not sure about the future I try to keep in my mind that my heart is in the middle of my breasts, and when it is full of Love, Faith and Positive Energy is far more powerful than any fibroadenoma or cancer that can insist in appear.
    You are such lovely girl, never give up… Keep smiling and spreading the love.
    Big hugs.
    Nat

    • Meihoukai
      February 13 2015

      Natalie I’m so sorry for your losses but thank you so much for this comment — it is actually made me tear up! I am going to use that visualization when I feel stress over this in the future. Thank you so much for that.

  • Christine | The Traveloguer
    February 13 2015

    I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that Meihoukai. It’s great that you’ve put together such a comprehensive and honest post about your experience. I’m sure it will be a great source of information and comfort for others going through the same thing.
    Thanks for sharing, and I hope you don’t have to go through this again xx
    Christine | The Traveloguer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 13 2015

      Thank you Christine. All the well wishes mean a lot.

  • Sonja @ Breadcrumbs Guide
    February 13 2015

    Holy crap, kudos for having the courage to post this! You are super brave for living the life you do, and I am continuously inspired by your stories both abroad and at home. Just remember that your fans will love you no matter what and if that means you need to prioritize your health over the blog you should do just that.
    Sonja @ Breadcrumbs Guide recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 13 2015

      Thank you so much Sonja. Luckily I haven’t been forced to alter any plans significantly at this point, though when I have press trip obligations that certainly does complicate things (I’d have big financial implications for backing out).

  • Christie
    February 13 2015

    Meihoukai – thank you so much for sharing your story. Life can be so unfair in the way it deals bad cards to good people. You are so brave to share your experiences, and even braver to have such a positive attitude in light of everything that you have been through. Not only is this article going to be helpful to many people going through similar problems, it is also a great reminder to us all to prioritise our health. Thank you for being real and honest, you are truly an inspiration. Sending tonnes of happy and healthy vibes your way 🙂 x
    Christie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 13 2015

      Thank you Christie. In the end the real gift is I don’t feel I’ve been dealt too horrible a hand at all — so many have it worse! I am grateful to still be traveling, still be smiling. Thanks for all the great vibes 🙂

  • Lori
    February 13 2015

    Thank you for sharing this personal information. It can be so easy to forget that you are a real person with real problems. I think of you as “the luckiest girl ever” because I admire your lifestyle and travels. I have to plan all my trips around my period because I have endometriosis and am rendered useless 1-2 days a month so this brought me back to reality fast! I had no clue what you were dealing with behind the scenes. Thank you for educating me about a condition that I didn’t know about. I had not realized that so many of my peers are dealing with this. I’m now curious if you got that speeding ticket and if the new Affordable Care Act will work to the benefit of someone like you who is rolling off their parent’s insurance plan. It made consider the potential impacts the reoccurance of this disease, the surgeries and possible disfigurement could have on women who intend to breast feed. It made me want to research to see if people with terrible cases have had double masectomies like Angelina Jolie. All this only from reading your one post. You’re spreading awareness and that’s the most important thing. Thank You.

    • Meihoukai
      February 13 2015

      I did indeed get the speeding ticket 🙂 I will absolutely be looking into the Affordable Care Act — and I’ll let you all know what I find in a future roundup, I’m sure! My surgeon told me that I should not have an issue with breastfeeding in the future though this wasn’t a massive concern of mine as I’m not sure if I want to have children. I of course can’t be sure but considering these tumors are benign I can’t imagine someone going as far as a preventative mastectomy unless they had other factors to consider (like in Angelina Jolie’s case, her family history). Many women, it seems, are in fact looking for non surgical solutions — I certainly will in the future.

  • Jade
    February 13 2015

    What a horrible thing to go through on the road! You really are badass for taking control of your own health and not just relying solely on a doctors advice. It’s so easy to be complacent with respects to your own body, because you think ‘well, what do I know?!’.

    • Meihoukai
      February 13 2015

      Ha… and that’s exactly what I WANT to do 🙂 But it looks like it’s not an option — maybe that will be for the best in the long run.

  • Camels & Chocolate
    February 14 2015

    Ugh, I’m so so sorry you’ve had to go through this—and twice, too!
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 15 2015

      Here’s hoping there is never a third.

  • Julia Nix
    February 14 2015

    Try to slow down when needed much rest. Afterall, you are your own boss. I can imagine some doctors can be quite impersonal (which does hurt our feelings sometimes) Healthcare is getting expensive (which has been debated on as to why doctors are eager to send people to surgery room) Love and light. Take care, Meihoukai.

    • Meihoukai
      February 15 2015

      Thanks Julia. Yes, our healthcare costs are out of control and it is sad they are such a factor when making decisions like this.

  • Nicole
    February 14 2015

    I’m so sorry you have to go through something as shitty as this! You are seriously SO brave and strong.

    I found out that I have a brain tumor in 2013, and I just shut down for a few months. Didn’t leave my flat, gained a lot of weight, and cried all day. I also bleached my hair blonde as I was sure they were going to shave my head, and I thought it was a good time to just do something crazy with my hair. (BIG mistake) Thankfully I’ve come to terms with it, and I turned down a surgery as it’s (THANKFULLY) benign, not growing (at the moment at least) and isn’t giving me any symptoms. So I go in for an MRI twice a year as I turned down surgery, but other than that I’m thankfully not affected in any noticeable way. So I’m just hoping that it won’t ever start growing, as I really don’t want to undergo brain surgery…

    I hope you have a lump-free future, and safe travels 😉
    Nicole recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 15 2015

      Girl that’s crazy! I can only imagine how I would react to that news. Crazy hair bleaching might be the least of it 🙂 Glad you found a way to live with your diagnosis and wish you the best of luck moving forward.

  • sigrid
    February 15 2015

    Hey Meihoukai,

    I can totally relate to your story! I love your openness and I feel it’s time to share my story..
    I too have a case of incurable wanderlust. And I had a cancer diagnosis. Six years and a half ago, while whirling around in India, I fell sick (again) and was advised to see a doctor. Nothing serious, I thought, just some diarrhea and I could just go to the pharmacy and buy some antibiotics. That’s so great about India, you can just get everything over the counter. But as this would be my 5th self-prescribed antibiotics treatment in 3 months, I agreed to be taken to doctor around the corner. I was very tired from the diarrhea and half asleep while he was examining me. He brought me to a small room where I could rest and administered some antibiotics. So I stayed there for about an hour until he came back and said “madam, your condition is very serious. You have to go home immediately. You have to cancel all your plans.” I immediately woke up. What was he talking about?? He told me my white blood cell count was 30 times the normal maximum amount. And it had been tested twice, to be sure it was real. I was horrified – did this mean I had cancer? Yes, it was possible I had cancer, he replied. He called the manager of my guesthouse and they were discussing how to get me to Mumbai – 1000 kms away from Bhuj. He suggested I should book a flight, and go home asap. I said I had to think it all over, that I couldn’t take any decisions, and that half of my luggage was in Jaipur (also 1000 kms away). It was evening, so I went back to my room. I was travelling alone and I think it’s needless to say I didn’t close an eye that night. All I could think about was leukaemia, chemo, hairloss. I made the firm decision I’d rather die than lose my hair. And I decided that before going home, I would do some sightseeing around Bhuj. I hadn’t travelled 1000 kms for nothing!! I had just arrived in the morning after a LONG journey, so at least I wanted to enjoy the place a bit before all the drama would start. I emailed a friend who was also travelling in India, she replied immediately and asked me to call her. I did and she comforted me and said my body was fighting something. Then I called my physician. She was kind of down-to-earth and asked me when I would come home. In a week, I said after a quick calculation. Because she didn’t sound panicked, I had the feeling things were ok and everything was just a misunderstanding. Or well, that’s just what I hoped. Anyway, that day I made my decisions: I would go sightseeing around Bhuj for 2 days, then return to Jaipur by night train and pick up my luggage, and then fly home from Delhi, as I had originally planned. Well, actually I only had a ticket from Delhi to Istanbul, and we had to check how flexible that was. I decided not to inform my parents yet, it was the 12th of august and my father’s birthday was the 14th. I didn’t want to ruin his birthday with the possible-leukaemia drama. So I went sightseeing on the countryside. I was alternating between crying in the rikshaw and enjoy the landscapes and villages around me, very much aware these could the last travel days of my life. The 13th of august I went on another sightseeing trip – in a car this time! – and did some shopping in the villages. In the evening I sent an early birthday message to my father, telling him I would be in the train on his birthday. I have to say physically I felt fine since I had been taking antibiotics, which was very reassuring. I boarded the night train, picked up my luggage in Jaipur an arrived in one piece in Delhi, where my friend was waiting for me. We celebrated my 28th birthday – which was quite fun, despite the circumstances – and I checked my flight options. It turned out I couldn’t cancel my flight to Istanbul, so I decided to just prepone it and see in Istanbul how I’d get home. Istanbul was Europe after all, so close to home (Belgium). And really, didn’t that mean it was destiny I had to see Istanbul? On my first full day in Istanbul I became sick again and wanted to go to a hospital, but I could only find expensive private ones and wasn’t insured. Fortunately I found another pharmacy where I could get over-the-counter antibiotics and decided to do some decent exploration of the city before the unavoidable drama would start. So I spent another 3 days exploring Istanbul (and my flight options to go home – it was summer and flights were really expensive, so I decided I would take the train). I felt energetic, but have to admit I was tired after climbing stairs. But well, I’d had a lot of diarrhea lately, and it was normal to feel a bit weak after that. I took the night train to Bucharest, where I arrived about 24 hours later. From there I took a night train to Budapest, and an Australian guy helped me with my massive amount of luggage. I spent the night in a youth hostel and went looking for a doctor again. I felt weak and had blood in my stool. She wanted to hospitalize me, but I decided I was too poor to be hospitalized in a foreign country without insurance.I just decided to hurry to Vienna – a couple of hours away – and from there I could take one more night train and be in Belgium the next morning. So I arrived home, felt better again, but went to the doctor anyway because the idea of leukaemia was worrying of course. It was a beautiful day and I went cycling to her, had my blood tested and enjoyed being back home. Everything would be fine. In the evening she called me and said I had to go to the emergency. I was calm at the phone but became hysterical after the call and cried and yelled I didn’t want to have cancer. My father brought me to the hospital, I was attached to machines and was told my WBC was 100 times the normal maximum amount, which was impressively high. Tomorrow my doctor would tell me what would happen.

    To make a long story short: I was lucky. I could have dropped dead just anywhere, but I was still alive without a scratch. I had (relatively mild) chemo which didn’t cause extreme hairloss, bone marrow punctions and several blood transfusions. But the best thing of all: I had a specific type of leukaemia which is targeted very well by super-advanced drugs. And okay, while it still took several years to finally achieve a major molecular response, I could start travelling again in the beginning of 2009. I first did some city trips, and in summer I went to Indonesia where I climbed the highest volcano. In 2010 I became a tourleader and was high in the sky in Nepal and Tibet, and later in Egypt and India. It wasn’t until 2012 my medication made travelling in India more difficult. My dose was increased to achieve better long-term results, but this means my white blood cells are quite low and I’m prone to infections. And India isn’t the cleanest country..I decided to shift my focus and explore more of Europe and the Middle East, which was very interesting. 2013 wasn’t the luckiest year for me, I got “Indian-level” diarrhea in Sicily and didn’t take enough rest between Sicily and my next trip (one week later) to Israel. I was on heavy antibiotics – in my eyes a direct result of my leukaemia medication (sprycel) – and got a tendon injury after (and due to) that. It was during my last week in Israel and I was too stubborn to rest. So instead of getting better, it got worse and I HAD to go home to get my life-saving sprycel. I had to traverse airports, train stations and bus stations with 2 pieces of luggage and no possibility to jump on crutches. When I was finally at home I felt devastated. I could barely walk anymore and had bad pain. I had no idea that more than a year later, my ability to move would still be seriously impaired. But even with this tendon injury, in 2014 I travelled to Greece and Israel, and I made a 2 month-trip to Thailand – I had to take a wheelchair for that one. I do blame the tendon situation directly and indirectly on the sprycel, but I guess it was the curse of 2013 too. If it hadn’t been the tendon, maybe something even worse would have happened…

    Anyway, the moral of the story is: 1. there IS life (and travels!) after a cancer diagnosis 2. I had a life and I’m fucking greatful for that. When you’re on your deathbed it’s so important to realize that, and not think “I should have done this and that, but I just let other people rule my life”. 3. Hair (and in your case boobs 😉 ) ARE important, but your overall health and well-being are even most important.

    I send you lots of energy to deal with everything, and just keep in mind travel is the best antidote to misery! xxx

    • Meihoukai
      February 16 2015

      Wow! Sigrid — this is an unbelievable story. Amazing what you’ve been through and that you keep going! You are an inspiration. I hope I always keep traveling as tenaciously as you, no matter what life throws my way. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • You are such a brave girl and thank you for sharing your story. Judging by the comments above, your honesty and openness has benefited many. Fingers crossed that you don’t have to go through it all again. 🙂
    [email protected] The British Berliner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 17 2015

      I’ve been so touched and inspired by the comments here. I am so lucky to have everyone here!

  • Sarah S
    February 17 2015

    I’m so glad you decided to share this. I’ve had a rough few years of surgeries on my ears (one that lead to a brain surgery which is some next level surgery fear) and I really identified with a lot of what you were experiencing. Any surgery is really terrifying and the fact that you have the C-word looming over your experience and possible future must make it even harder. I can’t even imagine. It’s amazing though that you are talking about it because I think it’s important to share these kinds of real things and for people to know they aren’t alone. Plus, it’s an amazing inspiration that you are going through all of that and still able to lead a full, beautiful life full of amazing adventures! It really inspires me to know that! Thank you and best of luck with all your future recovery.

    • Meihoukai
      February 17 2015

      You are so welcome Sarah. Thank YOU for reading and sharing your own trials! Reading these comments reminds me that everyone has something, and it might not be one that you can see. We should all be patient with each other because of it.

  • Bren
    February 17 2015

    Hey Meihoukai, hope you’re in good health and not letting this slow you down too much. As I near the end of my 20’s, I’m also noticing my fair share of boy problems popping up, and not very fun ones. Not to mention our lifestyles of being on the road most of the year make it doubly hard to stay on top of these things! Sounds like you’re soldiering on though – good stuff. Just know that we’re all dealing with similar things on some level so you’re not alone.

    Bren
    Bren recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      Thanks for the solidarity, Bren 🙂

  • Kristin Addis
    February 19 2015

    You somehow made me laugh out loud several times while reading a post I was sure was going to be sad. I love your approach to it and honesty with what you were going through. On the surface a traveler’s life always looks to be rosy (because am I really going to post an instagram pic of me crying and stuff? Nope!) but real life still happens.

    I also really like breakfast. Most important meal of the day. I never realized it was more of an American thing to eat a plate the size of my midsection for breakfast while Europeans look on like, ‘This is why Americans are fat.’

    I’m getting really off topic but kudos for writing about something that must’ve been hard to approach so lightheartedly.
    Kristin Addis recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 24 2015

      I just can’t relate to people who don’t love breakfast. Do you watch Parks and Recreation? I can really get on board with Leslie Knope’s waffle obsession. But yes, sidetracking — thank you for reading and for your kind words. They are always much appreciated from a respected peer.

  • Serendipity Tess
    February 20 2015

    You are an incredible person Meihoukai. I love how you always sound so positive despite some really tough pills to swallow. I can relate to the fact that Dr’s aren’t always to be trusted. I was given a wrong diagnosis once which basically ruined an entire year for me. But I wasn’t wise enough to quickly get a second opinion. I left it too late and this was a very valuable lesson learnt for life. Perhaps I’ll write about it one day. I think it’s very brave to publish these posts. I get a bit sick and tired of reading these ‘I’ve got this perfect life, look at my big smile’ type of travel blog posts. It’s refreshing to read such raw emotions – because the good and the bad are part of us. It’s what makes us human. And there is no reason to feel shamed about it.

    Tess xx
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    • Meihoukai
      February 25 2015

      I agree Tess. I respect that some bloggers only want to show a portion of their life but I am grateful to those who show both sides, the good and the bad.

  • Erin
    March 5 2015

    Thank you for sharing your story! While I don’t have this condition, I do have another disease and reading stories of other travelers with chronic illnesses of any kind always brings new insights and helpful reminders about being sick on the road. I hope that you are feeling healthy and never have another tumor.
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    • Meihoukai
      March 6 2015

      Thank you so much Erin. Really happy to know this post has struck a cord!

  • Sarah
    March 12 2015

    Wow, thanks for your blog.
    I’m 41 and from New Zealand, just this week I had a breast biopsy and today was told it is fibroadenoma. Not a mention of surgery to remove. I think if it was annoying or sore then that would be an option but if not then I see no reason to go through the process, it isn’t doing any harm.

    • Meihoukai
      March 12 2015

      You’re welcome, Sarah. If your doctors didn’t mention surgery, that’s wonderful! The reasons mine gave for needing it were multiple, but I still will think twice before doing it again — (1) the tumors can continue to grow and eventually become disfiguring (2) they can obscure other more dangerous tumors and make future mammograms unreadable and (3) though rare, some benign tumors can eventually become malignant. Best of luck with your journey!

  • amy
    March 17 2015

    I have no idea how i missed this post but i am so unbelievably sorry about everything you have had to go through. You’re an absolute rockstar to be able to go through, and write about something that is still so raw and i hope many people going through the same thing take comfort from your words.

    Keep on keeping on, hope you find some answers soon xxx
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    • Meihoukai
      March 17 2015

      Thank you Amy. I’m grateful for the platform to be able to share this story and hopefully provide some comfort to others going through the same.

  • Carrie
    March 30 2015

    Wow, it is crazy how closely your story resembles mine. I didn’t have fibroadenoma, but something called PASH and unfortunately had to have a double mastectomy to keep the benign tumors from growing back. I had my last reconstructive surgery that included a skin graft from my stomach 2 weeks before leaving for a backpacking trip to Asia! I was so scared I was in too much pain to go but suited up and went anyway. You’re really brave for writing this piece because I often find it hard to talk about my experience, but maybe I will be able to blog about it too one day. Thank you for sharing!

    • Meihoukai
      March 31 2015

      Oh Carrie, I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been through that — but so thrilled to hear it hasn’t slowed you down. I have found it hard to talk about my experience as well — writing this post really challenged me though and I think helped me work through a lot of that. Wishing you nothing but health moving forward!

  • [email protected]
    April 22 2015

    In case it helps, as a breast cancer survivor I have done a ton of research into food and nutrition. I recommend you read Dr. Gabriel Cousens “Conscious eating” or the condensed version “Rainbow Diet” as there is a lot of information there.

    Basically it boils down to these basics:
    Give up all dairy
    Give up sugar
    Give up caffeine
    Eat as much greens as possible
    As fresh from the ground as possible. Ear organic as often as possible.

    Avoid processed foods.
    Avoid pork, shellfish, chicken… Meat.

    I have been living a nomadic lifestyle of almost two years, am cancer free and yes its hard in the road to eat well, but if you make it your priority, it gets easier. After all, its your survival and its your ticket to continuing to live and travel.

    Good luck, good health. Feel free to email me if you want to discuss further or more info…[email protected]. My oncologist gave me none of the nutritional information which has saved and changed my life!

    • Meihoukai
      April 23 2015

      Thank you so much for sharing Peta… I will definitely be checking out those books you recommended. It’s inspiring to hear from someone who is juggling travel, a serious health issue, and finding their own alternative treatments. Wishing you nothing but continuation of the same!

  • Hayley
    May 16 2015

    Hi Meihoukai,

    Wow, what a vulnerable, raw and beautiful post.. thank you for sharing a deep part of yourself and what you are going through. It is so beautiful that you are remaining in the energy of gratitude as I think that is also real important.

    I also wanted to share and echo Peta’s comments about eating cleanly. Check out Tyler Tolman who shares information which allows your body to heal itself… even eat away at the tumors and create a healthy body where they don’t come back, through juicing, fasting and eating wholefoods. He follows the 7 principles of health: (Air, Water, Sunshine, Wholefoods, Exercise, Passion & Relationships)…. all of which I believe you could do whilst traveling and sharing your amazing stories. Tyler shares a lot of information, including how he helped someone shrink their brain tumor by more than 80% in 30 days… anyway, I just wanted to share because I truly believe we can heal ourselves and live the lives we want!

    Also, I believe you met a friend of mine in Contiki.. Ed… I worked with him many years ago in France on Contiki.. loved your article on it. so true! I now live in Bali, and help Tyler and the Conscious Lifestyler Team here… a different kind of lifestyle but I feel amazing for it!

    Wishing you an amazing journey onwards… and if you are ever in Bali again! Let me know!

    Hayley 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      May 17 2015

      Hey Hayley! I loved Ed, what a small world 🙂 Appreciate all your kind words and advice — I will look into Tyler Tolman, thank you! I hope I will make it back to Bali someday soon. Stay in touch!

  • Brittany
    May 30 2015

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and your experiences with this! I am 19 and currently going through the upkeep and maintenance of this condition and it is so frustrating to be confused by all of the medical comings and goings, and not really not knowing how to deal with it. I am really contemplating surgery, but I don’t know, Is it worth it? Or should I just leave it be? Thanks so much for your advice and help with this annoying issue-It’s so comforting to know that I’m not alone in this!

    • Meihoukai
      May 31 2015

      Hey Brittany — I wrote this post exactly for people like you. I too have found comfort in the comments and kindness from others! I know what you’re going through and how frustrating it can all feel. Best of luck making those tough calls.

  • Jamie
    June 6 2015

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing something so difficult so beautifully!

    In a few days I leave for a five week adventure in Colombia and Ecuador; countries # 32 & #33. This will be the “Victimless” trip.

    Sequence of Events:
    Spring 2013: Gyno tells me my thyroid is swollen
    June 2013: Worst break-up of my life from a man I thought I was marrying that same year
    July 2013: At my brother’s wedding, my Dad reminds me there is a history of goiter in our family. (How did I not know this?)
    Aug 2013: I “secretly” accept a position with a new company and am leaving my office to tell my boss when the phone rings. Dr. tells me I have two tumors in my thyroid. Definitely cancer. Surger asap. I lose it. Due to the rigor of the new said job and lack of insurance within the first 90 days, I cannot take the job altogether. I leave work bawling.
    Sept.2013: I get second and third opinions. I even look into not have surgery and using homeopathic treatments…no luck. It’s gotta come out.
    Oct. 2013: Surgery. My parents stay with me for a month. I do not do well with surgery because my veins collapse. Eight IVs later, they discharge me from the hospital . I’m thyroid-less. Tumor-less. Somehow I feel “less” and thus starts the “victim card”.
    Nov-May 2013-14: I spent countless hours sorting through insurance claims, finances, and question my career. For the first time in my life, I haven’t traveled. I remain still and scared.
    June 2014: I quit my job and make a big move to be closer to a man who has seen me through this rough year.
    Aug. 2014: I start my new job and watch my once-saving-grace-relationship unfold worse than I could have imagined. I cry more in this year than the last. How can this be?
    Fall 2014: I travel a bit but am lonely. Depression starts. Victim card now hows several stamps on it.
    Spring 2015: Reinvent minimalism by moving into a tiny apartment alone. I feel like I’ve reached rock-bottom. Single, depressed, gained 25lbs, and still not in the clear with my Dr.
    May 2015: Dr. tell me I’m officially in “remission”. They think no traces of cancer are left. I sit in my car crying with gratitude and shame of how I’ve allowed myself to be a “victim” this past year. I call my mom.
    June 2015: I book a spontaneous backpacking trip, like the “old me” would, to S. America. I have a long conversation with myself that it’s time to “Live Like A Motherf*cker”! I am not cancer’s victim. I’m not that victim of two broken hearts. I am alive and learning to love myself again . . . so I get back to my roots: TRAVEL. Never stop!

    This is the first time I’ve ever written about my life. I’m starting to own my story. Thank you for sharing yours and unknowingly giving me a place to speak mine.

    • Meihoukai
      June 8 2015

      What an inspiring story, Jamie! I was really moved by the last part of your comment, which is everything I hoped for in writing this post. I hope South America is every bit as healing and inspiring as you deserve it to be. Keep writing that great story…

  • Jamie
    June 6 2015

    PS: I am also suspicious of people who do not love breakfast. 🙂

  • Maria del mar
    July 1 2015

    You are a brave girl. Thanks for sharing this story so personal to you. I wish you lots of health and many travels!

    • Meihoukai
      July 2 2015

      You are so welcome Maria. So far it’s been all clear — the good wishes are working 🙂

  • Crystal
    September 2 2015

    Its so nice to know someone has gone through a very similar situation to me.

    My 2nd lumpectomy is on Thursday and I just want it out!! This one is right at the bottom of my breast just near to where my under wire sits and it is really quite large (to the point that it is visible without a bra on)

    • Meihoukai
      September 9 2015

      I empathize, Crystal. Thinking of you and yes, it really does help to know you aren’t alone.

  • Shweta
    September 30 2015

    I can’t thank you enough for writing this post.

    Just like you, I was diagnosed with fibroadenoma in my left breast in November 2012. I was told it’s benign on the basis of ultrasound by the radiologist and a surgeon I had consulted then. I went crazy doing ultrasounds every month until the surgeon asked me to not stress and not go for surgery so young.

    It has been nearly 3 years and a year back I felt a lump in my right breast too. I haven’t had a biopsy done nor mammogram (because I am under 30). One gynae suggested to get it removed while one surgeon says to ignore as more will keep popping even if I remove it. It is so confusing and frustrating. I am trying to take a decision by the end of this year.

    Anyway the things that bother me are not being able to do simple things like sleep on my stomach, massages and some yoga postures and exercises. I am already busty, on top of it these lumps make me feel like I am walking around with two heavy stones.

    I tried to find real stories of women like me as opposed to medical writeups in the last 3 years to understand if there are others who too face trouble sleeping on tummy or can’t think about massages just so that I have the comfort of company.But no luck. Until I Googled ‘cant sleep on stomach due to fibroadenoma’ today 😀 and your blog was on top.

    So I am thankful to you that you wrote a blog about this condition and described all that you have gone through in detail.

    • Meihoukai
      October 2 2015

      I know how you feel Shweta — I was looking for stories like this one too. So I decided I just had to write one myself. The feedback from comments like this one has been amazing, and made me feel like I’m not alone either. Thank you for sharing as well, and best of luck making your decision. I know it won’t be an easy one.

  • CC
    October 13 2015

    Meihoukai – I delved into your posts last winter when I was preparing for my trip to Peru, loving your sunny and (refreshingly) honest outlook on everything.

    I’m currently awaiting removal of a suspected fibroadenoma and couldn’t believe it when I stumbled back upon your blog searching for people with similar experiences! Thank you so much for sharing your experience – I’m twenty two and have found not many younger women are so open and forthcoming when it comes to discussing fibroadenoma’s.

    Keep being amazing 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      October 15 2015

      Thank you so much, CC. Comments like yours made the emotional difficulty of writing this post worth it a million times over. There’s nothing like finding someone else is going through something that made you feel alone. Wishing you the best of health and happiness!

  • Louise
    December 8 2015

    Such an informative post on what it’s like to go through this experience! I was diagnosed with a fibroadenoma 4 months ago and I am scheduled to have my surgery next week. Everything has just hit me and i’ve started to get supper anxious about the whole thing! This post has helped me so much, so thank you! xx

    • Meihoukai
      December 10 2015

      So glad to hear that Louise. I know what it feels like to be searching and searching for real stories about what it’s like to go through this! Glad I and the others who have written in with their stories have helped others find some… Good luck x

  • Syea
    January 1 2016

    Your entry is amazing. I too had a surgery in Jan last year, about 6 months after I was first diagnosed with fibroadenoma. Went to consult 3 different doctors & finally decided for surgery. Except no one in my family knows to this day. I went to the surgery in the morning (all by myself), pretty positive that I would be out by 2 pm. Ha! I hate hospitals so that’s my way of dealing with my anxiety & fear, thinking there’s nothing serious, they would just cut a bit, a few stitches and I would be out in no minute. Only that, the surgeon lasted longer because they’d found out a few more lumps from the previous Scan & I was operated on both sides instead of only on the left side where I could feel the lump.

    I left for home at 7 pm, feeling proud with myself (or probably it was the gas tht got me a bit high :p ?)

    My recovery wasn’t that pain free. I’d bad muscle ache the next day all over my body that everything just felt too heavy. Lying down to sitting up took me almost 20 mins because the incision throbbed so bad. The first 48 hours was the hardest but things started to get better after that. I even managed to take a flight out to the next city, 4 days after my surgery. Just that I had to walk super super slow because every step hurt a lil bit. The bleeding stopped a week later, just about a day before I met my surgeon for follow-up. All-in all, 7 days post surgery, I could function as normal though the pain lingered quite awhile. I could still feel the needle-sharped pain up to 6-7 months after, so no sleeping on my stomach for months! Was told that was due to the nerves trying to heal & not the scar itself.

    So for anyone who’s looking for advice/guidance – I would say perhaps prepare more to speed up your recovery. Some ppl were just lucky to experience little/no discomfort while some still struggling for months post surgery. Simply listen to your body & don’t exert yourself too much.

    & Thank you Meihoukai for sharing this. I thought I would never be able to share what I went through but this post just made me feel called to write my share of the story. 🙂

    *and yeah, the very first question that I asked my surgeon was – is 2 days post-surgery too soon for me to get on the plane. (I completely took up the in-denial attitude! ) Oh well, I rarely re-schedule my travel plan but for this particular circumstances, I did add another 2 days to it.

    • Meihoukai
      January 4 2016

      Thank you so much for sharing your story Syea. I’m so sorry to hear you had such a painful recovery. That sounds awful — and is a good warning to others to take it easy after, indeed.

  • Katy
    January 26 2016

    I just stumbled on your post today a couple hours after finding out three breast fibroadenomas are back after having three removed less than a year ago. And needless to say it was perfect. I wanted to say thanks for the laughs when I needed it most. Totally relatable. I’m 23 and a month after my first lumpectomy I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and have just started getting the hang of that so this will be a process. But hearing your story helped me to start it off laughing and put one foot in front of the other. Thanks for sharing!

    • Meihoukai
      January 31 2016

      Hey Katy, thank you so much for sharing. Writing this post was scary but comments like these make it 110% worth it! Wishing you the very best of health.

  • Myles
    February 14 2016

    U are not alone. I also have fibroadenoma. My first was when I was 20 and 2nd is I was 31. Ant now I’m 36 I have again. At my right breast I have 4 but not painful and on my left I have 3 and painful have to observe in 6 months. My doc said that they will disappear but still I’m worried. I have may questions and I’m confuse. I always cry. But the only best thing to do is pray.
    As i read your post I cried and I said to myselfthat I’m not alone.
    Thank u for your story.
    God Bless.

    • Meihoukai
      February 16 2016

      So sorry to hear you’ve been struggling with this as well, Myles. As you can see from this post and the comments, you certainly are not alone. Sending you good, healing vibes x

  • Belle
    May 24 2016

    Hi Meihoukai,

    Its good to realize I am not alone.. I have fibroadenoma when I was only 18 now I’m 24 but I have not gotten rid of it…Still afraid of knife…
    I remember crying all day when realizing I have a breast cyst and it still hunts me until today…

    • Meihoukai
      May 24 2016

      If the comments here are any insight, you’re definitely not alone, Belle. So sorry you’re going through this too. Stay strong!

  • Jamie
    August 12 2016

    Meihoukai – I know I’ve read this post before (probably when you originally posted) but just re-read it after you linked to it, and man it hits home a lot more now! I had a similar experience this year… went in for genetic testing (to see if I had the BRCA gene) and they ended up finding an abnormal lump… mammogram, MRI, and core needle biopsy followed. I was SO stressed out and upset – I can’t even imagine how you were feeling dealing with that on top of work commitments and international travel! I guess I just wanted to say THANK YOU for writing this – I’m sure it’s hard to share your boob drama with the world, but I definitely appreciate it. Nice not to feel alone! <3

    • Meihoukai
      August 13 2016

      You are so welcome Jamie. I too have been overwhelmed by the sense of support and community in this post! We certainly are not alone.

  • Roxanne
    August 13 2016

    Hi Meihoukai,

    Reading this I can relate to this but I never mentioned on my blog what was my real condition before because I was afraid to mention it totally. But with you here, I realized I wasn’t alone with the situation. I had my surgery in August 2014. It was really traumatic for me and I had a scheduled travel to Hong Kong in October 2014 so I was really hesitant for surgery. But I was glad somebody paid for my surgery.

    I wrote my story here – A stranger paid for my surgery
    Roxanne recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 13 2016

      That’s a very kind gesture from a strange, Roxanne! Glad you’re feeling good today!

  • Audrey
    September 14 2016

    I am 20, and found out last January (19 years old) that I had a fibroadenoma as well. They did a breast exam, and sent me for an ultrasound in March. The nurses there told me that it was benign and nothing to worry about. Months later, I got a call from the cancer center in the city next to me, they were furious that the nurses didn’t send me for a surgical consult. I went for the consult, now in May, and was immediately scheduled for a core needle biopsy. It wasn’t awful, but I’d hate to do it again haha! I bruised very badly after this, but healed pretty well, as I had to go to work the next day. They confirmed that it was just a benign tumor and for follow ups every 6 months, for 2-4 years. My only concern is the deformation of my breast, the pain it causes, and location of the tumor…. Glad to know it’s not just me in this position! P.s. I love Grey’s!!

    • Meihoukai
      September 14 2016

      I know how you feel Audrey. It can all be very overwhelming and confusing, and I’m comforted greatly by the comments others have left here. We are certainly not alone — and Grey’s does rock!

  • Rhi
    December 27 2016

    Thank you for sharing your story, Meihoukai. I am 23 years old and I just found a lump in my breast. From the ultrasound, they are pretty sure its fibroadenoma. The breast specialist suggested surgery due to the size of my benign tumor. I haven’t had surgery since I was in elementary school and I’m really scared. I think I am more scared of the IV than anything. I have tried so many ways to calm down, but I just can’t. My surgery is in a couple weeks. Do you have any advice on how to calm down and handle the IV?

    • Meihoukai
      December 29 2016

      Hey Rhi, I’m sorry to hear you are anxious about your surgery — and I understand. Frankly, I’d recommend asking your doctor or nurse for some anti-anxiety medication, but if you prefer not to take that you might consider looking into some breathing exercises or yoga classes that can teach you some natural anti-anxiety methods. Good luck, I’ll be sending good thoughts.

  • Laryssa
    January 3 2017

    Meihoukai, I’ve been reading your blog for years and very recently (biopsy last week, in fact) have been through the rigamarole of this. I’ve come back to this post several times throughout the ordeal, and seriously, it has helped calm me down whenever I get flustered. Thank you so much for sharing!
    Laryssa recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 11 2017

      Hey Laryssa, I’m sorry to hear that, friend! As you can see from the comments section here, you are certainly not alone. Sending you lots of healing calming vibes xo

  • lizel
    April 2 2017

    wow .your such a brave girl, , can share me some advice, cause my sister have fibroadenoma in breast, that doctors said she really had to undergo into a surgery , so I the doctors that if there is really a second option. can you please advice me ??thank you

    • Meihoukai
      April 4 2017

      I’m sorry to hear that Lizel. As I mentioned in this post, since my second surgery I’ve learned that there are some possible laser ablation options but I haven’t looked into them extensively. Fingers crossed I never have another fibroadenoma and don’t have to! You may wish to look into it for your sister. Best of luck, thinking of you both.

  • Portia
    April 8 2017

    i really appreciate this blog. i am 22 years old . i was diagnosed with fibroisadenoma in 2014. they told me i needed surgery i ignored it until now 2017. i recently went back to the hospital because im experiencing pain and i will soon have my first surgery. im so scared.

    • Meihoukai
      April 9 2017

      I’m so sorry to hear that Portia. Best of luck with your surgery. I know it’s scary and a big deal to us as patients but I try to remind myself that to the doctors it’s just a simple, routine procedure. Thinking of you!

  • Sandy
    May 1 2017

    Thank-you for writing this post and sharing your experience. I had never even heard of fibroadenomas before and am grateful to you for sharing in case I do need this information in the future (but hopefully I won’t).

    • Meihoukai
      May 12 2017

      You’re so welcome Sandy. I am amazed by the number of comments from others here who have had the same — I definitely don’t feel alone any longer.

  • Portia
    June 14 2017

    hey. its me again. i just recently went for the removal and they did a breast lumpection. the shape is still there though it was a very huge lump. I still have pains even today though it’s been 6 days since i did it. I thought i was gonna be back to normal and as u said im stuck at home unable to do anything. i wish there was an easier way to you for the support and because i have so many questions to ask. thank you for your life story, it gave me the courage and strength to go through with this.

    • Meihoukai
      June 15 2017

      Hey Portia! So good to hear from you again, though I am so sorry you aren’t healing as quickly as hoped — I do know the feeling. Stay strong, read these comments and remember you aren’t alone! Wishing you lots of health and healing.

  • Kyla
    June 27 2017

    Thank you for writing about your experience. It’s comforting to know that I am not alone. I have a surgery set for Thursday to remove 2 fibroadenomas, and feel a bit less anxious reading your post. Can’t wait to start hiking again!

    • Meihoukai
      June 28 2017

      So happy to hear that you’re a tad less anxious Kyla. Feel better my dear! You’ll be back in hiking boots before you know it!

  • mmh
    November 11 2017

    Hey Meihoukai !! its good to hear that now you are tumor free but i have a question to ask ?? does all this affect your breast size or growth ?

    • Meihoukai
      November 12 2017

      Hi there! No, I did not find there was any effect — although I keep gaining weight with age so that makes them bigger, ha.