Fog of Denial

Perspectives of a doctor becoming a patient – Part 1

One day, when I was 27 years old, suddenly, out of the blue, I noticed a breast lump. Since I am a doctor, my initial reaction was to wait a few weeks to see if it changed with my menstrual cycle. It was pretty easy for me to ignore the problem once I chalked it up to fibrocystic change (changes the breast undergoes during the menstrual cycle). This is probably rationalization, a defense mechanism. Unfortunately, the lump did not change at all, and suddenly I felt something I wouldn’t have felt if it was my young patient who told me about a breast lump—fear.

Now, if my 27 year old patient told me about a breast lump, I would tell her that the most common solid tumor of the breast in women under 35 is a fibroadenoma. These tumors are simply removed surgically and then forgotten. They are not cancer. But honestly, I remember being very afraid of what the lump contained. And do you know what my reaction was? To ignore it. I just simply did nothing. I didn’t tell anyone and I didn’t think about.

Now this is not the advice I would give to my patients; if you have a breast lump, you don’t panic but you don’t ignore it. You simply make an appointment with a doctor in a reasonable amount of time to address it. But you have to understand that I was scared, and being scared meant I needed to address the issue when I was ready. Luckily it didn’t take me too long to get out of the fog of denial and realize I needed to do something.

The next thing I did was look up breast lumps in my medical texts, because I wanted to find out what was wrong—worst case scenario first. Yes, rationalization helps me. The medical texts confirmed what I knew and I felt relief….

More to come with tomorrow’s blog post!

Published on: September 01, 2010
About the Author
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Veronica Lois is a second year pediatric resident at Stanford University who enjoys writing and now wants to share her medical knowledge with the general public.

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