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Harriet Berkal: Up Front and Personal-My Scare with Breast Cancer

by Harriet Berkal Aug 23, 2021

As a kid, I remember once having a really bad sore throat, where I could barely swallow. My mom would simply call our paediatrician, who would miraculously show up at our house, close to dinner hour, to examine me. He didn’t stay for supper but wrote an RX and was on his way. Now that was what I call incredible healthcare! Home visitations by certain doctors, was not unusual back then.
Fast forward 50 years, and you appear to require a referral from your GP to see any specialist and/or to appeal for imaging. This can take months and during Covid, it’s reliability for action, has been exponentially compromised.
Who ever expected a pandemic ? But we are living through one, so we must advocate for ourselves more and try and navigate an excessively over taxed medical system.
Recently, I discovered a hard lump in my left breast and panicked. Within a few days there was a sister nodule presenting in the exact position on the other side.
I had completed my annual mammogram around February. Then, after a few months I was sent for ultrasound to investigate some suspicious lymph tissue under my right armpit. That imaging discovered multiple cysts in
my breasts all benign in nature. I could not feel any of them.
So what was going on within my mammary glands, which came on so suddenly post my June 22 Pfizer vaccine ? I needed to investigate this medical crisis and quickly.
One needs to learn the healthcare system, if one is to properly advocate for themselves.
So instead of going to my GP who is great to deal with, I knew about Breast Health Centre at 400 Tache. It falls under Shared Health and allows for anyone to self refer for further investigation. Breast Health Centre was conceived by breast cancer survivors who wanted the public to receive fast and efficient responses to their concerns. I was seen within less than a week. That’s quite a feat in itself. Where else within our medical system can one self refer? Cancer doesn’t stop growing until you can get into any specialist. So prompt attention is a necessity.
Before I went, I decided to research a bit as the only thing that was different between my last exams was receiving the Pfizer vaccine. And that’s when I felt a lump in my throat.
The first article I came upon spoke about a woman having aggressive stage two breast cancer. But wait maybe that was a coincidence. More investigation required.
The second article I found from WebMD was entitled: Covid Vaccine Reaction Can Mimic Breast Cancer Symptoms. COVID Vaccine Reaction Can Mimic Breast Cancer Symptoms - WebMD
“Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can cause lymph nodes to swell, particularly those in the armpit on the side where the shot was received, experts say.
Some women are feeling these armpit lymph nodes and mistaking them for breast lumps, according to a recent report.”
“Post-vaccine lymph node swelling is common and harmless, but doctors are concerned it could cause undue fear among women. It could also trigger a false positive on a mammogram, upping the need for unnecessary further testing, said Dr. Brett Parkinson, medical director of Intermountain Medical Center Breast Care Center in Murray, Utah.”
But what if this wasn’t the vaccine? What if I had an aggressive form of breast cancer?
Thank God I could go directly to Breast Health and have my fears addressed expeditiously.
The oncologist was very kind and I challenged him to find the nodules for himself. He had just looked at my recent mammogram plus ultrasound, but he located them both with the finesse of a specialist, in no time.
“I can see why the presentation of these masses caused you to be greatly concerned. Let me reassure you they are benign and most likely from the vaccine you had recently. “
I spoke to the Director of the Centre the next day and she informed me that Pfizer had sent out to the Association of Radiologists a warning regarding the fast onset of these nodules in some individuals.
No one mentioned this at the vaccination centre at all.
Since this experience, I know of individuals who have had nodules appear on their necks ( that might result in a biopsy o
if one has thyroid disease ) plus lumps in armpits which have required drainage and antibiotics.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel greatly privileged to have been vaccinated. I do however wonder what effects the vaccines ( particularly the nMRA’s) may be having hormonally on our systems.
I’ve had trouble controlling my thyroid numbers since the vaccinations. As well, I’ve heard of women who have IUD’s and who suddenly have experienced some breakthrough bleeding.
Do we really know what these inoculations are doing once introduced to our bodies? They were developed in warp speed.
But playing devil’s advocate, what choice did we have to protect us from Covid ? We will inevitably need boosters in the near future.
And I, and my two nodules will stand in line and graciously accept this new medicine made available to me and to millions of others.
Good healthcare can be hard to find. I am so completely grateful to Breast Health Centre for offering the type of prompt, efficient care they do to anyone who has concerns.
It’s as close to a house call as I’ll ever get to again.
Stay safe.
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.