When I was 21, I had size 34HH boobs (that got your attention didn’t it?!).
They were ginormous beasts that made every day a nightmare. They started to grown when I was 11 & just didn’t seem to stop! I am only 5’4″ & was once asked by a guy in a bar how I managed to stand up – it was a fair question! I suffered constantly with backache, regularly got pervy comments from men, had a nightmare shopping for clothes that fitted (I was a size 12 on the bottom & a 22 on the top) & had to give up the sports I loved because I was a danger to myself & others & the pain in my back & shoulders for days after was agony – not to mention the bruises & blisters on my shoulders from having them (semi) contained in a sports bra!
Because of all of these things, I decided to have a breast reduction. It was the best thing I ever did. My new D-cup boobs were still not small, but I felt they were in proportion to the rest of my curves & I loved them. The surgeon did explain that this may lead to problems breastfeeding, but at 21 with no boyfriend & thoughts of children a million years away, I considered the implications of this for about a millisecond & signed the consent form.
Fast forward to December 2010 & after a c-section I am presented with the most beautiful baby boy I have ever seen & I am overwhelmed by the mother of all urges (pun intended) to nurture & protect him. I had mentioned several times through pregnancy that I had had a breast reduction but was keen to breastfeed & my concerns were often swatted away with a ‘don’t you worry’, so – naturally – I thought I didn’t need to worry. The reality was that I was unable to feed Little T myself, as I only got milk in one boob. I did persevere for almost a week trying to do 8 feeds a day on just the one side, but I reached the point where I would wince as soon as the baby was passed to me I’d wince because I knew what he wanted & my lone boob was so sore. Little T didn’t grow as much as we’d hoped & I started to mix feed, which made us all much more relaxed & also meant that Mr T was able to do some of the feeds, which he loved (& so did I, because he inevitably did the last feed before he went to bed & I stole a few more hours sleep!).
I stopped breastfeeding in March the following year, following a particularly painful episode of mastitis & my milk supply seemed to dwindle off completely within about a week.
This was where the wierdness started….
About 2 weeks after my milk supply had totally stopped, it came back. With a vengence. I felt like my body was well & truly sticking 2 fingers up at me because I now had more milk than while I was trying to feed, yet after a month of bottles, Little T wasn’t interested in my offerings any more. I went to see the GP & explained this, plus the fact that I was suffering with constant headaches & mood swings, I’d had no period since giving birth 4 months previously & poor Mr T just didn’t know which wife he was coming home to every evening! The GP advised me to ‘give it time’.
I was told the same thing in May, July & September when I returned, still leaking milk on a daily basis & wearing breastpads, despite now being back at work.
By December, I had had enough & plucked up the courage to ask for a referral about my problem. I felt I had upheld my part of the ‘give it time’ diagnosis & wanted some answers. I was referred to an endocrinologist & they did some blood tests which found that my prolactin level was about a hundred times what is considered the norm for a woman who isn’t pregnant or breastfeeding. He also referred me for an MRI scan to rule out anything serious & said that if the results were normal, he’d see me in the January to discuss options. I had the scan on the Wednesday, the week before Little T’s first birthday & received a phonecall on the Thursday to say could I go in to see the consultant on the Friday for an appointment. This didn’t sound like good news, so I took my mummy with me.
The doctor told me that the MRI scan had picked up a tumour on my pituitary gland that was about 1cm in dimeter, which was the culprit for all of the symptoms I had been feeling. It is a benign tumour, so not cancerous, which was a massive relief, but all the same I HAD A TUMOUR IN MY BRAIN!!!!! I was prescribed treatment for the tumour & the consultant explained that the aim was to try & shrink it, or keep it the same size. I would have regular blood tests to measure my prolactin levels & a yearly MRI scan to check on the size of the tumour. I would need this treatment for 3 years & during this time, I was not advised to become pregnant, as the data for pregnancy whilst on the treatment was not available & the tumour is likely to double in size – as a minimum – with all the hormonal changes in pregnancy. If I were to have another pregnancy, I would also be closely monitored throughout & put on treatment again as soon as possible afterward, although I take comfort in the fact that I wouldn’t have to go through the 6 months of not knowing like I previously did.
Despite being struck dumb in my appointment, after leaving the hospital, I had a thousand questions I suddenly thought of & I was lucky to find the Pituitary Foundation website, that answered them all & put me in touch with other people in the same situation as me.
I am now 2 years into my treatment & the blood test results show that my levels of prolactin are being controlled with the medication. I no longer have milk (this stopped within a couple of months of commencing treatment), but I am still experiencing the symptoms of tiredness, irregular cycle, mood swings & weight gain (in my case, this is a difficulty to lose it).
I am also finding it hard that the decision to have another baby has been taken out of my hands, as people I met whilst pregnant with Little T, or friends who were experiencing the roller-coaster with me the first time are now becoming pregnant with their second babies. I am over the moon for all of them & know that each case hasn’t been without ups & downs, but I sometimes wish it could be me. I am trying to take an ‘everything happens for a reason’ approach & I am sure I will look back in years to come – either with another child, or with the most amazing boy ever, in Little T & see that all the pieces have fallen into place, but right now I’m finding that a little difficult. This has been one of the reasons for starting ‘Project Happiness‘ as I have so much to be thankful for, but sometimes I can be guilty of focussing on the ‘I have nots’ rather than the ‘I haves’.
There isn’t really a point to this blog, apart from to say that we know our bodies better than anyone else ever could & if you are sure there is something wrong, then push for a second opinion. I wish I had done it sooner & – although I am aware the diagnosis could have been an awful lot worse & I am very lucky – I would be almost 6 months closer to finishing my treatment. Prolactinomas are not very well-known & when I went back to my GP after my MRI, he had to look it up in a book, yet they happen in about every 1 in 10,000 people – so with the estimated population of the UK at 63million, that’s not that uncommon & could affect you or someone you know.