Diesel Gas — and Why It Makes Me Think of Breast Cancer

It’s amazing what finding a lump in a breast can do to a person.

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month wraps up, I wanted to share an experience that I had a few years ago when I found a lump in my breast. And at the end of this story, you’ll understand perfectly why diesel gas and breast cancer will be forever linked in my mind.

Like everyone else in this world, I’ve dealt with plenty of stressful situations, and usually I’m able to do so without the stress impacting me in an unhealthy way. But when my doctor, told me that I needed to have an ultrasound and potentially a mammogram to check out a lump in my breast, my reaction was a panic that I’d never experienced before.

It’s funny, because I went into the appointment knowing that there was something odd in my breast — heck, that’s why I’d made the appointment. I figured that it was probably nothing, but that even if that was the case, my doctor would still order a test to be on the safe side. But for some reason, when Dr. Grogan told me that I needed to have the tests done, reality set in and my rational thinking went out the window.

Thankfully, Dr. Grogan’s wonderful nurse, Susanne, sensed my panic and was able to get me an appointment for the ultrasound for the next morning. I was beyond fortunate, given I know so many women have to wait days or weeks for appointments and results.

As soon as I shut my car door, I began to cry uncontrollably. Again, the logical side of me knew that this lump was probably nothing, but the panicked side had taken over and kept saying, “But what if tomorrow you find out this might be cancer?”

I took the rest of the day off of work, because I couldn’t keep it together. There were lots of tears that evening, too. The next morning, the panic was just as fresh and distracting as it had been the evening before. At the time, I lived in Smyrna, but my appointment was in Alpharetta, so I stopped to get gas.

I remember trying to force the gas nozzle into my tank opening. I wondered why it wouldn’t fit. But I was in such a rush that I didn’t think anything of it. The gas started flowing into my tank, and then it hit me — shit, I was putting diesel into the tank of my Honda Accord. (Go ahead and laugh at the stupidity of it all. Goodness knows I have!)  

What’s funny is that although I had ruined my gas tank, all I could think about was the fact that I was going to miss my appointment and would have to wait until I could reschedule to know what the deal was with my lump.  

Thankfully, my ex-husband (who I was married to at the time) was able to pick me up (I had to leave the car at the gas station, because if I’d driven it with the diesel in the gas tank, the damage would have been far worse than it was), and we arrived at the appointment just in time.

At the ultrasound, I learned that the lump was just a fibrous area that was nothing of concern. The relief I felt was indescribable. And amazingly enough, I wasn’t all that upset about the gas tank, knowing that I didn’t have breast cancer.

I spent the rest of the day dealing with the car and spending hundreds of dollars having the fuel tank replaced. But I learned an invaluable lesson about how your mind can react when it comes to thinking you might have a disease like cancer. I learned that even the calmest of cucumbers can lose it when panic ensues.  

If you’ve been in my shoes, whether you got good news or bad at that initial appointment, I have nothing but love and admiration for you. And if you haven’t been in my shoes, just know that if you ever are, you’re not alone — especially if you find yourself so panicked and distracted that you end up putting diesel gas in your car.

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