In February I was under the impression that my life was perfect, I had just been given an amazing opportunity at work, I had met somebody (who at the time, I thought was the perfect man but that is another story) and I had the most amazing circle of friends and family who I loved dearly. Until one fateful weekend I did my usual cursory, every couple of months, breast check. For some or other reason I have been doing these checks since I was 17 thanks to a very nice teacher at my High School who spoke to us girls about the importance and the “how to”. I had come to know how my bits felt and what I felt certainly did not feel like my bits…
My first initial thought was: I am going to ignore this. Will engage the ostrich method, stick my head in the sand and it will go away. Fortunately sanity prevailed and I made an appointment with my “oh so lovely, caring, no-nonsense” GP.
My nerves were shot, I was stammering and stuttering and eventually explained the situation. She calmly led me to the bed and conducted a breast exam. She confirmed my worst nightmare. It was indeed a lump. Her advice was for me not to panic and promptly referred me for a sonar exam.
A day later I went for the sonar in my lunch hour, being CDO (Like OCD but the letters are in alphabetical order as they should be) I had done an intensive web search to understand exactly what I was facing, how long it would take, would it hurt, etc. Reading up on the process I wasn’t as nervous because it was going to take about 10 minutes and then all would be revealed. Little did I know!!
It all started when I had to provide my age. Due to me being 39 the team insisted that before I go for the sonar I should rather go for a mammogram. OH the HORROR! I had heard from various of my friends the absolute agony these are. I bravely donned the ever so glamorous, butt revealing, light shade of baby pink gown and waited… and waited… and waited.
Eventually it was my turn. I staggered up to this machine looking like something out of a horror movie set in the future and had a very sweet little girl “position” me to take the mammogram. It seems that these machines are built for women with an average height of 5 foot and I had to squat down to “fit” the “bits” on the “screen”. I was petrified. The machine started doing its thing and I can honestly say, it’s not as bad as everybody lead me to believe. It wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t painful, at best it was awkward and uncomfortable. The results were taken to the radiologist and I waited… and waited… and waited…
The very nice young lass returned, explained that even though we could feel the lump it couldn’t be picked up on the mammogram so we have to try again. Reload process… squat, hold on to the sides, grin, bear it, squash them a little harder… hold. OK. Results back to radiologist and I wait… and wait… and wait.
So sorry, still not seeing it! OK, breathe, this is NOT a figment of your imagination, YOU felt it, HE felt it, the DOCTOR felt it, the ASSISTANT felt it, it is definitely there, we must just find it.
So we try again, this time the lovely young assistant made a cross with two staples put the staple-cross on some cello tape, I bend over, together we find the lump, attach cello tape, squat, hold on to the sides of the machine, grin, bear it, reload – different “tray” – squat, hold on to the sides of the machine, grin, bear it, hold, done. I am emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted but I wait hopefully this time we have success.
Yes, there is a slight shadow in the breast but it is not clear enough to pick up exactly what it is. Let’s do the sonar exam. Yeah! Progress AND I know this will NOT hurt.
A very stern, no-nonsense lady enters the room with pearls strung around her neck. She reminds me of my mum and immediately I relax, here is somebody I can trust. She didn’t exactly apologize for the THREE mammograms in one day, just noted that we should rather be safe than sorry.
With me nicely stretched out on a hospital bed, she takes the gel from its heating pad and starts the sonar exam. Then those dreaded words “uh-oh”. This does not look good.
My heart stops, WHAT?
We will have to do a biopsy.
OK, when would you like to do it I naively ask as she puts on the rubber gloves and brings out a needle with local anesthetic…
Now I have to admit that the biopsy does NOT hurt, you are WAY too numb to feel anything, but the sound is like a staple gun.
After that there wasn’t much more that I could take or that they could do. We had to wait for the results. What was supposedly a 10 minute routine check had turned into an afternoon of three mammograms, a sonar, a biopsy and a feeling of dread.
Since this is a journey, I will update the story in installments but the key take out for me from this bit is:
Learn to do your breast exams.
Get to know what your bits feel like.
If you are unsure as to how, ask your GP – they know.
Finally, if you find something, ANYTHING that feels like it doesn’t belong, have it checked out.
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