Thursday, 1 October 2015

The C Word (part two)

July 2015

Almost three years to the month, I have another lump in my breast. The similarities in this and the last case are uncanny; my husband discovers the lump during morning sex, it's summer time and our annual family holiday is imminent.

This time the lump on my left boob and feels much bigger than the one I experienced before.  The discovery happens at 6.30am. I'm on the phone to the doctor's surgery at 8am sharp. By 11 o'clock I'm sitting face to face with one of the nicest doctors in our practice. Not that I'm shy on these matters, but I feel its a bonus the doctor is female and probably about my age.

She listens to my concerns and carries out the examination. She checks both breasts and discovers a smaller lump in my right breast too; one I hadn't detected. The most offending intrusion is about an inch in size. Once again, I'm being referred to the breast clinic. The earliest they can see me is ten days away; the Monday following my annual break. I have my holiday and try to switch off but during that time I often kick myself for being lapse with my self examination routine. Life at home was chaotic. My husband was poorly, my dad was in and out of hospital, my daughter was on extended school leave following her GCSE's, I had a new job to think about and I was also coming to terms with the fact a *close friend is a hospice and on borrowed time.  Checking my boobs was the last thing on my mind over the past ten weeks but I was fast realising that no matter what life throws at us, we should always make time for ourselves - however, we choose to spend it.

August 2015

We arrive at the clinic about 8.40am although the appointment isn't until 9am. Its a warm, bright day and sunlight floods through the huge glass panels that adorn the front of the building.
'This is where I brought dad for his biopsy' I tell my husband, once again making small talk to break the silence whilst we waited.

A few minutes after 9 o'clock, we're called through. A nurse goes through the same conversation and I listen intently, even though I've been here before.

My consultant breezes in through the door with a cheerful smile. I instantly take to her. She's about 5' 6", slim and has dark cropped hair. She's wearing a bright flowery dress that has a wrap-over styled top. Her black patent shoes are supported by a modest heel. She introduces herself with a firm handshake.

We go over all the details; when I discovered the lump, have I had them before, does it feel any different etc etc. The physical examination follows and she's almost certain its more cysts but the mammogram and ultrasound are still needed to be absolutely sure. There are lots of reassuring smiles and comments. I'm in good hands.

We share the next waiting room with other patients. There's an elderly woman in a wheelchair accompanied by her husband, a young girl who appears to be with her partner and another female companion and man in his forties/fifties sitting by himself.

I'm called for my mammogram and it's the same procedure as before. Each breast is pressed twice between two clear plates whilst images of my breast tissue can be taken and the nurse operating the machine gives nothing away regarding the scan. She simply asks me to put the cape back on and wait for my ultrasound.

The young girl comes out with her head hung low. She passes a form to one of her friends and I hear the words 'biopsy required'. She couldn't have been much more that twenty. My heart sinks. The man then returns from his mammogram. I feel just a sorry for him too. There on his own and in a predominantly female environment, but we have to remember, no-one has a get out of jail free card when it comes to cancer.

When it comes to my ultrasound I'm feeling relatively relaxed. I lay on the couch and the sonographer introduces himself. There are two female nurses in attendance too. A cold gel is squeezed from a tube on to my right breast then the left. Both lumps are detected and confirmed as cysts.
'I'll drain them now for you and once we're done you can go. You don't need to see the consultant again today'
He then asks for a 5ml and 20ml vile for the drains. Wow. 20ml? That sounds like a lot.
Going for the smallest cyst first, he pushes one side of my breast with the ultrasound camera to get a clear picture and pierces my skin on the opposite side to make the drain. It stings but its soon over.

The left breast proves a little more tricky. The sonographer is sitting on my right side anyway so has to lean over me. Again, he pushes the camera down firmly for a clear picture but the first needle, although it pierces the skin doesn't reach the cyst. He apologies profusely and asks me to turn on to my right side so my left side is more accessible. The second piercing doesn't just sting, it hurts. First one then two tears, slide down my face. The needle moving around inside me doesn't feel pleasant at all. A sharp intake of breath. The nurse asks if I'm okay. I bite my lip and nod. She rubs my arm and holds my arm to comfort me. I try to distract myself by looking at the image on screen but its all blurred due to the tears in my eyes.

Once the procedure is over, a few more tears fall, but I still try to stifle them. The nurse comforts me further and hands me tissues.
'You don't have to move until you're ready. Are you sure you feel okay?'
'Yeah, I'm okay. Just relieved the uncertainty is over and the cysts are gone.'

I blow my nose and gently rise from the bed.

'Thank you so much for everything' I say genuinely, collecting my belongings and exiting the room.

I give my husband the thumbs up. I dress and leave, feeling somewhat more cheerful.

Its only when we get home that my husband confesses to receiving a message whilst we were on our drive to the hospital.

'There's no good time to say this, but *Claire passed away this morning.'

More tears - but this time I let them flow.

K x


This blog has been inspired by the Protect Your Breasts Campaign.
You can follow them on Twitter @PYB_cancer
My thanks to @Cameron_Lincoln for bringing the campaign to my attention and for the gentle encouragement to share my story x

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