My Big Fat Health Scare: My First Mammogram and other tales from the breast clinic…

Cancer. There. I said it. For most, it’s one of the scariest words in the dictionary. Chances are the majority of us have been effected directly or indirectly by this disease. My nanna survived breast cancer in the 1970s, thankfully, she lived a long and happy life until 2013. But I’m more than aware that my maternal line has had it’s fair share of the Big C and as such, I know I should have been checking my boobs more than I have.

Finding a Lump

Having said that, although I don’t pay my babs as much attention as I should, I do have a feel around in the shower when I remember, and just three weeks ago while lathering up, I did find a lump under my boob. It’s a weird sensation when at last you do find something potentially sinister.

You see, I’m a bit of a doomsayer, I’ve all-but convinced myself I’m just one day away from something utterly world destroying. So when, in my head, that day had finally come, I guess you could say it was a feeling of detachment and resignation to my inevitable fate. I’m ridiculous right? I told myself, it wouldn’t matter if I lost my hair, I had short hair anyway. Who needs boobs? They just get in the way and ache most of the time anyway. It sounds really blas√© but that’s how I deal with stuff.

Just me and my boobs…

Making the Call…

I calmly called the doctors, I told the receptionist without hesitation I had found a lump under my right breast and I would need to see a doctor. My sense of detachment still going strong. Within an hour, a female doctor returned my call. We had a chat about it and she agreed I should come in that day.

Wapping out the babs…

For, what would not be the first time that fortnight, I hopped up onto an examination table and bared my none-too-small lady lumps for a complete stranger to have a good old poke around. It was fine. She was a nice lady and helped me feel at ease. Scott was there every step of the way too, he’s a grand fella. The doctor assured me she was sure it was just some breast/scar tissue, but given my family history, she would refer me to the breast care clinic.

Not my first rodeo…

My local hospital has an exceptional breast care unit. I know this because I’ve gone with my mum before who herself found a lump (again) last year. Thankfully for us it was just a fibroid type thing.

Exceptional as it is though, it’s still not the cheeriest place to be, the waiting room filled with wonderful women facing unimaginable battles, some with hair, some without. Some in the same position as you, and some further down the line fighting this cruel illness. Despite this, I knew I was in good hands, so, just a week after my doctor’s appointment, and armed with my unwavering sense of detachment, I headed to the hospital.

Sadly, this time Scott couldn’t come into the unit with me, so he waited patiently in the corridor.

The ins and outs of it

I wanted to write this post, not to say “woe ist me, I had a little scare”, but to inform people of the process. Much in the same way I’ve written about smear tests in the past. These are things that we, as owners of wombs and boobs, are likely to experience. And if for one second I can take the mystique out of it and eliminate the taboo, then I’m going to write about it.

After a short wait I was called into the first examination room, while walking down the corridor with the Health Care Assistant, I was talked through the process and what to expect. I entered the room and had a chat with the doctor. Just a basic relay of the information I’d told the GP, then as with my GP appointment, over to the examination table. I whipped off my top and bra and laid down. The doctor examined me and unceremoniously drew a circle round the lump with a biro. That bit scared me more than anything, and I’m not altogether sure why? Maybe because now it wasn’t all in my head, the doctor could detect it too and had made an inky record of it.

After popping my clothes back on, I headed back out to the waiting room, ready for the next round…

The Mammogram

I think this, more than anything is the biggie isn’t it? It’s the one we’re told is painful, and how it crushes your boobs. And let’s face it, the prospect of slapping your tit out onto a weird squishy machine is pretty daunting. Again though, the nurse this time was fab, she was funny and kind and put me at total ease.

The procedure itself wasn’t as painful as I was lead to believe, but, as a word of warning, I am also one of those knobheads who thinks labour was a breeze too. I have a high pain threshold and a matter-of-a-fact attitude that seems to get me though most things. There’s no shame in finding it painful, we all experience pain in a different way.

The nurse helped me every step of the way, lifting my arms into various positions, asking me to lean a certain way, and reassuring me I was doing great. We had a hilarious conversation about face-masks, cannabis and New York. Once dressed again, I headed back out to the waiting room.

The final step in my appointment was an ultrasound scan. Off came the top and bra again, and onto another bed I got. I was asked to run the jelly substance on my underboob and off we went. It felt like a lifetime. The sonographer spent quite a while examining the screen and pressing buttons. My heart was in my mouth, my sense of detachment left me briefly and I began running the scenario in my mind. How would I tell Pops? What if I died? I couldn’t leave her. I knew Scott and my folks would somehow get through it, but what about my baby?

Finally she said “it all looks good to me, nothing there to report,” or something along those lines. She suspected the doctor wouldn’t need to see me, but I should take a seat just in case.

She popped her head out again after about five minutes to let me know the doctor was happy with everything and I was free to go.

I headed out to Scott, nonchalantly told him everything was okay and we went back to the car. He kept asking me if I was okay. I answered with a breezy ‘yep!’ every time.

It wasn’t until got home and I had a cuppa that it finally came. The tears the hugs and the sleep. I was exhausted, more than I even knew. I fell asleep with my head on Scott’s lap. Cheesy, but true. He’d been my protector throughout the whole process. My safety. My love.

Check your Boobs. Please.

The moral of this story is of course, check your boobs. However you identify, if you have breast tissue, please keep an eye on it. There was a man in the waiting room, he wasn’t there with a significant other as they weren’t allowed in. This illness effects everyone. Regardless of identity. And while I’m at it, if you have a cervix/womb, get your smear too. Please.

I’ve popped some resources below. If you have experience of any charities or organisations not mentioned below, please do put them in the comments.

Resources:

Coppafeel

Breast Cancer Now

Cancer Research

NHS

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