That Can’t Be Right

A retrospective blog post today, looking back at when I noticed that something was wrong. I didn’t write about this at the time because I didn’t want to alarm anyone without reason. The blogging only started once the diagnosis was confirmed. So, it went like this …

One Sunday autumn evening (11 September, to be precise), I was standing in front of the bedroom mirror doing my regular breast checks. No lumps or bumps, no worries.

While I’m standing here, I thought, I’ll just stretch my triceps. Like you do. When I reached my right arm across my left shoulder and felt a lovely muscle stretch, I noticed something a little odd: The lower part of my right breast moved up. It was like it was being lifted by some sort of vacuum inside my boob. 

That can’t be right, I thought. Returning my arm to its usual place, the strange dent disappeared. Does that mean it’s OK after all?

I repeated the exercise and, sure enough, up came the dent again. I showed it to my other ‘arf, John, who agreed that no, that can’t be right.

I arranged a GP appointment for the Thursday (15 September). I’m in and out of that surgery like a dog at a fair, as Lancastrians say, so I imagined the doc thinking “Oh ffs, it’s her again. What now?!”

But no. My GP is pleasant and professional, and took me seriously. He examined me while a woman staff member stood by to ensure everything was above baord, and although he could not find a lump, he could see the strange shape when I showed him, and referred me to the breast clinic at the local (Homerton) Hospital. 

So, here’s an important tip: You are not just looking for lumps. There are other signs of breast cancer, illustrated very well by Breast Cancer Worldwide’s #KnowYourLemons illustration. Mine was like the lemon second from the left on the top row. Yours might be like any of the others.

Said appointment was just a week later (22 September), a pleasant surprise given how long I had had to wait for previous referrals for complaints such as allergies and a broken ankle. I went on my own, and didn’t even tell John. 

The appointment was at 09:40, and I made the fifteen-minute walk from home to the hospital feeling pretty calm. I had decided that it probably was breast cancer. I knew that it might be something more benign, but if I held on to that hope, then I risked shock and disappointment. Accept that it’s cancer, and I would get either a pleasant surprise or a treatment plan.

The breast clinic felt welcoming and caring. I didn’t have to wait long beofre going in to see the consultant, who examined me and found a lump – she evidently has more finely-tuned fingers for these purposes than either myself or the GP. She sent me for an immediate mammogram and ultrasound, and when these confirmed the presence of a lump, an immediate biopsy. More on these tests in a separate post. I was surprised and impressed. I think I had expected that if tests were needed, an appointment would be fixed up. Bo no, they just cracked on with it.

Back in the consultant’s office, she told me that although only the biopsy result could confirm it, she was pretty sure that it was cancer: she couldn’t imagine what else it would be. I appreciated her honesty. We can treat it. Survival rates are very good these days. I appreciated this even more.

Back on 4 October for the test results. Time to tell my partner.

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