It's true that saying "you never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice", apparently Bob Marley said it? I've never looked into the ponderings of the man b4 but I may start I think he had quite a few things summed up pretty well and I love a good quote.
In the days leading up to the shit landing on our door, in the actual day or two b4 the sucker punch was blown I'd somehow managed to convince myself wholeheartedly that I was going to be fine. I mean who gets a breast cancer diagnosis at 31 only the poor luvs you see in take a break mags. You read their stories you feel sorry for them you empathise a little as to how devastated you'd be if it was you then you turn the page and some old ladies cat came back home after they thought it was gone forever & the world is good again. But I'd mentally strapped myself in for my Wednesday morning appointment, which is surprising when you consider when I had the biopsy the radiographer said my follow up appointment was too far away & that the results would be back in a week and I'd be contacted with an appointment. 5 days passed & I heard nothing so I rang them, cue nice receptionist lady who would check it out for me. When you are waiting for test results time slows to this weird pace that makes no sense. The days are 48 hours long and the nights 72 hours long. So when she rang me mere seconds later I shit myself! and her words did little to dampen the fear "your test results will go under the review of the multi disciplinary team on Wednesday morning, a member of the team would like to meet with you after. Can you come to the oncology unit for 10am Wednesday" FUCK!!! Oncology means cancer.....right?!?! My biopsy was Monday. I called them Friday. I had to wait till Wednesday.....Wednesday......Wednesday 10am oncology. It became etched in my brain!! I should have been going to pieces, shouldn't I???
One thing I've learned above & beyond anything else is (and I'm going to need boldy caps for this) DON'T GOOGLE. Dr Google is a cruel master. I kid you not Dr Google broken finger nail and you'll find yourself facing certain death after being scared witless by images of half decayed hands. Imagine the fodder you can find when you Dr Google "lump in left breast" and given the extra hours in the day you've suddenly acquired it's a recipe for disaster. Don't do it! I did.....and it got me the grand total of nowhere. When I found the lump it took me a few days to get to Dr Google but I googled hours away. First I got mum to feel it, yup defiantly there. Never had been before, not the last time I checked anyway. I know that for definite! Why, because I would consider myself a good checker b4 all this. In the shower when you're soapy it takes seconds. It's life saving! Another thing I've learned along the way is Breast cancer isn't the easy cancer it's portrayed in the media to be. No cancer is the easy cancer. Once cancer is in your body it seeks & destroys. Having become a member of YBCN I've witnessed first hand just how quick this wretched disease can take someone. And not just post menopausal grans (they actually tend to do much better than us younger ladies on the whole). C was a beautiful vibrant not quite 30 year old, she was fit, she would take part in runs and even in the month before her death with failing eyesight because the shit had made its way into the fluid surrounding her brain she'd purchased a treadmill so that she could still train for an upcoming run to raise money for Macmillan. She's gone just like that within a year. Nice cancer eh! So bloody check your boobs & moobs people!!! Just bloody do it. Anyway I digress. Where was I....oh yeah the lump. Contrary to popular literature on breast cancer I don't advocate the "leave it a month to see if it's hormonal changes" they reckon my cancer was there for about 3 months......3 months & it was already trying to infiltrate my lymphatic system. Just go straight to your doctor. My next step was my gp. Luckily for me I managed to acquire one of the rare as rocking horse shit emergency appointments and it was with my actual gp!! I love her, she's one of the many people I have to thank along the way. If she had decided that it was nothing as I'm only 31 and not long had a baby who knows where we'd be! She could feel it too - "irregular, almost pear shaped and fixed, we'll get a referral to the Breast clinic for you. It's probably nothing but without a scan we won't know for definite" as I got up to dress she spotted something else. An indentation, more like the line left from an ill fitting bra but it didn't match the lines of my bra and come to think of it I've noticed it before in the mornings when I've been getting dressed. A crease, a line, a puckering whatever you want to call it. Certain positions made it worse but it was always there. Ok she said we'll send you off on a two week referral you'll probably receive the appointment within the week. I was handed a red card, an actual red card, call them if you haven't heard by Monday. I did Monday 13th October Breast screening. H's hen do occupied my weekend in between and it was a very welcome distraction. I drank, ate & laughed. We fed the baby cows, we got shit on & we managed to squeeze about 10 of us into a 4 man hot tub essentially emptying the bloody thing & having to call out the hot tub man. I was carefree!! Almost. But to be honest that's the last time I felt normal & I'll treasure the memories & the friends I made from it.
The breast screening unit at the hospital looks like quite a modern unit. There's a big round reception in the middle with chairs on either side. There's literature all over the walls as you'd imagine & the decor is light and airy. But there's a certain sense of forboding and the average age in the waiting room is I'd say over 65. It could do with a radio it's sooo quiet it's deafening. I hate those kind of waiting rooms. They give off an air of calm but you feel anything but. I was called through by a lovely lady in her 50's - she wasn't dressed like a nurse & we chatted along the way, I can't remember what about, down the corridor. M and I (that's the hubby for those that aren't in the know) were taken through to this massive room at one end an examining bench/bed thing & an ultrasound scanner, at the other a desk with about 4 big screens. It probably wasn't massive but the space between M and I at that time (him down by the computer screens & me on the table) felt vast!! Pop your clothes off from the waist up and jump up on the bed. Last time I was next to an ultrasound scanner it was our 20 week scan we'd taken C along to meet her new sibling for the first time and I was surrounded by my little circle of love in a teeny tiny room and it was wonderful. Partly as well because I'd spotted F's meat & two veg on the screen (we were keeping it a surprise) but I knew!! I'd seen it!! And I'd be a mummy to one of each. How amazing is that!! Anyway so I striped off & did as I was told. Turn on to my right raise my left arm up above my head. The doctor scanning me was the lady that had walked me through & there was a nurse in the room as well. She started the scan (& luckily had warmed the jelly) she felt for the lump first then started to scan. It took quite a bit of prodding but there it popped up on the screen all dark and gnarly looking. From Dr Google I knew that we'd be looking at either a cyst, a fatty necrosis, a fibroadenoma or a cancer. I've had quite a few ultrasounds in my time being that I have poly cystic ovarian syndrome - my ovaries used to be scanned to check how cystic they were, I've been fortunate enough to still carry 2 wonderful children even with pcos so I've had my scans with them. This one was by far the worst (and to scan an ovary takes a probe!!! I'll let you digest that a while....) in the time between finding the lump & my referral I'd developed a hardened vein from the lump across the top of my boob almost. The radiographer touched on "mondors disease" (that'll need Dr Google for definite) but said it was rare. She scanned every last inch taking measurements recording blood flow and the like umming & ahhing. We're going to need to take a biopsy. Whoa!! Wait what???? Ok ok ok ok!!! I didn't even have to move they did it there and then. Suddenly I'd gone from having an ultrasound scan to having a local anaesthetic to having a small incision to.......punch!!! The core needle biopsy or punch biopsy is done using a gun like machine that resembles one of those ear piercing machines. Your boob is numb but my god that thing hits you! It doesn't hurt as such it's like getting jabbed in the tit with a biro really hard. She took 3 samples of my boob or should I say lump flesh and labelled them up in a jar. Popped a little stitch in and the whole thing was done before I'd really realised what was happening. Poor M sat at the other end of the room with a look of pure terror on his face, I know how you feel babe!!! They were wonderful I have to say the whole process was done quickly and efficiently no beating around the bush. I was sent on my way with the reassurances of being contacted within a week for the results & to take it easy for a few days & not get the dressings wet for 5 days.
So I suppose this is where the strength & courage comes in. It's said amongst the YBCN sisterhood that waiting for results is the hardest thing to endure.......and it's true because well it's true. The other one is scanxiety when you are waiting on the results of scans and as any cancer patient will tell you it's the scans that tell the stories and they can be pretty plentiful at times. My wait began. I had no answers I was hoping for an "oh it's nothing go home you're fine you drama queen" but as anyone will tell you doctors don't like to reassure you it's nothing if they are pretty sure it's not nothing. They like to be what's become apparent to me as "realistic". That week I have to say I was pretty pathetic. I chatted to my lady G and said if I've got cancer and I'm going to loose my hair I'm going to donate it. To be fair to her she was the only person willing to talk to me about if it turned out to be cancer rather than just telling me to be positive, it's probably nothing and silencing the ramblings going on in my head. I could have done with more of a chance to air my deepest darkest thoughts but she took the lot. Bless her wonderful heart. And it was actually in one said rambling to her that I decided I didn't have cancer I had mondors disease. And in all honesty I think that's the only reason I got through those days, so thanks gorgeous! You saved my brain a lot of mental anguish!!! I'm not strong, I'm not brave or courageous I'm a bloody stupid googling idiot but my idiocy got me through those days so there's a lot to be said for stupidity at times x x