Monday, 26 October 2015

Breast cancer awareness month: Day zero

Author: Celia M

The woman barked at me to put my clothes in the blue basket, put the gown on. Her manner was rough and rude. She must think I am a time-waster. I am a time waster. I am far too young for all this, mammograms were expensive and NHS resources stretched. Plus I was dressed very unusually and had a dirty dreamy air from being at Glastonbury festival the day before. She opened the door and ushered me into a room dominated by a machine that looked like a giant hole-puncher.

Have you had a mammogram before?

I shook my head

Put your breast between these two plates and then the machine is going to squeeze the breast flat, it might be a little uncomfortable.

I did as she said and was pleasantly surprised as when medical professionals say something will be ‘a little uncomfortable’ it usually hurts like fuck. What was a little uncomfortable was how flat my breast managed to get, surely it wasn’t meant to do that at my age? What had breast feeding 2 kids for a year each done to me? Now my boobs were like empty mittens.

She then asked me to turn to the side while the machine flattened my breast from another angle.

And then as I was picking up my blue basket, it happened. She stared at me, all briskness gone. Too long. And then looked away. Or was I being paranoid? Maybe I was still tired from Glastonbury...

I was told to wait outside.

I told myself not to be so stupid.

And then a man called my name, and he had the look too.

Miss M, I am blah-d-blah the radiographer I am just going to do some ultrasounds of your breast.

Thank fuck. This was routine. I had read about this. They put the gel on and it reminded me of being pregnant and how I safe I felt in the hospital, and I told myself all was fine.

If you wait here then I will be back in a minute.

I was left lying on the bed. They had the same curtains as where I had, a year before to the day, given birth to my son in the same hospital. They were clearly designed to represent the city, showcasing exciting features such as the library, rugby club and train station. They had paid someone money to design these: why…?

A puffy orange-faced man came in followed by two women.

Miss M, I am blah-d-blah the senior radiographer

Senior? Oh fuck

And we have found something suspicious in your breast

Oh fuck

And also in your armpit


Everything started melting. I noticed some latex gloves in the background lots and lots of gloves. I might have cancer, Why do they have so many gloves? Its in my lymph nodes. Oh jesus. My eyes started to water.

We want to perform what is called a core biopsy, we will insert a needle into the lump and your armpit. We will give you something so the area is numb when we do this. Are you ok for us to do this?

I nodded. Not really a question many people say no to I imagine, ah you think I have cancer, well I’ll probably just leave it there if you don’t mind…

He left the room.

I saw the two women had started collecting things, things in plastic packages, things that looked sharp, things that looked soft, things that looked complicated. And I had an awful sick feeling, like being on the walzters, and reality kept swinging back.

No, no, no, this wasn’t happening to me. It is my son’s birthday, he’s 1. One. I wanted to punch everything and run out of the room. But instead I lay motionless and bit back the tears.

The radiographer came back.

We will use the ultrasound to locate where to place the needle and we will collect 3 samples from each site. We will put the local anaesthetic in the breast now, it will feel a bit like a bee sting. I stared at the gloves. This can’t be right, this isn’t right. No they must have got it wrong. My head drifted out of my body. I was just the meat on my bones.

Do you want to hold my hand?

One of the women said softly and offered a gloved hand

I nodded. The simple kindness of it. I let a silent tear dribble down my cheek and she rubbed the top of my hand. I looked away while the needle, guided by ultrasound and the puffy faced insensitive cunt, repeatedly punched into my chest and armpit.

We have finished now. You may get dressed and sit outside.

They left the room. Someone guided me to a chair, and then I waited, they gave me a large envelope stuffed with two bottles and instructions to return to surgical outpatients. I went to the toilet on the way and sobbed with my whole body. And like that. Just like that. I had cancer and my life changed forever.

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