First there was an odd ache under my arm. Intermittent. I didn’t stress about it, at first. Then the ache became more frequent. If I leaned a certain way or jiggled a bit. Even sitting still, it would announce itself. I tried not to worry. Then it spread; the pain went from my underarm to my left breast.

Within a week, I found myself swallowing over the counter painkillers because the ache, the discomfort, was distracting me at work. Then, the worry started.

Quietly, at first. A day or two of imagining it was getting better. A denial stage. Until I found the lump. When you have breast pain, you check for lumps. And when you find one, you’re entitled to a little freak out before moving on to the next stage. You see, after denial, traditionally, one experiences acceptance. So, I accepted that I had breast pain and a lump and did what anyone of my generation would do.

I googled it, knowing full well it was a bad idea. Cancer, cancer or cancer. My own boob, trying to kill me, for sure.

Anxiety.

By the time I had a day free for the GP, my anxiety had kicked in and I had catastrophised the outcome over and over again. I knew (from google) that breast cancers were rarely painful unless they were the inflammatory, aggressive kind. I didn’t have those other markers of that- the swelling, the “orange peel” skin, the discoloration. Just underarm and breast pain.

The doctor did an exam, kindly told me to stop googling stuff in the interim and gave me a scan referral. He gave my daughter a sticker while he told me that a malignancy was possible but “way down the list”. Still, possible.

“Possible”.

As I walked to the car, I felt like crying. Because “possible” turned in to “probable” in my mind. From the car, I called the imaging centre. A brusque woman booked me in for Saturday, telling me in no uncertain terms that it would be a male ultrasound tech on duty.

I hadn’t even thought about the gender of the staff at the imaging centre, let alone made any requests.

“We can’t guarantee females every day of the week and you want to book on a weekend.” Her abrupt, accusatory tone somehow drew the sob out of my throat.

She must have heard me trying not to cry. Her tone softened. She seemed to remember that she was talking to a person. A scared, worried person. Not someone trying to ruin her day by making an appointment.

Saturday.

Saturday arrives so we go to the medical imaging centre. The underarm and breast pain is still there. Mammogram first. I wonder if I am too young to be having one; for some reason, I though it was reserved for the over 40 crowd. I am a few years short of joining that club. They tell me they do mammography on women under 40 all the time. Their machine is one of the latest models, I’m told. It takes multiple pictures and the imaging is in 3D. I am momentarily diverted by technology. Then on to the pre-scan questions.

Are you currently pregnant or breastfeeding? Taking any medication?

“Have you breastfed?”

“Yep.”

“How long for?”

“4 years.”

The technician pauses. “For one child?”

“Yes.”

“Wow. That’s a long time.”

I’m silent for a minute, feeling awkward and irritated. I am not in the mood to convince anyone that it’s fine to breastfeed as long as your kid bloody well wants to. Then I realise that she actually seems impressed rather than judgy.

“You’re telling me!” I say. We both laugh and then it’s down to business.

The Mammogram and Scan.

Boob squash. Now squashed the other way. Other side next. Squash, squash.

I’m not going to lie. It hurts and it’s not pleasant but it is fairly fast, though not as fast as the older style, apparently, which didn’t produce as many images. Then I was off to the ultrasound man. He looked at the lump first. That hurts, too.

“I think it’s just fat; just a fatty lump,” he said.

“Why would that hurt? I have fat all over me and it doesn’t hurt!”

He laughed. “I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. But I can’t see anything to worry about!”

The ultrasound wand thingy is under my arm at this point. I see a clearly defined thing, like a grape.

“What about that? What is it?” I’m trying to act casual. It doesn’t work. Ultrasound man smiles reassuringly.

“It’s your lymph gland. It’s meant to be there. Looks fine.” I totally knew that.

The words of the ultrasound man did make it easier to ignore my anxieties for the six days until I get the results.

Results.

The GP tells me it’s all clear. No signs of anything sinister. It’s a relief, but one with a question mark. What is the cause of the breast pain? My GP says he doesn’t know, possibly it’s hormones. He says he can refer me to a specialist, if I want, but he doesn’t think there is anything to be concerned about at this stage. I haven’t ruled out going along for a chat. So while I don’t know what is causing the breast pain, I know I can stop stressing out about it.

No matter how low down on the list it was, it’s not a good feeling to think that “breast cancer” is on that list at all.

Check your boobs, if you have them. If you have a lump, an ache, breast pain, a change in the appearance- get it checked. Waste no time and make no excuses. You’ll either be giving yourself an excellent chance of recovery if you do have an issue or you’ll put your mind at ease sooner. It’s win/win.

 

 

#IBOT @ Capturing Life.

Gifs via Giphy.

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  • Pheee-ewww lovely! I’m so glad you’re all good and I’m so happy you’re spreading the word about booby checks too! Men and women, get them checked if something is amiss x x

  • Glad everything is okay but totally understand the anxiety. Some years ago I found a lump on my breast and my GP sent me for an ultrasound and mammogram — in the end it was just a fatty tissue but yeah, the anxiety until you get that result is sky-high!

  • LydiaCLee

    I always go and get stuff checked out because I don’t want to be the person who died because she was too lazy to get it checked out…my doctor used to find this hilarious…I’d say “I know it’s not but I need you to see if blah blah”

  • Glad it turned out to be okay. I’d be freaking out too.

  • I’m so glad you’re ok x Last year I convinced myself I had either chronic fatigue or leukemia. Turned out to be just a virus that kept on giving for weeks. Google is not a doctor!

    • I remember that and I’m so glad it was just a virus!

  • Phew, I’m so pleased you’re ok – I’m happy dancing on your behalf! I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to consult Dr Google but it’s always a good idea to get anything out of the ordinary checked out at your GP, if for no other reason than to put your mind at rest. I had a school friend who died from breast cancer – she had a little lump for years and thought it wasn’t worth checking out. By the time it was big enough to check out, it was too late. I had my first mammogram this year – so squishy!

    • Thanks Sammie! They are very squishy. I’m not a huge fan haha

  • I am glad this had a happy result for you and that you have shared the importance of getting things checked out.
    Unfortunately for me, my very first mammogram detected stage 3 advanced breast cancer which had also developed into cancer in my underarm lumph nodes. Contrary to internet advice, my cancer DID hurt and quite a lot. I ignored it. It grew to a massive 5cm tumour with me largely unaware. My cancer came with a crushing fatigue (a whole 6 months of it). Breastfeeding for 3 years, (I was still breastfeeding when I was diagnosed) and having six kids did not protect me either, though I was told it should have. I am also on the youthful side for breast cancer. Nothing stacks up but 15 months later (as of 2 weeks ago), I have finally finished the hellish rounds of treatment and now try to forge a new normal under the shadow of cancer.
    Please NEVER IGNORE your health ladies!

    • I’m so hoping yours is pronounced in remission ASAP. I knew my symptoms weren’t textbook but what if? People like you have shown that it’s quite individual. It doesn’t stack up but I’m so glad you got treatment xxx

  • I can imagine how stressed you must have been not knowing whether the lump was malignant or not and now you have the worry of well why do my boobs hurt then??? I had a benign tumour removed from my breast when I was 19 (about 3.5 cm), so I know how stressful it can be. Back then I was much less mature and way more neurotic and was sure my days were numbered. It has made me very aware of my breasts and I ensure I check them regularly. I had very tender breasts a couple of months ago for a few weeks and then it just disappeared. I hope the same happens to you.

    • We just have to be so vigilant about things like this!

  • What a dreadfully scary time for you. I am so glad the result was a good one for you. xx

  • Argh, that’s so scary! I always think every random pain is cancer. It’s hard not to think that when just about everyone you know has either had cancer themselves or someone very close to them has. I learnt while pregnant with Punky not to google anything medical and just go to the doctor, Dr. Google just causes more stress than necessary! So glad your pain turned out to be nothing serious and I hope it goes away soon x

    • I’m very lucky it’s nothing to worry about. So many people have a different result.

  • Glad to hear the result was all clear – it must have been legit terrifying. Thanks for sharing your experience and I agree, the quicker it’s checked, the quicker it’s sorted/treated. I would like to have a mammogram (not for fun, obvs) just to get thoroughly checked out and be cool with it. It’s hard to self-check bigger boobs.

  • Kirsty @ My Home Truths

    What a scare! Thanks for sharing how you worked through it all – sounds exactly how I would have reacted too (I know I shouldn’t google but…)

  • That would have been terrifying. Good on you for being proactive and not just shelving it. I’m a bit of a shelver when it comes to my own health.

    • It’s easier to ignore and hope for the best sometimes. But this time I couldn’t because what if…?

  • Oh mate, that would be me to a tee! Except..I am over 65. I hate health scares and I am the biggest fear/worry person ever. I am glad you have an answer but it’s still not THE answer is it? Grrrr. I am off to my dentist (again) today and scared because there’s been stuff happening to my gums thanks to an interaction between a bridge/crown thing and its time to seriously do what is needed. Did I mention I too am scared, anxious and worried? Oh. I did. Sorry! Denyse #teamIBOT

    • It is anxiety inducing. I hope the teeth get sorted ASAP. The dentist scares the crap out of me!

  • TeganMC

    I’m a procrastinating hypochondriac. If I feel something weird I ignore it and hope for the best. It took me 3 months to work up the nerve to get blood tests done.

    • Don’t muck around with the scary symptoms. The stress isn’t worth it!