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.
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.
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 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?”
“How long for?”
The technician pauses. “For one child?”
“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.
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.