Let me tell you a story, I have never checked my boobs, maybe had a bit of a scratch here and there, but never really stood and looked or felt my own body. So mad right? But think about it, how many times have you? Let me take you on a little journey, I promise it won’t be awkward (maybe a small chance it will), only a little yucky, but totally worth it!
One in seven women in the UK will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
Scary right? It doesn’t have to be. Cancer or the Big C as I’ve become accustomed to calling it, does that, a bit like ‘He who must be named’, the name sends you and everyone around you into a panic. But as Hermione says, “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself”, so let’s try and remove that fear together, to take back control.
This, the first in my series of blogs about my ‘Big C’ journey will be written from only my perspective. As it is, every journey will be different, but if I can help even one of you emotionally or physically or even shed some awareness on things that I have learnt so far, then there is light amongst a lot of darkness.
“Check your boobs mine tried to kill me.”
Once upon a time, oh wait, wrong story…
My Big C journey starts way before I ever found out I had a lump in my breast if you can believe, they only find it whilst I was having a PET scan to diagnose my Lymphoma. The size of a marble, the tumour lit up like a Christmas tree as the radiation passed through every inch of my body and I had NO idea it was even there because I never checked. Idiot. I remember the call vividly, it was late in the evening and the receptionist asked me to come in as an emergency to have my breasts checked by the GP, the funny thing (which stopped being funny very quickly) was that I said, “Oh I think you mean my mum”, sure that they had made a mistake, of course, they hadn’t.
The following day was a bit of a whirlwind as most things are when the ‘Big C’ is concerned, I’d already felt the ‘lump’ straight after getting off the phone, so a million things went through my mind. THIS IS NORMAL. I repeat it is normal to not be able to collect your thoughts, no matter how many people tell you ‘not to worry’ I want you to know it is a perfectly adequate response to not have your thoughts together, to panic and see every horrible scenario flash past in a moment.
And then this is the bit that most people are scared of, anxious or embarrassed about and maybe like me, completely shut off from, the ultrasound and possible biopsy.
What should I expect in a ultrasound and/or biopsy?
First of all, ask as many questions as you want, even if they seem silly at the time like…
Is this going to hurt? Will I feel it? I asked the radiologist these more than once.
A breast biopsy is usually done alongside an ultrasound examination, the ultrasound will pick up the lump(s), albeit having a really cold jelly-like substance on your boobs, this doesn’t hurt. If the radiologist thinks you need a biopsy they will tell you, they will ask you if you agree. I have to be honest, though I was not pressured by medical staff to have any examinations, I had already pressured myself to have everything and anything done to find out what was wrong. But you don’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable with, take your time to make your decision.
At the point the monitor picks up the image, the radiologist will have some idea if it is a tumour or cyst, so if you feel like you want to ask, then ask. They won’t be able to tell you if it’s cancerous or not, but they may be able to tell you their ‘opinion’ after the biopsy is collected. Remember, if you are due to have a biopsy, you will feel absolutely nothing, except for a slight sting from a local anaesthetic, everything else is a little tug here and there and if I wasn’t looking at the screen and moving a little, I would have had NO clue anything was happening!
In my case, the tumour was not liquid, so from the little research I did beforehand I knew a Fine Needle Aspiration was out of the question, this is when a needle enters straight into a tumour and is able to get a biopsy, that only left two other options, one to have a large cut made in the breast to get a biopsy or…
A Core Needle Biopsy, this is when a local anaesthetic is administered and a small cut made into the breast, then a mechanism enters through and with a click cuts away pieces of the tumour (sounds and looks way more scarier then it is). I have to be honest this was probably the moment I felt most frightened and shed a bit of a tear, but the radiologist talked to me till the end and I found talking to her helped me relax too.
And that’s pretty much it. Oh yeah, they put these paper stitches and tell you to not get them wet for 3 days and then you can just gently remove them. I promise a rainbow of bruising and pain is normal, try and have painkillers (if you can and if they help you) and rest, be sure to follow the radiologist’s instructions and do not lift anything heavy for 24 hours either! (Best excuse for lie-in)
Below are my surgery photos as they heal, if you’re a little squeamish you’ll probably want to avoid them, but as this post is to spread awareness I want you to try and have a look and know that I am here to answer ANY of your questions.
If you do have any questions, post a comment below or direct message me and please share with others!