I’ve gone back and forth on writing this, it’s a thing I want to share because it’s important but also it’s a period of time that I found very stressful and a bit scary, which is hard to write about.
Last year in the midst of wedding planning and a period of increased medical stress (thanks chronic illness) I found a lump in my left armpit, right next to my boob.
After worrying about it all weekend I rang the GP and after explaining to the arsey receptionist why I was calling for an on-the-day appointment, I got one immediately. Funny that.
My now husband was on annual leave so he drove me to the surgery, which was a big support as I was extremely anxious about the lump. My anxiety disorder can be triggered and added to when it comes to health issues so I was a bit of a walking disaster. Luckily I didn’t have to sit in the waiting room too long worrying and I saw a female GP (most surgeries will let you request a woman doctor, I didn’t specifically but it does made it a little more comfortable).
The exam required me to take off my top and bra, which I expected, and the doctor carried out a visual check and then a manual one. It wasn’t remotely embarrassing as she was very straightforward and put me at my ease. Once I was re-dressed we had a chat about her opinion and the next steps.
She said that she didn’t think it was a tumour but wanted it scanned at the breast clinic just in case. She explained that doctors are told to think the texture of a tumourous lump is the difference between the collagen of your nose (somewhat soft) and your skull (very hard) when pressed. Which is a useful tip for when checking your breasts. Although I highly recommend getting any and all strange lumps and other changes checked, just in case.
I was referred to the breast clinic at my local hospital to be seen by a specialist and have an ultrasound scan to see what was going on.
The clinic was on a Sunday, in a mostly deserted section of the hospital mainly used for various daily clinics, which was slightly creepy; walking through the empty corridors looking for the area reserved for this particular clinic.
There were a few women sat in the waiting area, all ages and races, because cancer doesn’t discriminate. The doctor carried out a similar exam as the GP and sent me off to the ultrasound department (I wish I’d downloaded a step counter just for this appointment as I walked the length of the hospital and back).
The nurse in the ultrasound room was really nice, explaining how to lie comfortably on the scanning bench with my arm tucked under my head. She draped a piece of blue tissue over my chest to preserve some modesty (although by this point several doctors had seen my breasts and I really wasn’t bothered). The doctor came in and carried out the scan then told me to wipe off the gel and get dressed. I walked back through the hospital to the breast clinic and get the results.
Thankfully it was all clear, the doctor thought the lump was more likely to be a swollen lymph node, which happens every now and then and goes away by itself. She told me I’d done the right thing in getting it checked out as it’s better to do and so and it be nothing, than leave it and find out too late that it’s something to worry about.
So ladies (and gents, and people who don’t identify as either) please check your breast tissue (and testicles if that’s relevant), go to your cervical screening or prostate exam. Look after your body, get to know it and recognise when things are wrong.