On a work day my morning routine is nailed to an 11 minute turnaround. It used to be 9 minutes but i’m guessing it’s an age thing? My alarm is set for 5am and the car booked for ten past. My clothes are laid out ready so I jump in the shower, towel dry whilst brushing teeth, massive dollop of moisturiser and blast my whole body starting from my face (i know i know – body lotion on face is a mahoosive no no apparently. Can it really be that bad? How does a cream know what part of your body it’s moisturising? Anyway, 11 minutes people) and working down to my feet where my pants are waiting to be stepped into. Hoick them up, bra waiting on radiator, pull on unzipped dress (and stays unzipped until someone on my team notices and either helps or laughs) then finish with spray of perfume. Shoes and bag are by the front door. Brush hair and put mascara on in the car. Job done. Not quite the case on Thursday 15th March 2018. The alarm went off as normal and the 11 minute whirlwind ensued until the moisturiser went due south down my body and hit my right boob. I stopped in my tracks. The lump was sitting smugly about 2 inches below my right nipple and was the size and shape of a chickpea. I couldn’t stop feeling it.
I filed it away in my female head as much as I could. Once I got to work I found myself unable to concentrate on Alan Titchmarsh talking live on our show about his secrets to staying married for 40 years. I’m not sure if that was necessarily to do with the lump if i’m honest. I’m joking of course.
The weekend came and was a constant cartwheel of kids gymnastics, an ice skating birthday party, rugby practise and am impromptu visit to my mum in Dorset.
She’d had a fall in her care home so by the time I was upright again it was Monday and the lump was off the sub bench and firmly back on my mind.
It was a busy week at work with a mix of guests including Sir Tom Jones talking about singing at the Royal Wedding and Kim Wilde talking extra terrestrial activity on her new album. The most poignant for me was a 13 year old girl who shaved her head live on air to promote ovarian cancer awareness.
As soon as we came off air that day I picked up the phone and made the appointment.
The doctor confirmed that the hard round lump needed to be investigated further. She was very reassuring and said that with my lack of family cancer history it’s unlikely to be anything serious. So I filed it further back into my brain and waited for the referral.
A week rolled by and another lump appeared in the same boob. It comforted me because I thought that cancer couldn’t grow that quickly – it must be hormonal right? Then the following morning we had 35 year old mum of two Deborah James live on our show. She’s known as ‘Bowel Babe’ whose mission is to spread the word about bowel cancer
after receiving her own terminal diagnosis having being initially told it was just IBS. It got me thinking about my lumps. ‘Do not be ridiculous’ I told myself and quickly got engrossed in our next guest Debbie McGee talking about how to get the best night sleep.
CAMERA TIME – SEEING THE BREAST CONSULTANT
It was on a Friday and my sister came with me. She’d offered to come for moral support but when the day arrived she was having major bouts of diarrhoea so ironically I was looking after her more than she was me. At least her constant toilet stops were a distraction.
(Claire and I in waiting room blissfully unaware of what they will find)
What I thought would be a quick half an hour appointment turned into a few hours. I saw Mrs Smyth who, like my GP, felt that it shouldn’t be anything and could well be hormonal. However she wanted me to have a mammogram which was fairly standard. It’s worth knowing that around 96% of women in the breast screening programme have a normal result. Now if you’ve never had a mammogram it’s quite a bizarre experience. It’s not painful but it’s not comfortable either. Firstly you’re stood up with your boobs out in a room with a mammographer and a massive xray machine. Then you have to put your boobs onto a glass shelf and another shelf is then pulled down to essentially squash
the life out of them. It feels like it’s never going to stop. You also feel quite man handled because the technician has to make sure enough boob is on the glass so there’s quite a lot of pulling and tugging. Then it’s a quick ‘say cheese’ for the camera and your mammaries are released from the clasp. Phew. Then it’s time for the sideways press.
Equally uncomfortable with equal amounts of squishing but this time the glass runs from your chin towards your belly and your booby-doos are clamped sideways. A number of times I wondered if it was possible to squidge so hard that your nipple could come flying off. I also thought that if this was cancer then this machine must be able to squash it dead like an itty bitty fly?
I waited back in the waiting room after having my boobs flattened. When I was called back in I was told that the mammogram had showed up small calcium spots (calcification) which are common in breast tissue and are usually benign. They tend to appear as a woman ages. Bingo. At 39 years old, exactly what I thought it would be. I was then told that i’d need an ultrasound to triple check what these calcifications were as they can be a sign of something more sinister.
The ultrasound is completely pain free and the same as if you’ve ever had a baby scan. You get a dollop of jelly splattered on your boobs and a probe is run manually in every direction (across your chest – if probe goes anywhere else i’d advise you complain). Measurements are taken on the screen and the atmosphere is generally quiet whilst the soundographer (made that title up) concentrates. Simps. However I was told whilst still lying there that the ultrasound showed no signs of fluid in the lumps which ruled out cysts. They said i’d need to have a biopsy there and then.
I suddenly felt like things were getting more serious and I asked whether this might actually be cancer – I was told that it couldn’t be ruled out at this stage but that 70%-80% of breast biopsies come back benign. Odds were fairly good. There are three different ways to perform the small procedure and it depends on the lump/mass that’s being tested.
Mine was called a Core Biopsy which meant that they needed to make a small incision to allow a thick hollow needle to go in to get a good purchase on one of the lumps. I had a local anesthetic so it was all pretty painless. It took about 10 minutes once the breast was numb. I had a few steri strips and a bandage and I was on my (sort-of) merry way with my still-pooping sister.
ACTION! THE RESULTS
My mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy were all done in one day which was amazing. It was on a Friday and I had an agonising wait until the Tuesday for my results. They can often take up to two weeks. I’ll write about the results in my next blog. In the meantime, I thought it would be good to share the signs and symptoms of breast cancer plus some useful links. x
- a new lump or area of thickened tissue in either breast that was not there before
- a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
- bloodstained discharge from either of your nipples
- a lump or swelling in either of your armpits
- dimpling on the skin of your breasts
- a rash on or around your nipple
- a change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast
- stabbing pain in breast / armpit