What to Do When You Find a Lump in Your Boob
The other day I found a lump in my boob. That's unusual, I thought, haven't come across one of those before. I had a bit of a feel around and gave it a bit of a prod, and sure enough, it was very much there. I'd also been having a burning sensation in the same boob. I told my partner about it and got a second opinion, and he agreed this was a matter for the doctor.
I rang and booked an appointment and the friendly lady on the other end of the phone said the next time she could fit me in at the surgery was in a couple of weeks' time. I asked her if she thought that was soon enough for a breast lump and she said no, and informed me she'd pass my number to the doctor and he or she would be calling me back soon.
Within five minutes a doctor was in touch, inviting me in for an inspection that afternoon. In fact, it was in an hour. How good is that? Good, and then again, somewhat alarming.
'I think once you've been through pregnancy and given birth, you lose any concerns you used to have about unveiling your private areas to anyone who needs to have a look or a feel or a poke.'
I am not a shy person when it comes to my body so never have any qualms about stripping off in front of medical professionals. I think once you've been through pregnancy and given birth, you lose any concerns you used to have about unveiling your private areas to anyone who needs to have a look or a feel or a poke. Things can't get much more gory than childbirth. (Just say, if you'd like me to blog about that, but I think if that's something that's maybe still to come for you, better to go with the flow and let it surprise you. After all, once you have a kid life will be full of surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant.)
So the kind doc had a good feel of the offending area, with a chaperone in the room, and me up on one of those massage type beds - but this was going to be no holistic therapy treatment. No aroma diffuser or candle in the room; no spa music. Just us three characters going through the motions of checking out a lumpy boob.
He said I did indeed have a lump and I'd need an ultrasound. The appointment came through in less time than even the two weeks he'd set my expectations at. I was booked in, for a much more thorough going over.
During this time I was quite open about it. I know some people keep it to themselves and then if it's fine, no need to mention anything, and if it's not so fine, time to start systematically telling those who need to know.
I prefer to make a song and dance about everything. Anything up with me - everyone has to know. I like inciting love and support in people, and am happy to reciprocate when the tables are turned.
I guess I dropped it in to a lot of conversations, and this bore some good fruit for me. I wasn't even hinting for a clinic companion, I just wanted to be open about it, perhaps to better process the thoughts and worries in my head and to prepare myself, and to get reassurance that 'it's probably nothing' which is what people said when I told them.
One friend offered to come along, and I felt like if she had said it, then it was only right to follow it through, but half wanting to go on my own. After all, it's just a breast scan, it's not going to be the end of the world. She was going to be working away that day, so I figured that was the sign I needed to just go along quietly without any fuss. But then I told Jen as well, and she offered too. I said that I'd be fine. As time went on, and my nightmares became more eerie and severe, I figured that if it WAS going to be bad news, it might be nice to have someone there to share that with. I might need a cuddle.
When the morning arrived, I talked to myself all the way as I walked to the breast centre, loads of positive affirmations and gratitude stuff to send out the best vibes possible. As soon as I got there, there was Jen, all bright and genuine, with her sparkling eyes, pierced nose and gorgeous streaks of grey in her hair. We had a good catch up and the experience was panning out to be quite pleasant.
The nurse who took us up to the consulting room was quite bossy, but as Jen and I both agreed (and Jen told her) - we like bossy. We know where we stand with bossy. The consultant was equally firm, and just the perfect mix of firm and lovely to make her a figure of trust and authority.
When you are answering medical questions you sometimes feel like you're being judged. I have breast implants. Or 'fake tits' as some kind souls refer to them. The decision was made 20 years ago and now I'm stuck with it. Great pert boobs, if I say so myself, but apparently the implants don't last much more than 20 years and then they become problematic and need changing. Anyway, I have decided that if the boob job does go weird on me, I won't be having them replaced, just whipped out and tossed away as if they'd never existed. I'll be as flat as a pancake again, but Mark says he will love the natural look anyway, so that's a silver lining when and if the time comes. I certainly don't want to be having new ones put in, only to be going in for surgery every 20 years after that.
Anyway, sitting in the breast consulting room with the nurse, consultant, and Jen, I didn't feel judged. I felt supported.
I still did a fair amount of heaving (dratted anxiety doing it's thing, but I assured them I wouldn't actually puke). Consultant had a feel and drew a circle with a biro where the lump was, then packed us back off to the waiting room for a mammogram.
I hadn't been expecting a mammogram, just an ultrasound was all that had been mentioned. I hadn't made room in my mind for a mammogram. But that's what they wanted me to have. I felt disgruntled about this. Mammogram hadn't been on the menu. I'm glad I did though, not just because it's better to check things out thoroughly, but because I met the most wonderful woman during that part of the investigation.
She was easy to be around, explained things clearly, and we struck up a good chat that could have gone on for hours. The sort of person I'd like to be friends with. I felt glad that this woman is the person that deals with so many women on a daily basis for their mammograms. You literally couldn't wish to spend those moments with anyone better than her. I know I'm a right slush-bucket, but I could bring a tear to my own eye if I describe her much more. Mind you, she doesn't half squeeze that boob with her scientific machine. Ouch! Nah, it's not that bad, just a bit of an unusual discomfort. Who goes out of their way to get their breast squashed almost flat in a machine? No-one.
Jen had to go and my stepmum had texted and offered to come along for whatever was left and give me a lift home. Ideal. I was getting used to all this attention nicely so was well up for a bit more.
Finally the ultrasound. Another two new people to meet. All experienced in putting you at ease and getting the job done. They see people every 2-5 minutes and are very efficient. Yet still you don't feel like you're on a boob conveyor belt. You are treated like someone they care about.
They got the jelly out (room temperature, thankfully) and smeared it on the afore-several-times-mentioned mammary. Hadn't had that kind of procedure since my baby scans. Totally painless and you can look at the screen, or not.
Turns out the lump was the main leader of a gang of many. I have lots of cysts. The huge relief is that they don't require any action for the foreseeable future. I'm off the hook!
Things do start going wrong more frequently as you get older though, as you'd expect. It's not a surprise but the ailments tend to come thicker and faster than they did before, in my experience anyway. I won't go in to my others.
My conclusion is as follows:
Check your breasts regularly.
Breast pain and lumps can be caused by various different things.
Take a friend with you, in case the results aren't what you are hoping for.
Friends and family rock.
Breast clinic staff rock, are very thorough and non-judgemental and make the experience feel fine.
Affirmations, gratitude and positive thinking do work.
It's too late to regret decisions from 20 years ago but if I had my time again I guess I'd keep the fried eggs and not go for the honeydew melons.
Love Sal x