Writing this post has been a daunting task. It’s definitely the most important thing I’ve written to date and it may end up being the most important thing I will ever write. If you have breasts or anyone you know and love has breasts, please read and share this post. I’m hoping to save lives here and absolutely feel that it’s my social responsibility to do so. There are no affiliate marketing links or adverts on this page, this is about saving lives, not making money.
Where have I been since January?
I’ve had a difficult start to 2019! I suffer with numerous health conditions, as regular readers will know. Recently I received a disappointing diagnosis for one of them. It’s degenerative, there’s nothing that can be done etc. I recently had surgery for my endometriosis, which was painful and triggered symptoms in my other conditions. We’ve permanently lost contact with some dear family friends under very traumatic circumstances and also have illness in our extended family. On top of all that, I spent a month thinking that I had breast cancer and wondering if I would live to see my son grow up.
I’ve never been one to deal well with stress or trauma. My husband had cancer 10 years ago, so for us, it’s not one of those illnesses that just happen to other people. On learning his diagnosis I developed severe anxiety, agoraphobia and resigned from an excellent 5 year career. When my son was born not breathing (he’s fine now!), I needed 3 years of counselling for PTSD. So you see, I don’t cope well with bad things! That’s why I disappeared of the face of the earth (and from my blog) for a while.
In February, I felt a large, hard lump in my left breast. Terrified and dealing with numerous other stresses, I drummed up the courage to see my doctor. My GP agreed that it was indeed very large, and ‘didn’t feel like a cyst’ (I’d have preferred not to have that speculation before a 3 week wait to be honest) and gave me an emergency breast referral. Then followed hell!
Waiting. Waiting is a cruel beast to someone expecting a cancer diagnosis. Unfortunately the NHS are so overwhelmed that the maximum 2 week referral time in my area was extended to 3 and that extra week, let me tell you, it felt like a year! My birthday was in that 3 week period and all I could think about was whether it would be my last one. Dr Google did nothing to spare my panic and I’d convinced myself that I needed to put end of life plans in place. I know, I’m such a drama queen.
The Breast Exam
Anyway, the emergency breast appointment finally arrived. One Saturday morning I took an Uber to the hospital, alone and terrified. I’d chosen not to share the news with anyone (except my husband, who couldn’t leave our 5 year old) until I knew more.
The staff at Birmingham Women’s Hospital were wonderful, upbeat and reassuring. I had a thorough examination followed by 3 biopsies and a fine needle aspiration (mammograms are rarely used on women under 40 as they are less effective). It wasn’t pleasant, but it was necessary. My boob was black and blue for 2 weeks and I couldn’t even consider putting on a bra. Thankfully I was told at the appointment that cancer was unlikely, but that I should wait for the test results to be sure.
Over the next 2 weeks, I felt cautiously more confident and some of the blackness lifted from my mind. Thankfully the doctor was right and after a couple of weeks, I received written confirmation that I have no cancerous or pre-cancerous cells in my breast. It was the best letter I had ever received! As it turns out, my endometriosis probably caused the growth (fibroadenoma), due to hormonal imbalance, so this may not be the last trip I have to the breast clinic.
#LaybackAndcheckyourrack (Lay back and check your rack)
I can’t even explain the level of relief involved in hearing that you don’t have cancer, but you’ll know it if you’ve felt it. One thing that I cannot let pass me by, however, is the shock of how difficult the lump was to find, especially given its size. I feel entirely duty bound, both as a woman and a human being, to ensure that I spread this knowledge as far as I can. I didn’t know this, so I have to assume that there will be countless others that don’t.
‘Check your breasts in the shower’. That’s what I’ve always been told, that’s what the NHS guidelines suggest and therefore that’s what I’ve always done. Guess what? I can’t feel my lump in the shower. I can’t feel a 3.5cm egg shaped lump in my breast AT ALL when I’m standing or sitting. Only by chance, whilst lying in bed with an itchy chest, did the lump become apparent to me. My lump is on the inside of my left breast, close to my ribcage, where an underwire would sit. When I’m lying on my back, you can feel it perfectly. When I stand up, it feels like it isn’t there!!
Share the knowledge
The best way I know that we can share important knowledge these days is to create a hashtag for it. Whatever my/your feelings may be about this method, there’s no arguing that it works! Therefore I have spent a long time (honestly) coining a phrase that I think gets the message across in a short, and memorable way.
I’d be so, so grateful if you could share this post to any social media platform you like. Or even verbally with older relatives that perhaps don’t use the internet.
#LayBackAndCheckYourRack – It’s just so important that people know this information. It could literally save lives. I’m not suggesting for a minute to have any medical knowledge or that people stop searching for breast lumps however else they choose to. But please, please also check them lying down. It’s a whole different landscape lying down, especially for ladies with larger breasts (I’m an EE-F cup) lumps can be hidden pretty well.
Thank you so much for reading – stay healthy!!