Very sorry if you are sick to death of reading about my boobs (and if you aren’t, then go and make yourself comfortable and read Part 1 and Part 2), but here we are. It’s been almost 2 months to the day since the lump in my right breast was found and yesterday I got my diagnosis. But before I tell you about that, and after my slightly traumatic experience last time, let me talk about how I got to this point…
So picking up from where I last left off, I had my meeting with my plastic surgeon and we had a chat about how and if the surgery might be complicated by the mass in my breast – benign or otherwise. If benign, he was quite confident that he’d be able to remove it during the reduction. If not… ‘well let’s just move the pre op assessment so you don’t get a £300 bill for a blood test,’ he said. Think about that next time you complain about your £8.60 NHS prescription or how long you had to wait about in A&E because you got drunk and fell over ice skating (in my defence, I fell over ice skating and then got drunk).
The biopsy itself, that I had agonised over for days, was fine. I don’t think it could have been more fine. I held the nurse’s hand because I thought I was about to be in immense pain, and I may have emitted an overdramatic ‘fuck!’ under my breath when they injected the local (because after some diazepam one tends to lose one’s inhibitions), but I’ve been in more pain plucking my eyebrows. All the reviews that said it was comparable to childbirth could not have been less true. The internet is the worst.
I won’t lie, the period of waiting for my biopsy results was more difficult than I thought it was going to be. Every day my mind flitted between certainty that I wasn’t carrying around a 3.5cm bomb in my chest and certainty that I was. Which, I guess, is the very meaning of the word ‘uncertainty’. Two weeks to learn if you’re within that 20% margin of people whose breast lumps aren’t benign, or even tinier – the 1 in 1000 women under 30 that are diagnosed with breast cancer – it’s a long time to be contemplating things. And with my academic duties mostly under control, I had a lot of time to sit around contemplating.
You may look at the statistics and think it’s ridiculous that I even had the worry. You might even, as I have, think that by even considering that I may be an exception to these cold, hard facts, my self-indulgence has almost bordered a kind of arrogance. But ten minutes of googling ‘breast cancer in early twenties’ served as a stark reminder that these exceptions do exist. I started looking back over my life, thinking of things I might have done to doom myself into becoming one of these exceptional cases. I used to carry my phone in my bra. A phone that I once placed next to a geiger counter in secondary school physics that sent the bloody thing haywire. If I’ve given myself cancer, I thought, because women aren’t afforded the luxury of clothing with pockets, then I’m going to rage.
Well, I don’t have to rage. My lump (which I have dubbed Theresa the tumour) is a benign fibroadenoma. After two hours of waiting in a very poorly-decorated waiting room full of pregnant women listening to nurses mispronouncing people’s names as they called them through (breast clinic and antenatal clinic are in the same hospital – because let’s just chuck all the women with their womanly problems in one building), I was called into my appointment which lasted approximately 45 seconds. Fibroadenoma. Benign. Will be removed during reduction surgery which is happening in 10 days time.
So this is, in many ways, the end of my little boob saga – but is also the beginning of another. There are a few things I’ve taken from this whole experience, the first of which being to make sure everyone I know thoroughly and regularly CHECKS THEIR BOOBS. Just because statistics are on your side if you’re young and healthy, it doesn’t mean that you’re invincible. Some people just get unlucky. The second thing is that, oddly enough, during this unstable contemplative period of mine, I’ve been able to take a step back from my life and assess what parts I would like to work on to make sure I do the most I possibly can. Especially after events like the tragedy that unfolded this week, the ‘life is short’ cliche is really hitting home and it’s made me a bit more aware that I deserve to live my life exactly as I choose.
Here are some resources on how to check your breasts:
Find out how you can remind yourself when it’s time to do a check:
Some of the other symptoms to be aware of (it doesn’t always present as a lump):