During my lifetime, I’ve not really had any issues with my health. I’ve never had a blood test, never had anything more extreme than a few antibiotics and the most invasive treatment I’ve had is getting my contraceptive implant changed. The only time I’ve ever been to hospital was when I was about 4 and the local paper boy ran me over on his bike and broke my leg. My memory of this day is quite hazy, but I do remember that I was distinctly annoyed I didn’t get to see Peter Pan at the cinema and the vague memory of getting an X-Ray with my ‘noop noop’ (which was a tatty old Snoopy beanie toy). I tend to avoid the doctors unless it is absolutely essential to go. Any ailment I get I give it 2 weeks to clear up and 9 times out of 10 it goes before I need to make a fuss and go to my local GP.
This changed the other week though, when I finally decided to go and get the lump on my armpit checked out. Now, it didn’t concern me too much at first, as I assumed it was just caused by changing my deodorant and was possibly a blocked gland or a lymphoma. But then I did something stupid and googled it…
After reading 2 articles I had pretty much settled on the same conclusion every does when they self diagnose on the internet. To give you a clue – this diagnosis is the Daily Mail’s favourite illness cause by anything from plastic bags to fresh air. Yep, I’d convinced myself I was going to have some form of cancer. After 4-6 weeks of keeping my eye on the armpit and finding the lump was still there, I finally visited the doctors. At first he couldn’t quite feel what I was on about, but when compared both ‘pits he realised and advised me it was the muscle and I’d have to go to the hospital for a scan. He assured me that this armpit muscle lump was nothing to worry about. However, being a hospital newb, the thought of going there alone kind of freaked me out. Nevertheless, I soon got over it and went on with life for a few days as I convinced myself back in to it being nothing. The appointment was going to take 4-6 weeks to go through, and after to talking to a few people about it they said that if the DR was concerned it would definitely be sorted way before that kind of time frame.
After a few days though, I was having a lovely bath with a delicious smelling Lush Bath Oil. Oooh I can still smell it’s mango-ey aroma now. With the armpit lump not being too hefty within the weights of my mind I y’know… got on with my bath but decided to do a routine check of the ol’ B cups. When I say ‘routine’ I actually mean I have no regular routine to check them and just did it this time out of curiosity because of the armpit situation.
The process was quite simple. I just gave myself a good old grope. Boob one had its turn, then boob two had its little touch up…
Oh boob two. The turmoil you didn’t know you would bring….
It was when I was checking my second one I felt some kind of lump within the little fun bag. Or maybe it wasn’t a lump. It was hard to tell. It was almost like a tough, textured area deep within the side of my boob. Weird. Weird and very very scary. Needless to say, on the back of the armpit concerns I’d already had during the few days before I freaked the fuck out.
I scrolled through my whatsapp messages wondering who the bloody hell I could tell and how I tell them and how I don’t make anyone else freak out. I mean, I couldn’t tell my mum or boyfriend that OMG I AM DYING I AM ACTUALLY GOING TO DIE with some emojis on the end for good measure could I? So naturally, I sent a message to a colleague (read; really good work friend) who I’d already told the armpit saga too. I let her know that I was going to the doctors first thing in the morning and that I was going to be late and then I continued to sob in my bath before I got out and had the most restless nights sleep ever. As soon as the morning hit I drove straight to my GP as soon as the doors opened at 7am. First in line, I asked for an appointment that morning and at first they told me that I couldn’t book the appointment until 8.30am and would have to go back…
And so the tears began again.
The receptionist soon took pity and managed to get me in for 9.45am with the female doctor at the surgery. I popped home and had a pop tart, cried a bit more, then went back down for my appointment.
As soon as I went in to see her I started to well up again, but she looked at my notes, went through my family history and reassured me that the chances of it being anything awful would be really low. I lay down on the bed and she did a routine style examination. This wasn’t too dis-pleasant, and she basically felt/pressed down around the key areas they would usually find any lumps. The reassuring part of this stage was that she couldn’t feel anything in these usual areas when I was lay down. It wasn’t until I sat up and directed her as to how to feel it that she could also feel it.
Confirming there was *something* there, she filled in a referral form to have a scan at the hospital and informed me that I would get an appointment confirmed within 48hours and my scan would be some time within the next 14days. Needless to say, after my conversations about my armpit scan and all the reassurance people offered for that, the news that this appointment was going to come very soon in comparison immediately made me panic. During my drive to work after this appointment I kept flipping between wanting to go home and wallow in my complete sadness and getting on with work and life to try and take my mind off it all. I went with taking my mind off it all, mainly because whatever it was inside my little boob bags couldn’t be helped at this point, so worrying about it at home alone just wouldn’t have been productive on any level.
After 48 hours I didn’t actually get an confirmation of my appointment, like the doctor told me I would. I rang up and they said she shouldn’t have told me that and I’d have to wait longer because it would be a letter at any point within 14days. This was very frustrating as clearly the whole thing was constantly on the back of my mind. I didn’t want to go to the gym, work, or do anything. I kept eating rubbish food and pricking about a bit more than usual because I took a big ‘fuck it’ attitude to everything and wondering what the point of ANYTHING was. I tried to not make this obvious to anyone else though, as I never have been one to bother people with my problems! Anyway, the appointment was actually confirmed 2 days later by letter and I went to attend the hospital appointment on Thursday the 10th. The day before this appointment, to my relief, I found another identical lump in the other boob, in the same place and same size. Which actually reassured me a lot more. But regardless of this, I still needed to go to this appointment to find out what it was.
I don’t know what it is about getting older, but I find any appointment for anything medical/dental really scary nowadays, but somehow North Staffs hospital resembling some kind of airport kind of settled me down a bit when I got there. You ‘clock in’ with the screen and the millions of signs for different departments are actually really easy to follow. I was the first person in the outpatient waiting room and I was called to the sub-wait within around 15 minutes. I got my boyfriend, who dropped me off, to go and find a free parking space and I would ring him when I was done as I refuse to pay car parking charges. So despite the situation I still remained a tight-wod.
It was all going rather smoothly and I was quite relaxed, until I was in the sub-wait area. Literally every.single.sign was about HAVING breast cancer. There was no literature or signage there that said anything along the lines of ‘HEY, DON’T WORRY IT COULD BE A CYST OR A BENIGN TUMOUR’ – it was all support groups and coping with the illness. This is when I really, really, really, freaked out. I started assuming the worst, that they’d only sent me to that department because they already knew it was going to be the worst case scenario. That they’d lied to me and could have diagnosed a cyst or something at the doctors. That they knew something I didn’t and this was IT.
I got myself together as soon as the doctor came and called me to her room though and she asked me a few general questions similar to what my GP did. Was there any history? Have I found lumps before?And so on… After answering these again, she didn’t look concerned, but noted my age (which is 30, which I forgot to mention earlier on) and proceeded to a physical examination.
This examination was SO MUCH WORSE than the initial one at the doctors. I had to lie down on a bed again, but this woman was much more ‘thorough’ and I could feel her squeezing, manipulating and rubbing my boobs in places I didn’t know existed. It felt so uncomfortable that I didn’t even look down at what she was doing, as I was so concerned she’d ripped a nipple off or something. Once she’d detected where the lumps were (without my guidance this time) she grabbed a sharpie and circled the areas and told me to go back to the reception of the department to book in for the ultrasound scan.
By this point, my boobs were hurting SO much that it detracted all the attention away from the worries about it being cancerous. I don’t know why, but if a lump hurts anywhere on my body it makes me feel a lot better about it?! After about 15 minutes waiting, I was called in to the ultrasound room to have some weird jelly put on my breasts for the scan. I couldn’t really tell what the doctor doing the scan was saying, as she spoke really quickly in Russian (I think it was Russian anyway), but she did keep clicking on the machine. I couldn’t see the screen and I started having another mini-freak out thinking they’d faced it away from me so I couldn’t see my awful fate… The scan itself didn’t hurt, but the method did as my boobs were already so tender from the previous examination. Like seriously, DID she rip my nipple off? The ultrasound seemed to last a life time, but I’m pretty sure it was literally about 1 minute.
She turned the machine off and quickly faced me.
Then she just said ”OK JUST CYSTS”
And belted it out of the room without even a glance back.
I turned to the assisting nurse and was like ‘errrrr can I put my top on then?’ and she said yes and handed me some tissue to wipe all the gel off.
The nurse actually looked a bit flummoxed herself to be honest, but I confirmed with her that the ultrasound doctor did just say it was cysts and asked her what I do next. She explained that I’d need to go back around to the doctor and she’ll go through the diagnosis and aftercare with me in full. But thankfully it is all nothing to worry about and cysts can be caused by hormonal changes during your menstrual cycle, she explained briefly.
So, I waited a while to see the doctor again after the ultrasound. A wait which happened to be the longest wait of the entire experience, luckily. I went back in a sat down and she explained in further detail how it is cysts and because it is a series of small ones in a row, that’s why they felt so weird in the first place rather than when you discover on large one and it’s round and moves a little more freely. I just have to monitor them and if they ever get too large or painful I would need them drained or a course of antibiotics. My boobs are still a little sore now after the examinations, but I’m totally accepting of this small discomfort over what could have been.
I’m still waiting for the scan on my armpit, which everyone so far has said is unrelated. This will be an X-Ray in a few weeks, but I’m determined that there will be NO freaking out about this in the interim. I’m just going to convince myself I have an extra strong armpit muscle that can crush a mans head if I wanted to… Despite my lumps so far just being cysts and nothing worse, you should always, always, always get anything like this checked out. I cannot even begin to imagine how horrible I’d still be feeling if I didn’t get it sorted out straight away. I was so stressed out I still have dermatitis flaring on my hands!! But it’s calming down again now.
Tell you what, it ALL goes to shit when you reach 30 doesn’t it???