First trip to the breast screening clinic

Shortly after my visit to the doctor’s surgery, my appointment to the breast screening clinic arrived and was scheduled for two weeks’ time.

Pats has always been around if I’ve ever needed him to take me to any appointments or to give me lifts anywhere.  Like the time he had to take me to the emergency dentist when I was in severe pain with a tooth abscess just days before flying out to Italy for our wedding. (Which incidentally “on a scale of one to ten” of painfulness was about 9!). Or the countless times he drove me back and forth to Haywards Heath to visit my sister in hospital and not to mention all the times he’d dropped me off or picked me up from various social gatherings or events.

But this was one time (when we were at band camp!) that Pats wasn’t able to take me. Well in theory he could have, but he was working in Plymouth the day before so would have meant him doing an eight-hour round trip.  He kindly offered to take me, but such a long journey would have been a ridiculously crazy thing to do. Besides, it was highly probable that the lump was just a cyst.

Despite this hopefulness I still felt somewhat scared to go to the clinic by myself.  I decided I wouldn’t tell my parents anything about this at this stage. My Dad had very poorly back in 2013 having to have his gallbladder removed followed by pneumonia and a lengthy stay in hospital which gave us all a bit of a fright.  Literally two months later my poor sister was admitted to intensive care after sustaining a major head injury after a bad fall.  There was absolutely no point in worrying them unnecessarily, they’d had far too much of that.

My lovely friend Louisa (aka ‘Lou Lou’) very kindly offered to take some time off work so she could come along with me on the day. After having some lunch we arrived at the clinic in the hospital and took a seat in the waiting room together.  Lou chatted away and was making me laugh which helped to take away the anxiety.  Having told her about my awkward experience with my male doctor, she also commented on how all the nurses there were women which gave me a sense of relief.  Having waited for a few minutes, an older gentleman then appeared around the corner of one of the curtains with a clipboard and I instantly knew what he was going to say.

‘Allison Moon?’ he called out.  ‘B*llocks’, I muttered under my breath, I just knew he’d call my name! Just to set the scene here, I’d had a couple of days off work prior to the appointment which had been nice and warm and sunny.  Following a particularly stressful week working on a bid, I’d taken the opportunity to chill out in the garden and do some reading.  In the process however I’d managed to get some very dodgy strap marks.  You can imagine my embarrassment as I had to remove my top and reveal the unsightly marks on my chest. ‘Been sat in the sun have you?’ ‘Ummm, yes…’ I replied meekly. What on earth was I thinking?  I clearly hadn’t thought that one through!

Laying there exposing my white boobs on the bed I felt completely vulnerable.  The gentleman began to move the ultrasound scan around the area of the lump.  I could see the screen he was looking at just out of the corner of my eye and I strained to be able to see what he was seeing.  He then moved the scan towards the outer edge and up to my armpit area.  That’s when the first real worry crept into my head.

After the scan he told me the lump was solid and so I would therefore need to have a biopsy so they could investigate further.  That’s when the tears started rolling.  I lay there weeping and feeling completely helpless, but the two people by my side showed me no empathy at all.  Perhaps they were having an off day? Who works in this profession without being able to give a little TLC? I thought to myself. More to the point what sort of a man feels women’s boobs all day long for a job too?!

I then laid at the opposite end of the bed and they found the lump by ultrasound again and gave me a local anaesthetic to numb the area.  They demonstrated what the noise would sound like when the needle goes in so I was prepared for it (it was a spring-loaded contraption so made a clicking sound).  It went in once and then again to take another sample. It wasn’t as painful as I had imagined.

The female nurse started chatting to me at this point, asking me what I do for a job and saying that I would need to take it easy. ‘I’ve got a proposal to get out tomorrow’ I said defiantly. ‘You just make sure you look after you,’ she said.

I then joined Lou outside and we went and sat in a different waiting room.  I explained what they had done and we tried to decipher which option I’d had from the leaflet I’d originally received in the post. After about 15 minutes I realised I’d been clutching a leaflet in my clammy hands that they’d already given me. It said “Core Biopsy” and was the final screening option listed in the previous leaflet.

That was the start of my (what is usually a pretty much together) head going slightly AWOL (these moments were set to continue).

Discovering ‘the lump’

Up until two weeks ago I was happily getting on with a very busy life.  My husband and I have recently moved to a lovely little village in Hampshire and were enjoying living in our new home.

Once the festive cheer of Christmas had gone and we’d waved goodbye to 2014, we decided to make a start on all the home improvements we’d been planning. One of these was making the old separate kitchen and dining room into one big space.  Just before the Easter weekend we had taken a couple of extra days off so we could make a start on our next project.

Let me just tell you a little bit about my fab hubby.  Darren, also known affectionately as ‘Pats’, is a man of many talents. This is no word of a lie. (By the way he’s nicknamed Pats after the Absolutely Fabulous character by my sister on one of the very first occasions she’d ever met him due to his penchant for champagne!)  Now Pats can literally fix almost anything.  From computers and electrical gadgets, to plumbing disasters or the many things that I’ve accidentally broken over the years. He recently lovingly built me a new bike out of various parts he procured, he’s made a compost bin for our garden, installed our new water filtration/softener system and as I type, he is currently laying the floor in our kitchen.  He is also an amazing chef  and I am extremely lucky to be on the receiving end of the many delicious culinary delights  he conjures up.

With no DIY job impossible for him, the weekend before Easter Pats had taken it upon himself to knock the wall down between our dining room and kitchen.  You know, as you do. I’m a natural born worrier and had to leave the house at this point. Not before repeatedly asking him ‘Are you absolutely sure that’s not a supporting wall?!’

We’d had new carpets laid on the Wednesday and had to move everything from all the bedrooms (which felt like moving house all over again) and whilst they were being fitted, two chaps were plastering our ceiling and walls in the new kitchen/diner. We both worked all day outside in the garden, mowing lawns, raking, weeding and laying mulch in the borders.  I was so tired at the end of that day, I literally had to go and lay down as I felt so exhausted. That is not normal behaviour for me! I then ran a nice hot bath to soak away the aches and pains from our hard day’s work.

Whilst washing myself, my soapy hand discovered something I hadn’t felt before. I have to confess, I don’t check myself very regularly at all, but I knew this felt unfamiliar. It felt kind of hard, the size of a marble. All sorts of thoughts came rushing into my head. What on earth was it? Was I imagining it? How long had it been there? Could it be…no, it couldn’t be, it must be a cyst.

After laying in bed a few hours later, I finally plucked up the courage to ask Pats to feel it for me and tell me what he thought. He initially said he didn’t think it was anything and that I probably had something identical on the other side of my body. But as I pointed out that there definitely wasn’t one on the other side as well, he suggested I ring the doctor in the morning and get it checked out.

My doctor’s surgery were  absolutely fantastic. I called at about 9am and spoke to the receptionist, at 11am I’d then spoken to my doctor and explained what I’d found and by 11:45 I was sat in the waiting room.

To say I was apprehensive was a complete understatement. I was not only nervous about what he might say, but also at the fact that I had to get my boobs out in front of a male doctor! I know, they’ve seen it all before but that didn’t make it feel any better.

Having only just moved to the area I had no idea whether he would be young or old. Luckily as soon as I got into his office, despite feeling awkward and embarrassed as he was in fact a younger doctor, I immediately saw that his walls were covered in photos of his family and adorned with pretty pictures and paintings that his beautiful children had lovingly made for him. I instantly felt more comfortable.

After a very quick examination, he agreed that he too could feel a lump and reckoned it was roughly 1cm in size.  He said it was most likely to be a cyst and that these are apparently very common. He told me that one in four women have them and I think he also said 80 or 90 per cent of all lumps turn out to be cysts.

I felt slightly relieved by these statistics whilst he typed up a referral for me to go to the breast screening clinic at the hospital. He said the clinic was really very good and that they are  very efficient in these things.

So off I trotted with the long Easter weekend ahead of me, one I had previously been very excited about,  but now felt rather woeful and like a little grey cloud was now following me about.

For more info on what to lookout for and how to check your boobies please see