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).