We are ‘concerned’…

We waited for what seemed like an eternity in the waiting room until they called my name. Lou came in with me this time and we both sat in front of an older lady (I forget what her name and job title was) along with Claire, one of the breast care nurses.

She asked to examine me (the silly looking white boobs out again!) so stepped behind the curtain and she felt about and agreed she could feel the lump too.  She then felt under my arm pits and around my neck area saying she couldn’t feel anything else.

I then sat back beside Lou.  I could tell from the serious look on their faces that they weren’t going to say something positive.  I knew ‘that look’ only too well.  Only 18 months previously I had sat in a hospital room clutching my sister’s boyfriend’s hand so tightly it could have dropped off, with two Doctors giving us the terrifying news of the potential consequences she could face as a result of her fall, whilst she peacefully lay in a coma in intensive care.  I thought our family had seen the back of those worrying days.

The lady told us how they grade lumps initially on a scale of one to five.  One being normal and five being definite cancer.  She said mine was graded between three and four.  Lou instantly grabbed my hand and held it in a comforting grip.  ‘We are concerned about it’, she said.  Once more the tears began to fall.  How could this be? This is not what they were meant to be saying.  It felt completely surreal, like it wasn’t happening to me, like I was in a dream (or a nightmare).

They said they wouldn’t be doing their job if they were to tell me there was nothing to worry about.  She asked if I had any questions.  Now I’m a forward planner and like to be organised, but I hadn’t really contemplated this moment at all beforehand and just sat there stunned in shock and disbelief. This particular lady was really lovely, but her eyes seem to be staring right into mine, not saying a word, waiting for me to open my mouth.

She explained to us that they’d have to send the biopsy sample off to be tested and that I’d need to go back in a weeks’ time for the results. A week? How on earth was I going to get through waiting a week for the answer.

They handed me a card with some phone numbers on in case I had any questions or if I wanted to speak to one of the nurses.  Lou and I had previously agreed earlier on in the day that we’d go and enjoy a few drinks together after we’d left the hospital.  Thankfully at this point Lou asked the nurse if it would be okay for me to have an alcoholic drink.  ‘Yes’, she said. ‘I think you deserve the whole bottle.’  Now those are words you don’t often hear from a health professional!

Just as we were about to get up and leave the lady said the good news was that it could well turn out to be something else and that if it was the ‘c’ word, I’d have caught it early and that it wouldn’t have spread.  I do wish she’d started the conversation off with this fact!

Lou and I walked out of the clinic together and I just burst into tears and she gave me the biggest hug.  I really don’t know what I would have done without her there that day.

We walked out of the hospital and I immediately rang Pats whilst Lou went off to pay the car parking ticket.  It was getting late in the day at this stage and we’d been in there for over two hours and I knew he’d be worrying.  I tried to compose myself as I told him what had happened, but I couldn’t.  I broke down sobbing hysterically in front of all to see at the entance the hospital.  He said he was setting off from Plymouth immediately and would come and get me from Lou’s.

We stopped off at the shop on the way back to Lou’s to get some supplies – cider for me (keeping it classy as always!) and some painkillers and wine for Lou.

We sat in her back garden trying to weigh up the odds I’d been given and Lou very adamantly put a positive slant on it all. I called my sister, Sarah, and then best friend, Tara.  She reminded me of the lumps she’d had in her neck some years before which had turned out to be benign and she helped in making me feel slightly better about it all.

It took Pats about four hours to get back from Plymouth and once we’d both given Lou Lou a big hug and thanked her for looking after me, off we went home.  Being his usual thoughtful and caring self, Pats had stopped at the shops to get us something light to munch on – my favourite, cheese and biscuits and a nice bottle of wine.

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).

And so it begins…

I’ve always thought how cool it would be to write my own blog, but then immediately wondered what on earth I could blog about that would be of the slightest interest to others?  Unfortunately now, for not very cool reasons at all, I have a million and one thoughts in my head, that whilst may not be interesting to anyone else, I feel I need to get out of my head and onto paper (or virtual paper!).

As a rather quiet and shy person, throughout my life I’ve always found it difficult to be able to talk about my thoughts and emotions and have always turned to the written rather than the spoken word.

So this is the tale of my journey.  Two weeks ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. There I said it. That horrid word that puts the fear into everyone.  It came knocking when I least expected it – incidentally who really expects it? It’s one of those things that happens to somebody else right?

Having watched the heart breaking portrayal of Lisa Lynch’s battle with cancer in the BBC drama ‘The C-Word’ a few days ago, her story resonated with me and I could relate to what was happening to her and the thoughts that were going through her mind. The story she chronicled in her blog seemed to help her get through, whilst also helping others and she has inspired me to create my  own.

If you are reading this you may already be walking on this journey with me or you may have just started your own or be supporting someone who is going through the same thing. Whatever your reason , thank you for joining me – I hope we can share thoughts, concerns, support, ideas, remedies and tips between us along the way.