The day of my first appointment had arrived. I tried to treat is as ‘just another day’, dressing in my work clothes and preparing my lunch for my return to work after the tests. The letter had stated that I was welcome to bring someone with me for support and my husband was duly enrolled to this task.
We arrived by 9.30am to a waiting room with several other people. The breast clinic was very well organised. I received a laminated card on arrival teling me what to expect. It stated that I may undergo some or all of the following: mammogram, scan and biopsy. The estimated length of time at the clinic was 2 and a half hours, meaning I would be back at school in time for lunch.
As we waited, I studied the other people present, wondering what their story was. Within a few minutes, I was called through to another area, leaving my poor husband behind knowing nothing further. I was shown to a little cubicle where I was asked to put on a hospital gown. My clothes were to be stored in a shopping basket that I was asked to carry with me. Then the waiting continued, this time in a dimly lit, smaller room with a table holding an almighty stack of magazines. There were 4 women donning gowns and baskets like me. They were chatting about their tests so far and working out if they had met before because they looked familiar. Armed with my Kindle, I began reading a novel that I wasn’t particularly interested in, but it passed the time.
It wasn’t too long before a nurse appeared at the door, asking me to go through for my mammogram. I was shown into a side room where I was asked for my personal details for the second time that day. Then I had to remove the gown and stand at the machine, attempting to place my breast onto the metal plate. That was followed by a lot of squeezing and pulling to get ‘the best image’. It was pretty uncomfortable to say the least. Satisfactory images had been taken so I returned to the little waiting room and plugged back into the Kindle. This time the conversations had become minimal. It occurred to me I should update my husband so set about connecting to the hospital Wi-Fi.
After a while, another nurse invited me though for my scan. I was greeted by a lovely Scottish nurse who instantly made me feel at ease. As I reclined on the bed, we chatted about our children and jobs. The sonographer joined us, an equally lovely lady, who talked me through what she was doing step by step. First the scan which was painless and showed me that the lump was in fact tiny. About the size of a pea. Maybe not so bad? However, the sonographer informed me that this was definitely not a cyst as it wasn’t fluid filled. I was then told that my lymph nodes appeared ever so slightly enlarged and that a biopsy would be needed to work out if the lump was anything sinister. I would have to return later for this and was asked to go to another room to talk to a doctor first.
A kind nurse asked if I would like my husband (who had bought me a coffee) to be present at the meeting – as if I would say no! Husband appeared with coffee in tow, and we contemplated what was about to be discussed with us. The doctor examined my breasts and then told me that on a scale of 1 to 5, he would put my lump on a 3 as to whether it was cancerous. This news was quite worrying and I felt for my husband who looked a bit shocked to hear this. Next, I was whisked back to the waiting room where my husband was no longer allowed to accompany me – this is for ladies only.
It did seem some time before I was asked to go back to the room where I had my scan with the Scottish nurse and the caring sonographer. The biopsy was carried out with equal care and explanation of what was going on. Anaesthetic (a bit stingy) followed by more anaesthetic deeper down, and then what can only be described as the sound of a stapler as the samples were extracted – 4 times. Then a little pause a staff whispered around me, leaving me thinking that they must be able to tell that it was looking bad. The sonographer then explained that in the cases where they suspect cancer, a metal marker is inserted at the site of the tumour, in preparation for surgery. The marker was described as being the size of a sesame seed and would not cause me to set off metal detectors at the airport. Furthermore, as I was fully numb, this would be a good chance to insert it, rather than going through the whole process again. She did state that in my case it could go either way so she was unable to offer further guidance as to whether I should have the marker placed. I decided that, since it would do no harm, it was worth having it put in. This slightly prolonged the process, but there was no pain.
The procedure was completed so the nurse applied steri strips and a dressing. Then the sonographer suggested it would make sense to have another mammogram to see where the marker was placed. At this point, I decided a phonecall to work was needed as it looked unlikely I would make it back in time to register my class for the afternoon session. No signal of course, so I used the hospital phone in the room where my second mammogram of the day was to be carried out.
This time, it was even more painful, as my poor boob had been through it a bit already! After much squeezing and twisting, the image was satisfactory and I was free to go. Results would be given the following week, they told me, so nothing to be done except wait.
Back to school where nobody had any idea what I had experienced that morning. The waiting game continued…