Supporting women whose lives have been touched by breast cancer


Diagnosis


THAT FIRST VERY IMPORTANT MAMMOGRAM WHEN YOU ARE 50


by pm

I was called for a mammogram after my 50th birthday January 2004. I had had one before so I knew it was a pretty unpleasant experience. I can’t remember why I had one at an earlier age – may have been after I had mastitis when I was 34 and had been breastfeeding first (and only!) baby.

Round about that time there was an article in the Guardian saying that mammograms weren’t that effective at detecting cancer and the expense etc of running a programme of testing for women my age was maybe not justified. It made me think – fleetingly – about not going. In fact I put it off because of something at work, for about a month.

I went third week in May then went up to Scotland to clear my Mum’s flat ready to sell, as she had moved into a home.

I was in Glasgow for a week and while I was there phoned my husband to check if there had been any mail. There had – from the hospital where I had had the mammogram.

I knew then it was a recall and somehow I knew that it would not be good news. This was just a feeling based on nothing.

I COULD NOT FEEL ANY LUMP OR STRANGENESS IN EITHER BREAST.

I decided to go to the recall appointment on my own. This I did because I thought if I didn’t take OH, it would turn out to be nothing.

I saw the radiologist first who took me in to show me the scan. There was a very clear mass behind the nipple of my left breast. I still couldn’t feel anything at this point. Then the doctor came in and said they were almost certain it was cancer but would take a biopsy to be sure, and was anyone with me? Oh shit.

This was a bit painful and I felt a bit rough afterwards.

Was I ok to drive home? Oh yes fine. My life has just fallen apart and I now have to tell my husband.

I drove home crying and swearing and I didn’t go back to work. I can’t remember how I told my husband. He was at work so maybe I phoned him. Or did I wait till he came home later? I really can’t remember. I told my sister and my boss but no one else at this point and kept up a face with our son who was doing AS levels at the time.

After all there was still a chance it wouldn’t be cancer.

I went back 10 days later (by which time I had read everything I could about bc and diagnosis, treatment etc) and this time I took my husband. We sat in the waiting room and were called in last.

In we went to the waiting room and the doctor came in. I am afraid it is cancer. Thank god I had a hand to hold.

So what happens now – lumpectomy in 2 weeks – no we think a mastectomy is not required – followed by radiotherapy. You will be finished treatment in 3 months all being well. (In the end I had chemo as one of my lymph nodes had cancer).

We came out and said - Let’s go for a drink!

MY OH was a rock as was my dear son. He had finished his last exam that day.

And I never ever felt a lump, even when I knew it was there.

But when I thought back, I did have occasionally in the previous years a slight watery discharge from that nipple. I had no idea it could be anything sinister and just dismissed it as funny things going on with my menopause.