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~~*~~*~~ Breast Biopsy ~~*~~*~~
2011 was not the best year for health related incidents - Pig (my loveable chocolate Labrador) was diagnosed with lumbosacral disease, then she developed stomach ulcers unbeknownst to us all and had to have a section of her stomach removed, and then I found a lump in my breast.
~~*~~ The Doctors ~~*~~
I'm not one to go running to the doctors at the first sign of trouble (primarily because it's impossible to get a fricking appointment) so obviously I left it for a couple of months. Then my mother got mad with me so I finally rang the doctors. Obviously I downplayed it on the phone when they asked me why I wanted to see a doctor only to find that 'a lump should be seen by the practice within 48 hours' so I went to the nurse at 6.15pm that evening.
I was slightly worried because I'd got a golden appointment and was sent straight through on arrival. The nurse asked some general questions about when I found the lump and scolded me for not coming sooner. However, because I'd waited, the lump couldn't really be a put down to menstrual influences as it had stayed a consistent round 50p size for a while. To be honest, the next part was the bit I was most dreading - I know most ladies hate a smear test or a mammogram but the part I really fear is getting undressed. The nurse was fantastic - she asked me where the lump was and then had a quick feel of it, around it and then checked my other boob to compare. That was it. It wasn't embarrassing and obviously it was completely professional - I don't know why I need to state this but it may just put some people's minds at rest and help them take the first step. After this the nurse confirmed she'd like me to see a breast specialist at the local hospital and that I should receive an appointment in the next few days. She was very nice and reassured me that being young (!) 34, and what with the general feel of the lump it shouldn't be anything I should worry about. Easy for me - hey, I'm not one to worry cos Lord knows, there's nowt I could do about it.
I left the doctors and trotted off to my friends for tea ringing my mother on the way to proclaim 'I'd been and there was nothing to worry about'. An hour later, at 7.45pm I received a phone call from Lancaster Hospital to say they had an appointment at 9.00am on Thursday (2 days away, well technically, 1 ½ days away). Panic started to set in. Why on earth was the hospital so quick? Who works after 5pm in admin? What should I wear on the day? Where the hell is Lancaster Breast Clinic? Obviously I asked none of these questions and merely thanked the lady and said I'd be there. It dawned on me later that I didn't even know what I was going for. Well, that's where the internet came in very handy so I shall save you all the worry and explain further.
~~*~~ The Clinic ~~*~~
Firstly I asked my mummy to come with me. My mother is my little rock (she's only 5 foot something) and will generally witter away for hours thus rendering all company unable to think of the bad times ahead, god love her. I had found out previously where the breast clinic was and we headed there knowing it could be a couple of hours and to make sure we'd put plenty on the parking meter (robbing hospital parking). I found it very reassuring that I had someone with me - it just helps with the practicality of parking, fetching a brew only to realise you're being called in, coats, etc and I would say that most people in the waiting room had someone with them apart from the one man on his own which I found humbling for some reason. The receptionist had me fill in two forms - one for my details and medical history, and an anonymous one that asked about lifestyle routines. That done we sat and waited - well, I sat whilst my mum got up numerous times to fetch magazines, get a hot chocolate, switch seats as she'd spilt the hot chocolate, root frantically in her handbag as she'd not turned her phone off: I think the poor woman was more nervous than me but she was still a comfort in her own strange way.
The waiting room was like any other surgery - magazines, nhs comfy chairs, extortionate coffee machine; the only difference was the atmosphere as every time the door opened and a nurse appeared, everyone stopped talking. The worst part was the lady who went in and then ten minutes later, the nurse reappeared and asked for her friend to come in - we all knew what was going on especially as the nurse put her arm around the friend. There was an uncomfortable silence for a while and then my mother continued her conversation with the random lady next to her. Nice one mummy for relieving the tension. Then it was my turn.
~~*~~ The Specialist ~~*~~
I was taken to a consultation room by a lovely round nurse where I then waited for the specialist. He arrived, shook hands and asked me the same questions as the original nurse just to clarify they had the same patient and that things hadn't changed. Let me state: I'm not racist. I couldn't care less where you got your qualifications or where you were born, I just care that you can do your job AND speak English. Luckily the nurse had remained in the room and helped me answer since I just couldn't understand what he was saying - turned out it was the word 'period'. Not the best way to put my mind at ease! I was slightly less lucky in that I was asked if I minded a 'student' learning through my consultation. I probably shouldn't have stated that it was fine and then added - 'in for a penny, in for a pound' - it didn't even make sense to me but in my defence I was bloody nervous and he hadn't smiled once.
The nurse took me to the couch in the same room and closed the curtain around us. She asked me to take my top layers off including my bra whilst she stepped out of the curtain. She asked through the curtain if I was ready and then drew back the curtains for the doctor and his little friend. I sat on the edge of the couch and he asked me to point to the lump. He then felt the lump, both my breasts, under my arms and under my neck. I then lay down and he did the same with my arms above my head and by my sides. All this time he was talking to his student which was fine as everyone has to learn somehow, but I pretty much didn't exist. It was then the student's go and he politely asked if I minded which brought me back into the room and I'm glad he did because he had the warmest softest hands I ever encountered - randomly this was a talking point back in the waiting room too. The doctor then confirmed that I should have an ultrasound to rule out anything nasty and that I should get dressed and return to the waiting room. He left and the nurse explained that I would go back and wait to be called for the next step. She was lovely.
~~*~~ The Ultrasound ~*~
I've had an ultrasound before so I wasn't right bothered sat in the waiting room. It was only about 10 minutes and I was called again. This time a nice little northern bloke with a sense of humour explained everything. First I had to get undressed in the same sort of manner as the first room with the magic curtain, and then lie back on the couch. He informed me that he was going to squeeze some cold gel on the area of the lump and also in my armpit as the specialist had told him there were abnormal lumps there. Gulp - I thought he'd spent a lot of time in my left armpit but to hear the words sent my heart racing.
A different but equally nice nurse remained in the room with us to pass instruments and just to generally reassure me. Northern man was very efficient - he told me the exact position to place my arms, the gel was indeed cold and as he moved the ultrasound around he pointed everything out to me on the monitor so I could see the lump in all its glory. My armpit looked fine you'll be glad to know. And that was the ultrasound: painless and not at all embarrassing - it was even quite interesting.
~~*~~ The Biopsy ~~*~~
To be fair, I was half expecting a needle biopsy going off what I'd read on the internet but I really didn't expect it to be there and then. Northern man said he wanted to do a biopsy and I imagined going back to the waiting room or even going on a waiting list but nope, it was all over and done with within 10 minutes with every step explained to me but not allowing me too much time to over think things:
Firstly, a local anaesthetic was injected into the area around the lump - this was not pleasant but nowt unusual or painful (everyone's had an injection at some point in their life). Then Northern man said I could either watch the ceiling, him, or the monitor - I went for the monitor which was fascinating! I watched the needle be inserted into the lump and then he warned me there would be a sort of dull gunshot which may make me jump but shouldn't hurt. It did and it didn't - he was right. He took two samples/biopsies and then the nurse pressed down incredibly hard on the area where the biopsies were taken for 2 whole minutes - this really hurt! Ridiculous but true. The Northern man said in his opinion he thought it was a fibroadenoma and that I shouldn't be worried but that I would go back to the specialist before leaving and that I would have the results in a couple of weeks. What a lovely bloke. He then asked what I was doing for the rest of the day so I explained I was a dog walker to which he told me not to let any of them pull my left arm or to put too much pressure on the area. Lucky I had my mummy then to help me walk the doggies. A big plaster was then put on my boob and I got dressed and sat back in the waiting room where I told mum that it wasn't half that bad so she then passed the news on to her new best friend.
~~*~~ The Specialist Part Deux ~~*~~
After going back to the waiting room for approximately 10 minutes where my mother fussed uncontrollably for the entire time, I was then called back to the specialist where he basically said the same as the Northern man - the lump looked like a fibroadenoma and I shouldn't be worried though in the past he has had some surprises with the results. Seriously? This man could do with a wee bit of an update in 'patient relations'. Anyway, I was sent back to reception to book an appointment for a fortnight's time to get my results.
~~*~~ The results ~~*~~
Straight after the biopsy, I felt fine. Within an hour, I think the anaesthetic had worn off and driving was quite uncomfortable as each time I stretched out my arm or used the muscles, there was a bit of pain. Don't get me wrong, a paracetamol was enough to curb it. I had been warned not to place to much stress on the area as I could encourage the hole to bleed - I was also told that if it bled profusely or the lump suddenly increased that I was to ring them straight away. I think I may have been a bit pathetic in that I felt a bit weak and wussy which I can't really put down to shock but at the same time, I wish I had booked the day off just so I could have gone home, had a brew and had a rest.
The first night I was to leave the bandage on and not to get the area wet - there was a little spot of blood coming through the bandage by the next morning but nothing exciting. Being a bit of a freak, I couldn't wait to get the bandage off and have a good look - 24 hours after the biopsy I was to change the plaster so obviously I did it as soon as I could: The hole was particularly unimpressive in that it looked like a red felt-tip pen mark. The bruise was already black around the hole - bout a 10p size. Over the next few days the bruise became more and more spectacular in that I got a green and yellow cleavage in the end! I was a little tender for a week and had to discourage the Pig from sleeping on me which she seemed more eager to do - it's strange how dogs feel the need to comfort their mummy when she's feeling a little poopy. Psychologically things changed from minute to minute - at times it was impending doom and the statistics of 1 in 10 lumps were cancerous meant I was that 10% likely to have a tumour, then there were the times when 9 out of 10 lumps are benign nothingness which, if I were a betting lady, would have been very good odds.
Eventually after what seemed like an eternity, the two weeks were up and I headed off to the clinic with my mummy - I knew if I didn't take her, it would be bad news and vice versa. We were seen right on time by 'Breast Cancer Specialist Nurse' which immediately worried me as I'd not met her before - turns out my so-called specialist surgeon had buggered off on holiday. As soon as we sat down she went through some basic details to check she had the right results and then said that the lump was indeed a fibroadenoma - hurrah! I could have hugged her but my mum hugged me instead so the nurse was spared. She told me that I shouldn't be worried about the lump anymore unless it grew or became a problem - I could have it removed but I'm of the opinion: don't mess with that which ain't broken.
A couple of days later I received confirmation in the post that it was a fibroadenoma as well as a breakdown of results under which the nurse had written 'patient very pleased' - too bloody right!
~~*~~ Go on: give yourself a grope ~~*~~
Nearly three months on and I'm conscious of my lump but it's a reminder to check myself more often. I have a mark left by the biopsy but apart from that I'm relieved that's all I have. I can honestly say that the whole process was fast and fairly painless - the worst part was the waiting for results but that can't be helped and after reading about the more unlucky ladies and men in this world who didn't get the results I did, I feel even more grateful for the speed in which I was told. Everyone (apart from the specialist) were fantastic and compassionate and I wouldn't hesitate to go again if I find another lump or if I'm worried at all. I don't like to waste people's time but this is the sort of thing where it is imperative to get it seen whatever age or sex you are.
I realise I may have glossed over some of the details or that I may have made light of a serious situation but that is how I am. I do however, hope this has been of some comfort or help for those of you who are worried about the process - if you feel I have left something out or that I've left a question unanswered, please tell me. Oh, and please ignore the ratings criteria.
Thanks for reading.
Caroline, Pig & Puddle
Review will more than likely appear elsewhere...