I began the day with Julian of Norwich. She has seen me through many a tough time and despite my attempts to laugh it away, I was anxious. Julian was a fourteenth century Christian mystic whose words I have found comforting. Her most famous are:
All shall be well,
And all shall be well,
And all manner of things shall be well.
And for Christians this is true. Whatever the day brings, ultimately, all shall be well.
Unusually for me, I had the presence of mind to arrange to go to clinic with a friend. For reasons that I am uncertain of, I fully expected to receive definitive answers today. And yet logically, I know this would not have been possible. However, logic seems to vanish on days like these.
My appointment was for 10am so like the hyper anxious control freak I can be, we arrived at 9:30. Having someone to pass the time with was a godsend. We laughed, chatted, caught up on news, and by the end of the day I realised there were many things I had forgotten to ask/say. The staff at the clinic were delightful: professional, warm, kind, and knowledgeable. At all times I felt that they really knew what they were about which is always a comfort. Pretty quickly, I lost all sense of my breasts belonging to me, they became specimens. Something to be examined, pulled, handled, manipulated, and even stabbed.
I did not expect the investigations to gallop along at the pace they did. It was evident from the outset that list of possible procedures I’d been given was being worked through rapidly. I began with high magnification imaging of the breast that was presenting the problems (My left breast to be precise. I should write a movie. My Left Breast. Perhaps Daniel Day Lewis would like to be in it?). From there we moved to ultrasound and biopsy where I was shown my films. Three problem areas have been identified: a thumb nail sized one, a little finger nail sized one and a collection of calcified specks. Taking chunks of each of them was the idea so I was set upon by quite possibly the most beautiful doctor I have ever seen. She was breathtaking. Pain and beauty, a perennial theme in the Arts, I feel!
Actually, this biopsy was fine. I simply lay back, flashed my tits (and not for the first time …) and a fairly large needle was inserted four times for various samples. Local anaesthetic had been liberally applied so the worst bit was the pressure afterwards. Oddly, the large area could not be found on ultrasound so the area biopsied at this point was the little finger sized one. Dr Beautiful explained that rather than a lump, my mammogram had shown changes in tissue that warranted further investigation. The calcified specks would be biopsied using another technique as would the large area since it was currently hiding.
I was dressed in a gown – aren’t they just the last word in fashion? – and taken to another room where I was to have a Vacuum Assisted Core Biopsy under X-Ray. You’d be forgiven for thinking I was going to be wired up to a Henry Hoover and to be frank, it did sound like that, but no, this was a machine worthy of a Bond movie. Of course, my ‘dodgy areas’ were close to my sternum making them awkward to get to so the positioning was entertaining but we got there in the end. Three radiographers were involved in the process and it took an awfully long time. Again, it wasn’t particularly painful thanks to the local anaesthetic, but I can’t say it was pleasant. Would it be on my top ten list of experiences to repeat? Possibly not. Being impaled by a machine while attached to Henry Hoover is never going to be my idea of a good time and at one point I came over all peculiar. But it passed.
In all, twelve samples were taken from this contraption so I’m probably down to about 1 1/2 breasts now! All that from just the small area and the calcified specks. The larger of the dodgy areas seems to have vanished and this has been declared A Good Thing. Hurrah! Also, my lymph nodes were scanned and deemed beautiful! So feeling rather smug about that.
After this, all that remained was a chat with the Breast Care Nurse who was funded by Macmillan. Isn’t it funny? As a relative looking after my terminally ill father just over a year ago I was always thrilled to meet a Macmillan funded nurse. Now, as a patient, desperately hoping that all is well, I would really have liked the Macmillan bit on her badge to have been absent.
My ‘allow two hours’ clinic appointment had stretched to 4 1/2 and I was exhausted. My dear friend drove me home where I have treated myself to mindless dvds for the rest of the day.