The Whittington

My breast screening appointment was at the Whittington Hospital, a pleasant walk down the hill from where I live. The appointment letter explained that I should expect a mammogram, maybe ultrasound and biopsy, so to allow four hours. And I had all that!
All of this is new to me – I’m too young for routine mammogram. And I didn’t have such tests for my breast mouse all those years ago (young breasts have very dense tissue so mammograms are not a good diagnostic tool).

The clinic was very quiet, I guess because it’s Christmas. Firstly I saw one of the consultants, who examined me then sent me to the Imaging department for my mammogram and ultrasound. You get given a bleeper like you’re in a pizza restaurant, and then await your bleep.

The mammogram was not painful or uncomfortable, just a bit ungainly having your boobs squashed between perspex plates. Then the ultrasound. Top and bra off again, lie down and then the technician scans my left breast, the one where the pain is. “All looks normal” he says. Phew, what a relief.

Then he scans my right breast, where the lump is. On this side he spends a long time looking at the lump, and also scans my armpit. At this point he starts to make small talk. Uh oh. That’s not good. I stare at the ceiling tiles and I know this isn’t good.

So, then a biopsy of the lump. Firstly a local anaesthetic “you’ll feel a sharp scratch”. As part of the procedure, he inserts a small clip back in to the lump. This is because my lump does not show on the mammogram I just had. After the procedure the nurse presses down on my breast with both hands to staunch any bleeding. Felt like I would have passed out from the pain of that if I had been standing up.

Back to see the very sweet radiographer for another mammogram. She has to really squeeze my boob far round on to the plates to be able to get the clip in the image. But she does.

Top and bra back on, then back to reception to make an appointment to get the results of the biopsy. I’d usually be seen next Monday, but bugger it, it’s New Year’s Day and a bank holiday so I will have to wait until Monday 9th January.
I walked past George Michael’s house on the way back. So many floral tributes, tea lights and even Cypriot flags.

I think 9th January may be a long time coming.


This is moving fast

My appointment letter for the breast screening clinic has landed on my doormat: Wednesday 28th December. That is efficient! I’ve told some of my family and close friends about my screening appointment. If there is tough news to come, I’d rather they have time to prepare too.
I’m relieved this is moving fast, but what crap timing, right over Christmas. At least I’ll already be off work on holiday, but I’ll have to cancel one of my Crisis At Christmas volunteering days for the appointment.

AA Gill had recently been in the news with his untimely death. Whilst he is not a man whose views I agree with (shooting a baboon to see how it feels. Seriously?), he was an interesting writer. I had read his final article, where he made some pertinent observations about cancer treatment and the danger of having a romantisiced view of the NHS. His view was that diagnosis took too long on the NHS, so I’m heartened than in my case I seem to be being processed quickly.

GP appointment

For a few weeks, I’ve been having stabbing pains in my left breast. The pain is not constant, but it is different to the mild twinges I always had on that side. So, I googled it, as we all do. My research reassures me that pain associated with breast cancer usually presents with other symptoms. I have no other symptoms. But a little voice nagged at me and I knew I should get it checked out, so I arranged to see my GP.
I was rather snappy at work today. Clearly I was more anxious than I had thought about the appointment this evening.
My GP examined my left breast, she said it all felt fine, maybe some cysts, which is all normal given my age. Then she examined my right breast and found a lump.
Really? Really??
Once she pointed it out I could feel it, but I’d never felt it before.
She was very reassuring, “I really don’t think it’s cancer”.
She’s made me a referral for an urgent appointment at the breast screening clinic “It’s just standard practise, I have to make it an urgent referral and you will be seen within two weeks”.
I came home strangely relieved as I knew I was addressing the issue, if there is an issue to be addressed. But I am also shocked that I have a lump. Maybe it’s another mouse?