I wasn’t sure if I should write a blog about this. I mean, is it relevant to fashion and what I do? The answer, yes. Massively so! Ever since I was 17 and discovered my first breast lump, I have always seen this area of my body as negative. You will rarely see me in anything that is ‘very booby’ and it has always been this way.
The way my lumps have impacted my fashion choices are, in the grand scheme of things, trivial but nevertheless it has made an impact on me since a very young age and it was thinking about that which prompted me to write this.
I want to make people more aware that breast lumps don’t always equal cancer but the road to getting the all clear can be very daunting and it is something I am going through right now, as I discovered another one a few days ago.
As I mentioned, I discovered my first breast lump at the age of 17. It was by the far the scariest moment of my life at that time. It was big, about the size of a golf ball and stuck out.
My Mum made an appointment for me to see a consultant straight away but reassured me that breast cancer at 17 would be extremely rare. Of course, that did little to calm me and I was certain I was going to die. Dramatic I know but it was the truth.
Sitting in the consultant’s room surrounded by other women, all of whom were a lot older than me, you could see they were bemused to see it was me that was called forward and not my Mum.
I was seen by a nice but stern man who proceeded to check out the lump. After going through what I now know to be the usual process, which resulted in surgery. I was told it was in fact a fibroadenoma which is a fatty free moving lump which is harmless, but they can get quite large.
That was 18 years ago. Since then I have lost count of the number of lumps, I have found but I can tell you I have had 8 lumps removed and both my breasts look like warzones. I remember going for my first wedding dress fitting and saying to the designer not to worry as I could see her looking with concern.
Some people say I have been really unlucky, but some say I have been the opposite. I have become so used to checking my breasts and having lumps checked immediately that I would hope if ever there was an issue, it would be picked up so quickly.
There is loads of great advice out there for how to check your boobs, but none touch on reasons why you may not. FEAR OF WHAT YOU MIGHT FIND. Trust me, I have this every time. My hands start shaking as soon as I know I need to check (usually when I have felt a slight pulling in that area). So here is my start to finish of what to expect if you ever find a lump and the emotions to go with it!
1. Yep that is lump, no denying it – sweaty palms, a bit numb all over, shaky
2. Making an appointment with the doctor – please can I see someone today!!
3. The Doctor’s appointment – watching their face, are they concerned? Say something stupid to try and make it seem like I am totally cool (I’m totally not!)
4. Doctor says they think it is ok but best to see a consultant – what do you mean by you think it is ok? Run through all the symptoms you don’t have to try and persuade yourself that it’s fine, nothing to worry about. Go into a blind panic!
5. Referral to a consultant – please can I see someone today!
6. Consultant appointment – shaking, sweaty palms, can’t eat, on another planet.
Now I am just gonna break here to tell you exactly what to expect at a breast examination. If you have a male doctor you will automatically be given a chaperone, usually a nurse. If you have a female consultant you can still ask for someone to be present.
You will be asked to strip to your waist and sit on the bed. The consultant will then stand back and look at your breasts while you are sitting still, have your hands on your hips and then in the air. They are checking for any misshaping.
You will then be asked to lay down and take the consultants hand. From there this gives then the right angle to check for lumps under your armpit (lumps under your armpit can be dangerous too). After they have checked under your arm, they will systematically go down your breast in lines, pushing down to feel for any lumps. They will occasionally stop to feel more.
Once the physical examination is done, they will ask you questions re contraceptive pill, last period etc.
Anyway…. back to the list!
7. Physical examination – I’m passed the embarrassment stage now as I have had this done so many times but again, I am looking at their face. Any cause for concern? Why have they stopped there? What have they found? Generally, just feeling a little sick!
8. Ultrasound – consultant found a lump and now I am off for an ultrasound (this can be done on the same day or weeks apart, depending on the facilities of your hospital) Anxiety levels are pretty high at this stage and I am not gonna lie, it is not comfortable. It doesn’t hurt but it’s not the nicest!
9. Biopsy – the lump has been found and needs looking at. The only way to do a biopsy is with a needle. I am sweating…a lot and I am having mild palpitations. Not only do I hate needles, but they cannot tell me this lump is ok at this stage. They will use a numbing gel which def helps but again, it can’t numb when the needle goes into the lump…although I would say the pain level is the same as a normal injection.
10. Biopsy is back and it shows it is ok - phew I’m on cloud 9 and want to down cocktails all night to celebrate!
11. BUT it still needs to come out – maybe I’ll just have a glass of wine.
12. The operation – Usually only a day procedure and takes around an hour. I’m totally fine, I’m totally fine….
13. Recovery – waking up to a nurse pressing so hard on your boob you think it might explode (it is to stop the bruising) – sleepy and relief it is out.
14. Final diagnoses – when you get the call that they have examined the lump they can confirm it is a fibroadenoma and all I need to do is to pop back in 6 months for a check-up. – Where are those cocktails!!
Now I know that unfortunately there are some people out there who are not as lucky as me and for them, point 14 is a very different call but what I want to do is to highlight that not all lumps are cancer so try not to be scared if you find one but you MUST get it checked.
You may say my list has put you off even more, but this is the reality and I am hoping that by taking away the fear of the unknown may encourage people to actually check. This new app from Breast Cancer Now is really great and will help you set aside a dedicated time to check, until it just becomes part of your daily or weekly routine!
I am always happy to chat about this topic so if you are going through something and want some fellow support just message me anytime.