There’s nothing more sobering than facing the prospect of cancer, let me tell you.
Just over two weeks ago, I got home from the gym and called to complain to mum about a painful lump under my armpit. It was sore and red and everyone says cancer doesn’t hurt, so I didn’t worry too much about it. A few days passed and it hadn’t budged, so under the instruction of mum, a friend (thank you, Jessica) and the lovely Lauren, I called my GP. I spoke to a doctor on the phone who booked me in for an appointment later that day.
Cue an immediate onslaught of anxious thoughts arising from her urgency.
I turn up to the surgery and am seen right away. The doctor takes one look at the lump and decides it’s nothing to worry about, but because of the healthy relationship my family has with cancer, she did a full examination of both boobs. First boob, swift and breezy. She’s talking about work and the weather. The second boob, she stops talking and runs her finger over the same spot, over and over again. At this point, I feel sick. She asks me to put my clothes on and join her at her desk.
She tells me she’s found a lump somewhere else. A pain-free lump. The size of a grain of rice.
She tells me she’s referring me to The Marsden.
A week later and I’m waiting in the Diagnostic and Assessment centre at the hospital, bearded boyfriend in tow. There are women there of all ages. Some with hair, some without. Some sick, some might be, some are back for a second time. It’s all a bit overwhelming, but this story ends well, so I’ll cut to the chase.
I had an examination of both boobs by an amazing doctor. Putting me at ease and chatting the whole way through, she had a good feel and forwarded me upstairs to the ultrasound department for a second opinion. The scan took about 10 minutes and it showed me and the two (equally amazing) doctors in the room there was nothing to worry about. I did learn that I have dense breast tissue (the bit where the milk is made and finally an explanation for my permanently rock hard knockers) which was interesting, but most important of all, I learnt I didn’t have cancer.
For now, anyway.
You might think that sounds dramatic, pessimistic or distasteful, and the elation I felt leaving the hospital was incomparable to anything else I’ve ever felt, but in truth, I walked out knowing I needed to take this experience forward and use it as a catalyst to keep checking myself. I’ve come face to face with cancer – through friends and family – more times than I like to admit to. It’s scary, it’s heartbreaking and if this last year has taught me anything, it’s that cancer waits for no one, but the earlier you catch it, the higher your chance of survival.
Which is the main reason I’m sharing this story.
I used to think I was great at copping a feel, so to speak, but in reality, I didn’t know what I was looking for. I would put off going to the doctors and put everything down to glands, stress or the weather. Until Lauren (of Girl Stole London and now Girl Vs Cancer fame) came along and decided to change the face of breast cancer awareness for good.
Diagnosed with breast cancer last summer, Lauren has spent the last year in treatment, fighting to educate women and protect them from being bitten by the beast that is breast cancer ever since. In fact, the reason I was breast aware enough to check my boobs in the first place, notice the lump and head straight to my GP was heavily down to her and the great work she does, so head over and see what she’s got going on. She can explain how to be breast aware far better than I can. Plus, she’s selling some really quite fabulous t-shirts, so you might want to buy one of those, too.
My scare gave me the fright I needed to take care of myself a little bit better. To check my bits, to live a healthier lifestyle and worship the body I’ve been gifted instead of calling it names every time I looked at it.
So, if you take anything away from this post, let it be this:
Whatever you choose to call them, knockers, tits, mammaries or melons, make sure you get to know your boobs. In the bath, shower or standing in front a mirror: look at them, feel them and get to know your normal; knowing your boobs inside out might just save your life one day.
Happy groping, people!