So, I receive an appointment from the hospital for somewhere around January the 18th. I've forgotten the date and last year's diary is upstairs. I'm comfy here and have a hot cup of tea so you'll have to contain your disappointment at not knowing the exact date. I'm not fetching the diary. It was a Wednesday, I believe, if that helps.....
I do not receive a gallon of letters cancelling the appointment this time, so I duly attend the breast clinic. It is no longer in a Portakabin, It's in a real clinic all on its own. I see a very nice, elderly doctor who listens to my ongoing arm saga then asks me to remove my top half of clothing and sit on the couch. We run through various movements - pushing his hand, walking my hands up my back and so on. He points out that my scar is swollen and I have a lump in my armpit and neck. Neck? In my neck?
Quite some months before this, I had pointed this lump out to my GP during a medication review. I have a small cholesterol deposit under one eye and I was worried that this lump was cholesterol forming on my artery and that the slightest exertion would break a chunk off, sail up to my brain and cause a stroke. The GP had said it was nothing to worry about - it was just one of those things.
It WAS one of those things - only it wasn't one of those things the GP was talking about - it was a lymph node.
The doctor sent me for a mammogram, ultrasound and a couple of biopsies. This time, there was no picture on the ceiling when they did the biopsies. They- radiographer and nurse - actually spoke to me instead. We came to an agreement - I wouldn't squeal my head off as long as they told me when to expect the biopsy noise. We spoke about my interests - my family tree and the nurse asked if there had been any hidden secrets. I mentioned a couple and we agreed how far the world has come in terms of unmarried mothers and of mental health and how we now treat such things. The chat relaxed me - I can talk for hours about my favourite hobby - and so I was completely blindsided when the ultrasound revealed a couple of what was described as "hot spots" on my chest.
They took the biopsies from my armpit and, as promised, warned me when to expect the noise. I've spent years worrying about lymphodema and protecting this arm from every little scratch and bang! All these holes in my armpit!
I saw the doctor again. He tells me I need a CT scan. Now I was on unfamiliar ground. Never had one of those before. It was booked in for the coming Sunday, 20th of January. It would have been my mum's birthday, had the chemo/blood clot/COPD/pneumonia/lung cancer not taken her within weeks of diagnosis. She died in this hospital. I try not to think about that.
That night, I logged onto Macmillan for the first time. My google skills had abandoned me and I could not find out for love nor money if I could wear my wedding/engagement rings in the scanner. I asked here and within minutes received some lovely, reassuring replies that I could.
I read about the CT scan. I read that the contrast can cause breathing problems and even heart attacks. I had never had a problem with either but quickly convinced myself that I was going to develop both.
Now I had to wait two days for the results. I don't remember what I did in those two days. I remember reading about lymphoma and hoping it was that. That would be a new, fresh cancer that I stood a chance of beating. If it was the breast cancer returned, well. I knew there was little chance of whupping that. I kept my fingers crossed for lymphoma.
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