Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Touch Yourself

This is different to what I normally write here. However, I do look at my blog as a diary of sorts, or a record of what I have been doing. Granted it’s usually more the fun things. I couldn’t call my yearly visit to the Breast Clinic fun, but when I decided to live tweet the appointment, I was surprised at how people reacted to it. So I thought I would turn the tweets into a post here for those that may be interested and missed my tweets.

A little background first.

I first found a lump in my left breast when I was 31 or 32 and with a history of breast cancer on both sides of the family I didn’t waste time getting to my GP who in turn referred me to the Breast Clinic. That first appointment was awful, I ended up having 3 or 4 fine needle aspirations that day and I cannot begin to explain the pain. This is where a very fine needle is poked into your breast right into the lump and squidged around to grab some cells to test. During the ultrasound prior, the lump I found and a few more had turned up. They can also tell you almost immediately if it is cancer or not, which is great, and it wasn’t. The lump I found was a fibroid and the rest cysts, but I was asked to come back 6 months later to be on the safe side. I still remember poor Mum driving me home, every single bump reverberated through me, and I was so white that Mum didn’t believe me when I said I was ok.  

6 months later I was ok and on yearly visits until another was found a few years later. I had the option for this to be removed and checked. Of course I took the option and asked for the original Fibroid to be removed at the same time. Fibroids are benign, but can be very painful and mine was. The pain of a sharp poker going through my boob was almost unbearable at times. The Doctor couldn’t 100% guarantee the pain would go with its removal but felt it wouldn’t hurt.

And so I went in for my first ever operation. A boob job! The surgery was quick, a morning visit, the recovery longer than I thought. Removing the fibroid was a good idea, never had that pain again, and the cyst was benign. You can barely see the scars, Doctor Clarke is the best, and a great surgeon. I won’t go into the ins and outs of my recovery, but being the independent gal I am, I insisted I was fine at home by myself. Recovering from the surgery I had was not too painful but very uncomfortable. The first time I laid down I had a small bleeding issue and totally freaked myself out and my poor sister who had to help me sort myself out. Minutes later my father rang, informing me to pack and Mum was on her way back to collect me to stay at their place. Where I could sleep on their recliners, as laying down was too uncomfortable.  

And so I recovered, nothing really, not compared to what people who really are sick go through. 6 month check-ups led to yearly ones. I am never complacent, and realise it could go either way at each visit, you just never know. I get very stressed/anxious in the week leading up to the appointment, but try to keep things to myself. But the more I hear from people my age who have never had a mammogram or even regularly check themselves the more annoyed I get. This is really important stuff!! It’s not scary, just a little uncomfortable. Last year I contemplated live blogging the appointment but chickened out. This year I decided to freak everyone out and do it! 

Of course as soon as I took this picture and wrote my first tweet I worried about the end result. Shit was gonna get real if it was not a good outcome, and my superstitious mind wondered whether tweeting it was asking for trouble, but it was too late!

Tweets reproduced from hereon-in:

So yeah. I'm here for my annual best check up! Live tweeting because why not!  

The breast clinic was refurbished a few years back and is huge. Unsure whether this is a good thing. I'm guessing to assist more people.
The ladies who work here are really lovely. People of all ages are here, waiting like me.
I am fully aware of how lucky I am and others are less so. Yet as I sit here you just don't know how the afternoon will turn!
I'm pretty used to the routine now after all these years and it's not so bad. So this is why I'm tweeting it. Reduce stigmas and all that!
Ladies you have to touch yourself up!!! Or get your man to! And if you're over 40 get a mammogram. If I can do it, anyone can!
Of course I feel a little (ok a lot) anxious. But you just have to do it. I do find my mood is a little poopy in the week leading up to it.
But I guess that's understandable. So now I wait for my name to be called.
Stage 1 complete. Check up (or touch up, lol). 5 mins with Dr Clarke. He says everything feels ok. So that's good.
I removed my top and bra and now wearing a very ordinary hospital top that ties at the front. Off to the next waiting room to wait Stage 2.
These tops need to be fixed! I always joke about it. Last year the one I wore had to be designed for a child.
This year it's too big but so threadbare it's practically see through. But everyone is in the same boat.
I'm sitting in the waiting room with 2 elderly ladies. Both dressed which means they're waiting for results etc.
One has just been called back in for further testing. This sucks. Usually just precautionary, but still. I've been there.
Still in the waiting room. Should get Mammogram first! This is the thing that puts people off. It's unpleasant but it's really not too bad.
It's a large machine, cold and sterile and surely invented by a man, lol! Basically x-rays are taken of your boobs from various angles.
The thing is they need to squish your boobs as flat as they can. This doesn't hurt so much but feels really freaking awkward & really cold.

So this is the beast ;-) Mammogram!
Stage 2: Mammogram compete. That quick! (was in maybe 10mins) Very awkward but relatively painless. The staff here are so lovely & make you as comfy as they can.
For the mammogram the hospital gown comes back off and your boob is rested on the bottom plate of the machine.
The top clear plate comes down as tight as it can. Your body is contorted into odd positions to get a clear pic. 4 in all.
One of each lying flat and then the machine sort of turns on the side and they do a side shot of each. This is the more awkward angle.
If the operator is shorter than you it's more difficult for them to get you in the correct position. This happens almost every time.
So I'm back in the small waiting room waiting for the ultrasound. By myself atm. You wonder about others you see and hope they're ok.
I guess you need to be comfortable with your body. Lots of people touching & handling you. So being precious or shy only hinders their work.
I learnt this the hard way early on, lol. I guess we all do. These ppl must see millions of boobs a year. The nudity is no big deal.
Stage 3: Ultrasound compete. Back in small waiting room and dressed. Normally you don't get dressed so this is new.
For the Ultrasound the gown is off again and you lay on your back/side and they put a gel on your boob and move a wand over it taking pics.
It feels rather lovely albeit a little cold at first. I used to try and work out what was going on. Watch their face or the screen.
I close my eyes and try to relax now. No pt second guessing what is going on. I'm a Librarian not a Radiographer.
So it's one boob at a time, the gell wiped off after each one. The lady today had a very diff technique and I was very impressed.
She was very very gentle and quick. I think it had to do with how she got me to lay down. Def the quickest Ultrasound I can remember.
The worst is when they leave the room and get a second opinion. Be it another radiographer or a doctor. It's happened to me a few times.
That is absolutely the worst. Sitting there half naked and wondering what's going on and thinking the worst.
Once I sat there for almost 30mins. Totally terrified. The radiographer was new, all was ok. I was so relieved I didn't care.
Another time I was left and Dr came back & did a couple of fine needle aspirations. That was before my operation. You just try and be brave.
Still in waiting room waiting for Dr to tell me the results. At least you find out pretty much straight away.
And that's it, I'm done. Everything ok. I have dense breasts, lol and lots of cysts but all OK. Come back in 18 months, which is new.
I feel relieved and a bit spaced out. Dunno why, I always do. Especially relieved today giving I was tweeting. No one wants a dodgy ending!
So life goes on! I have some things to get at the shops and maybe a little treat for getting through this again. Thanks for indulging me.
And please urge your loved ones and yourself of course to do the right thing! Check your breasts regularly and get a mammogram!!!!!
Thank you everyone for your kindness. I wouldn't have done this if I wasn't passionate about it. So many leave it too late!

I admit I was worried about the outcome. Well more than usual but I took the chance. Phew :-)

And so ends the twitter transmission. I had loads of replies from both men and women. Mostly relief at everything being ok, but also thanking me for sharing the experience. I shared to ensure people had an idea of what might happen. I wish I had known slightly more when I walked in there that very first day.

So, go on, go and Touch yourself!!!

No comments: